You ask the questions: James Nesbitt

(Such as: James Nesbitt, are you really such a magnificent drinker? And do you ever feel that you're Irish to the point of cliché?)
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The Independent Online

The actor James Nesbitt, 36, was born in Co Antrim, but moved to Coleraine when he was 11. He studied French at the University of Ulster but dropped out after a year to enroll at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Since then he has established himself as one of the UK's leading comic actors, recently winning the Best TV Comedy Actor award for his performance as Adam in ITV's acclaimed series Cold Feet. Other television work includes Ballykissangel, Playing the Field and Soldier Soldier, as well as films including Waking Ned and Welcome to Sarajevo, Resurrection Man and Love Lies Bleeding. Nesbitt has just starred in his first leading role in a feature film, the prison-based comedy, Lucky Break, directed by Peter Cattaneo (of Full Monty fame). Nesbitt lives in East Dulwich, London, with his wife and three-year-old daughter.

What is it about Cold Feet that taps so effectively into the popular consciousness. Were you surprised by its success?

Nicole Henderson, by e-mail

I think it's because it takes the lives of a group of ordinary people and makes them extraordinary. Plus, I think everyone identifies with one character or more and I don't think it patronises its audience. Frankly I'm amazed anytime anyone employs me, never mind if something I'm in is successful.

 

Do you ever feel Irish to the point of cliché?

M Molesworth, Portadown

The countless people who have had to endure over the years, in various countries, in various bars my murdering of Oh Danny Boy while stood on a table will testify to that.

I'm going to Belfast for a stag weekend. Could you suggest an appropriate itinerary?

Lee Fung, Brighton

Check into the Europa Hotel, go immediately to the Crown Bar across the road. Have an Irish stew and three pints of Guinness. Ideally you would go next to Windsor Park to watch Coleraine hammer Linfield, then you would get a taxi to Kelly's Cellars off Royal Avenue have another quick pint of Guinness there before heading to Botanic Inn on the Malone Road to fraternise with the young and wealthy of Belfast. Then end up dancing the night away at Ski Bunny where the kids are all so mashed up on drugs they look like they're auditioning for the role of Christie in My Left Foot. In the morning, check out of the Europa, and call in at the Gallery Hall for one of Paddy Harbinson's Bloody Mary's.

Did you do much research into prison life for your role in Lucky Break? If you were ever placed in a similar situation do you think you'd be as resilient and cheerful as your character, or would you simply go to pieces?

Carlos Harrison, London

Short of robbing a bank there wasn't much research I could have done but we did spend a day in Wandsworth Prison and that showed the nightmare monotony of prisoners' lives. I didn't interview any of the inmates because I thought it would be a little patronising as it was research for a comedy and also because we were going home every night in our fancy cars to sleep in our fancy hotels. I would like to think I'd be resilient and cheerful but who knows how anyone's going to cope with incarceration.

What recent British film do you wish you'd starred in? Would you ever go and work over in Hollywood?

J Brooking, Hackney

Sexy Beast, because I thought it was phenomenally directed and incredibly written. I think Ray Winstone gave a definitive performance. I've no desire to uproot my family and move to Hollywood but obviously if a script, a director, a cast and cheque for a million pounds were all in place, I think I could go and work there for a bit.

The high point of the first episode of Cold Feet was your appearance – in the nude with a rose up your bum. At what point did the show's director let on that you were going to have to do this? Has it caught on as a romantic gesture?

Syliva Sykes, Solihull

It was in the script so I knew the moment I went for my first interview, although I did keep putting it off in my mind hoping it would go away. I don't know if it's caught on as a romantic gesture – haven't people always put all sorts of things up their bum?

The cast of Lucky Break is impressive. What was it like working with the genius that is Timothy Spall?

Jean Galloway, Edinburgh

He is a genius. At times after a take the director and I would just look at each other and go "what a god". He's also got a filthy sense of humour and he's terrible for making people laugh just as they call "Action". I would hear him saying quietly, "I need a poo, I need a poo," just before my close up.

