Actress Miriam Margolyes has appeared in films, including The Age of Innocence and Romeo and Juliet, on the stage and on television. From 8 October she will be starring in Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard at the Theatre Royal, York.

Success? It means having enough money to do whatever you want. Have I got that? Absolutely not. I see my own success as having achieved a goodish career in a difficult industry and to have achieved, to an extent, the respect of my peers and the affection of the public. But I haven't done enough to make it to the top of my profession. I still have an ambition to play at the National Theatre, but I must be either too fat or too Jewish for them.

I originally wanted to be a doctor, like my father, but as I couldn't do maths or science I thought I had better be an actress instead.

My first major triumph was getting into university. Although I was a less than brilliant student I managed to get a place at Cambridge. In acting terms, my one-woman show, Dickens' Women, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1989 was very special. There was a moment went the lights went out, a pause before the cheering, which made me feel I had done something good.

The secret of my success is that I've been courageous and determined and, of course, talented. And I'm nice to people. Even if I'm melancholy I try to look at life with a twinkle. I don't believe in going around with a long face.

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