Thursday, 18 December 2014

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: RUSSELL GRANT

…is a British astrologer & actor. He has also written a number of books, including The Real Counties Of Britain, & founded the Association of British Counties. In 2011 he was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am doing the BBC Strictly Christmas Special, but I can’t dance with Flavia because she’s doing her show, Dance ’Til Dawn. I also have a pantomime in Aylesbury. Then I go into Thoroughly Modern Millie; I’m playing Mrs Meers. I’m so thrilled about that.

When were you at your happiest?
When I was on Strictly Come Dancing with Flavia, no doubt about it.

What is your greatest fear?
I went through a very bad time between 2005 and 2009. I had two heart attacks, skin cancer, prostate cancer, became diabetic and was 27 stone – I could easily have died. I suppose that I have got through my greatest fear, which was self-destruction. Now my greatest fear would be not to be able to do the wonderful things I’ve learnt with Flavia.

What is your earliest memory?
Apart from wonderful Christmases with my grandparents and family, it would be singing in the church choir at St Mary the Virgin, Harefield, in Middlesex. I was head of the choir, chief chorister and sung that first line ‘Once in royal David’s city’ as the boy soprano. That still gets me when I hear it at Christmas. They were just wonderful times.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
Intolerance. I’m not patient; I want everything now.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My mum, who believed in my acting – she gave me the biggest boost. Good old Joan.

What is your most treasured possession?
My books. I’ve got the most wonderful antiquarian books and maps, especially of my county of Middlesex.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Rudeness.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
I would love to be taller. I’m only 5ft 7in and a bit, and I would love to have been my brother’s 6ft.

What is your favourite book?
Anna Karenina.

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What is your favourite film?
Anna Karenina, with Vivien Leigh. I love Vivien Leigh. I also love Ingrid Bergman – I particularly loved her in Anastasia. They’re both very Russian, aren’t they, my choices?

And your favourite piece of music?
The overture from the musical Kismet.

What is your favourite meal?
A wonderful steak and kidney pudding can’t be beaten, and it is lovely at Rules, near The Lady on Maiden Lane.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Diana, Princess of Wales, Queen Anne, Sophie Thompson, definitely Flavia, because what would life be like if Flav wasn’t there? And I’d love Gilbert and Sullivan and Noël Coward.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
When I was chosen to do Strictly, a Sunday tabloid that didn’t know I’d lost 11st said, ‘He’ll be too fat to get around the ballroom.’ It was harsh considering they hadn’t seen me. Once on the dance floor, that was never levelled at me again.

Do you believe in aliens?
I think it would perhaps be a little daft of us to assume that we are the only living beings in the whole galaxy. But do I believe in them à la Hollywood? Probably not.

What is your secret vice?
Chocolate and cheese.

Do you write thank-you notes?
I certainly do.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
‘To be frank’ and ‘To be honest’.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
To have my grandmothers back.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
I started my career as archivist for the Middlesex County Football Association. I also started this country’s first field hockey league.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
I’ve already got my plot in Harefi eld Church, so I should think about that really. Something like: ‘A man whose heart was in his county and country’.

Russell Grant is starring in Cinderella at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre from 12 December to 4 January: 0844-871 7607, www.atgtickets.com/aylesbury


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