What one thing do you hate most about your job?

K Jenner, Bedford

Having to be away from Sonia and Peggy.

What are your defining memories of Coleraine? Were your family holidays spent in Port Rush?

T Waymough, Derry

Seven glorious years at the Coleraine Institute continually getting away with it. Friday afternoons in Couple's Coffee Bar with two early girlfriends, Jilly Loughrey and Lorraine Dalzell. I worked as the brake man on the big dipper in Barry's amusements in Port Rush. When the car came in, I used to apply the brake and depending on what the girls were like I'd say, "Thanks very much, girls, I hope you enjoyed your ride". I was such a prat.

So far you have never played a part which has anything to do with religion or the troubles. Is this intentional? If so, why?

Simon Lane-Brown by e-mail

I have actually. Resurrection Man was about the Shankhill Butchers and I also did a film called Love Lies Bleeding directed by Michael Winterbottom which was also about the troubles. But, having said that, it was important that Adam in Cold Feet was Northern Irish but had no political baggage at all. In contemporary British TV, Northern Irish characters are always usually connected to the troubles in some way, so we wanted to create a character who had nothing to do with it.

There was an Englishman an Irishman and a Scotsman... Complete the joke.

M K Rolls, Lancaster

What a fine example of cultural integration that is.

Was there a pressure on everyone involved in Lucky Break to come up with a hit as big as The Full Monty? Do you reckon the film will have the same effect on your career as Monty did for Robert Carlyle?

Seymour Lane, by e-mail

The immediate feeling when I got the part was euphoria and then in the same breath: "Oh shit – I have to do this now." Anyway the pressure, I felt, was magnificently and generously deflected by Peter Cattaneo, the director. He took the pressure away because he was under so much pressure himself. I hope it stands up on its own, but I think comparisons are pointless and unfair. I've no idea what effect on my career it will have but if I was half the actor that Robert Carlyle is I'd be extremely happy.

You are undoubtedly the subject of many a female fantasy. You come across as someone who feels they are perhaps an unlikely sex symbol, but are you secretly relishing all this attention? And what is the craziest thing a fan has done to get noticed?

P Jenner, London

Yes. You've rumbled me. There is an old man and his wife who write to me regularly, underlining specific phases in red pen, they always pass on their regards to my wife Sonia and daughter Peggy which is all a bit weird. But apart from that, alas, most of the letters I get are from men. Although I once got a photo of a woman sitting on a chair with a terrier sitting on either arm. That's nothing compared to the photo John Thomson [Nesbitt's co-star in Cold Feet, who plays Pete Gifford] got sent of a naked woman playing the cello.

You've described yourself as a "magnificent drinker". Can you describe an occasion where, even by your standards, you had a little too much?

T Carre, by e-mail

Two years ago I was booked to appear on TFI Friday in Dublin on St Patrick's Day. I took part on the Chris Evans Radio Show in the morning which was being broadcast from a bar in the Clarence Hotel. I had my first pint of Guinness at 8.30am and was booked to appear on TFI at 4pm. The rest is a mystery. I went on, but definitely not in a good state.

Have you ever been invited to a class reunion at your old school, and if so did you turn up and what was it like?

P Gilman, Galashiels

My best mates – apart, of course, from John Thomson – are my Irish mates from school. So I meet up with them regularly with very, very messy outcomes.

How do you feel about allegations that the cast of Cold Feet has entered a Friends-style group-bargaining spiral for fees?

Sam Dolan by e-mail

I'm all for large fat fees – more money for actors generally!

How has fatherhood changed your life? Why did you pick Peggy as a name for your daughter?

B Lowe, by e-mail

It has enhanced my life beyond belief. The first few weeks are obviously all about mum but it's when you make that first connection as a father with your child you just go: "All right – that's what it's all about." I've got three older sisters, the eldest is called Margaret and I always said I'd call her after my sister, so she's christened Margaret but gets called Peggy for short.

'Lucky Break' (12) opens nationwide on Friday 24 August

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