How we met: Rafe Spall and Joanna Christie

'I'm sure I fancied her, but then I think I fancied everyone back then'
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The Independent Online

Rafe Spall, 23, is an actor and the son of Timothy Spall. He was raised in south-east London and joined the National Youth Theatre when he was 15. His TV credits include The Rotters' Club and Cracker. He has also appeared in films such as Shaun of the Dead, Kidulthood and Hot Fuzz. He lives in Shoreditch, London

I first met Jo at the National Youth Theatre when I was 17. I was the chubby kid who was pretty unremarkable. She was the pretty one - totally gorgeous and really talented.

I remember the first time I ever saw her. I can recall very precise moments in such detail it can make me sound like a bit of a stalker. It was a hot summer's night and we were all staying in halls of residence in north London. We all used to stay up being teenagers until five in the morning. I remember her sitting on a bed in someone's room. I was a bit shy, so of course I didn't dare speak to her. She was talking, I can't remember what she was saying but I do remember her distinctive voice - it's quite husky and posh with a northern accent. She's got a presence and vivacity that just draws you to her. She had no idea who I was. I'm sure I fancied her, but then I think I fancied everyone back then.

I think the first time we ever actually spoke was when she came to see me in Nicholas Nickleby. Afterwards we went somewhere classy like Wetherspoon's in Hammersmith. Jo was very cool. She didn't give much away, she wasn't steeping me with praise or anything like that.

I went to see her in a National Youth Theatre show where she played a stripper. She was awfully good. She is one of the people from our generation who is just starting to emerge and it's great because she really deserves it. She was getting pissed off with the whole game and then she went and got this big, cracking job with Daniel Radcliffe [in Equus]. But I always believed in her. I think she's fiercely intelligent - she's also inherently kind and warm.

The National Youth Theatre is probably the most competitive, hierarchial place you could ever wish to be. All the people who played the main parts used to stroll around like they were the dog's bollocks - I probably did the same towards the end. But with Jo it was always different; there was no competition.

A sign of someone being a real good pal is when they're of the opposite sex and you can get past any sort of flirtation and just be friends. That's the thing with me and Jo, it's always been comfortable. We just do what normal friends do - go out, get drunk and catch up on what's happening in each others' lives. We go through periods without seeing each other - six months here, three months there - but we both keep coming back. I think that's a mark of someone you'll probably know for the rest of your life.

After cutting her teeth in the National Youth Theatre, Yorkshire-born actress Joanna Christie, 24, moved on to TV roles in Holby City and No Angels, before joining Kevin Spacey's 'Old Vic, New Voices' collective of upcoming young actors. She lives in Hackney and is now appearing on stage with Daniel Radcliffe in Equus.

I first remember seeing Rafe when he was doing Nicholas Nickleby. It was quite a big production of it and he was brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. When I see someone who I really rate as an actor it draws me to them and I want to meet them. We went for a drink afterwards and just got on really, really well. He's a real south London boy - absolutely genuine every single minute of the day. He doesn't put on anything for anyone. It's an amazing quality to have.

Rafe has been so intuitive about me at times that it scares me. We were out one night as a group and I think I was a bit low and I didn't realise it until Rafe sat me down and quietly said to me, "There's something not right, what is it?" I was like, "Everything's fine," but then he'll always get it out of me.

I've had moments where things haven't gone well for me, when my career isn't going anywhere and Rafe has always been really supportive. We met up about three months ago. We hadn't seen each other for ages and I was actually on the brink of giving up. I was seriously at my lowest point career-wise, it was the eleventh hour for me. A lot of my friends had sort of said, "Oh no... but if that's what you want to do." Then I met up with Rafe and he just said, "You haven't finished yet. It's not over for you." Two weeks later, I got the part opposite Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. I texted Rafe to say, "As always. you're right."

I do think that I'll know Rafe for the rest of my life, I hope so anyway. He's a really good person to have around. I'd also really love to work with him. He's such a broad, versatile actor. He can play the male lead, but he's an amazing character actor as well. I can't remember the name of the character he played in Nicholas Nickleby but he did the entire seven-hour play with his face totally lopsided and deformed.

I know that he would tell me I if I was doing a shit job. Actors' feedback is very different from other friends'. You do need someone to go, "Yeah great, you nailed it," as well as offering criticism.

I haven't met his dad yet but he's such an amazing actor as well. He's got an honesty in his performance that Rafe has definitely got too. Rafe's got a lot of respect and love for him and he's obviously brought him up amazingly. I'd love to work with both of them together.

'Equus' opens on 28 February at the Gielgud Theatre, London, tel: 0870 950 0915. 'Hot Fuzz' is out now. From 20 February, Rafe Spall also appears in 'John Gabriel Borkman' at the Donmar Warehouse, London, tel: 0870 060 6624, www.donmarwarehouse.com

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