How we met: Jason Hughes & Michael Sheen
'When we asked him to help clean the house… well, you've never seen rage like it'
Michael Sheen OBE, 44
Following his stage debut in 1991, opposite Vanessa Redgrave in 'When She Danced', Sheen worked mainly in theatre throughout the 1990s before embarking on a series of TV biopics, including a trilogy of films as British politician Tony Blair. Sheen has since appeared in films ranging from the 'Twilight Saga' to 'Frost/Nixon'. He lives in LA
We met at the National Youth Theatre of Wales, in Cardiff, in the summer of 1987. I'd been there a couple of years each summer, and Jason joined that year, and we became friends. I was about 16 and Jason 15, and we stayed in the same halls of residence for a month.
We became incredibly close over those few weeks. There was something a bit rough around the edges about both of us. Jason had a big sporting background – he was a rugby player and had been a boxer – while I played football. So we were not typical acting folk.
We were both into music, too, and Jason could play the guitar and piano. I'd go round to his house in Porthcawl and his mum would force us to sing songs from Les Misérables, with Jason at the piano, when all we wanted to do was sing Neil Young songs.
I went off to London, to Rada, and the following year Jason came too, to Lamda, and we got a house together. This moved us into the era of Jason's "sex-music" tapes. You see, he already had the boxing side so when a girl was visiting, he'd get a guitar out to show his sensitive side. And when he put the seduction-music tape on – there was some Joni Mitchell in there – we'd know he had scored.
We made a lot of fun of his dress sense, too, as his mum bought all his jeans till quite late in life. We'd see these new jeans, with a crease in them… god bless him.
We did a lot of stage work together, such as Caligula [at the Donmar Warehouse, in 2003], and I think that's when I was at my happiest, in the theatre with Jason.
Whenever I was over in the UK I'd try to catch an episode of Midsomer Murders [which Hughes appeared in for eight years]. Jason used to make me laugh by saying how his character always becomes an expert about something obscure, out of nowhere. He brings something compelling to whatever he does. Even when he's playing the sidekick, it's always worth keeping your eyes on him.
I get a bit more carried away with things than Jason does. In the past, I'd be the one worked up about things while he was more reserved; he'd stay back a bit, take his time. But now he's got more impassioned about stuff, coming up with some great ideas, while I've learnt a bit of his approach and I've started to sit back a bit more and be more reserved.
I'll always have some presence in LA, but when my daughter has gone to college and I don't have to be there, I will be moving back to the UK. If Jason then comes to LA… well, it would be a shame if we miss one another.
Jason Hughes, 43
Along with a string of stage roles, Hughes is best known for playing the lawyer Warren Jones in the BBC TV series 'This Life' and as Detective Sergeant Ben Jones in 'Midsomer Murders'. He lives in Brighton with his wife and three children
I wanted to be a rugby player until an amazing drama teacher at school encouraged me to audition for the National Youth Theatre. Once there, I started hearing Michael's name on everyone's lips. I kept wondering, who is this incredible actor who had been earmarked as one to watch from the age of 12?
A friend at my school in Porthcawl [fellow actor], Hywel Simons, had done the course the year before, and already knew Michael, so he introduced us. It was one of those moments where it felt like meeting a soulmate. I was his shadow for the nine weeks of the course.
Once I saw him in rehearsals, I knew what everyone had meant: he was fearless and had this abundance of energy. It was like being in the presence of the other Port Talbot greats Anthony Hopkins and Richard Burton.
We moved in together in London, along with Hywel. Of course Michael had to have the biggest room in the house. Not because he thought he was the best actor, but because it was just Michael feeling entitled to the best room; it's one of the things I love about him.
That house was a pit for many years as Sheeny was a lazy bastard. I'll never forget one day when Hywel and I were trying to clean the place, with a terrible hangover; when Michael finally woke up and came down at 1pm we said, "Get your gloves on, get a mop and give us a hand!" Well, I've never seen rage like it: he threw down his toast, threw his tea into the sink and stomped his way through the hallway and up the stairs, punching every step on his way back to his bedroom: he was outraged.
We appeared together on stage in Look Back in Anger in 1999, and to this day I think it's the best thing I ever did. I was standing behind him in one scene, as he was doing a monologue, and I swear to God it looked like there was an energy field buzzing around him.
Michael was never out of work. The jobs just got bigger as the world discovered what we already knew. I remember, some time after he'd moved out, him coming back briefly to stay the night at my flat in London, and he took out a Polaroid of him next to Julia Roberts and I was like, "You lucky bastard."
There came a point after the arrival of children, and with Kate [Beckinsale, with whom Sheen was in a relationship for eight years] becoming very successful in LA, that was a natural place for them to go. Now, my wife and I are at a point in our lives where we feel young enough and have the energy to go somewhere else and LA is the obvious place, what with Michael being there.
Hughes appears in 'In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)', at St James Theatre, London SW1 (stjamestheatre.co.uk), from 13 November
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