Friday, 20 March 2015

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: MICHAEL SIMKINS

…is an English actor. He has starred in TV and theatre productions, including Foyle’s War, Mamma Mia! and Chicago. His autobiography, What’s My Motivation, was published in 2004. He lives in Hampstead with his wife Julia Deakin.

What are you working on at the moment?
Writing an adaptation of The Sunday Times humour book of the year, Dear Lupin. Then Hay Fever is going to The Duke Of York’s for a run in the West End.

When were you at your happiest?
Doing the musical Chicago in the West End. I had a tux, I was lit by spotlight, I had a live band behind me, scantily clad dancing girls with feathers all around and I was the central character. What’s not to love about that?

What is your greatest fear?
Indolence. The phone not ringing and me finding I’m sitting watching Deal Or No Deal every afternoon.

What is your earliest memory?
My parent’s sweetshop in north London. My dad bought the toyshop next door and when I was four I cut my head open and had to have stitches. As a treat my dad let me play with all the toys.

What do you most dislike about yourself?
Self-pity, expedience. And my lack of DIY skills.

Who has been your greatest influence?
My dad, Dennis Simkins. He instilled in me a love of theatre, performing and music. And my wife, Julia Deakin, who has made sure that I haven’t got above myself over the years.

What is your most treasured possession?
My spiritual practice: I’ve been a Buddhist for 30 years.

What trait do you most deplore in others?
Unkindness.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?
When I was five I had an eye infection, which was treated with penicillin. I had a bit of a reaction and as a result one of my eyes has a slightly bigger bag; it’s slightly puffier.

What is your favourite book?
The Art Of Coarse Acting by Michael Green. It’s a very funny book about what it’s like to be an actor.

And your favourite film?
12 Angry Men with Henry Fonda and Lee J Cobb. It probably has 12 of my favourite actors of all time around the same table.

QA-Mar20-02-590

And your favourite record?

Verdi’s Requiem. At school we performed it with an all-girls’ school. It was the first time I’d met any girls.

What is your favourite meal?
Lamb chops followed by Christmas pudding.

Who would you most like to come to dinner?
Ken Dodd, Captain Scott of the Antarctic, WS Gilbert, and Oliver Hardy.

What is the nastiest thing anyone has ever said to you?
At school, the prefects had a book in which they wrote their comments on the junior kids. You only ever got to see it if you became a prefect, and I did. There was an entry about me, which said: ‘I think Simkins is a mincing little berk who thinks he is an actor.’

What is your secret vice?
Crisps. All crisps. If you leave a bowl anywhere in a room I’ll hoover it up before anyone gets a handful.

Do you write thank-you notes?
Yes, always.

Which phrase do you most overuse?
Can I just say This?

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
To obtain peace of mind. I tend to be quite anxious. Also a swimming pool, so I could have a swim every day.

Tell us one thing people might not know about you.
I nearly drowned in a boat accident in the Indian Ocean. We had a marvellous day snorkelling and had a picnic. It was about 10 miles off the coast. About a mile into the journey back, the engine of our little open canoe conked out. There were no life rafts, no tool kit, no flares. We drifted for 11 hours from four in the afternoon until about five the next morning. Terrifying.

What would you like your epitaph to read?
‘He did his best’.

Hay Fever is at the Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, London WC2, from 29 April to 1 August: 0844-871 7677, www.atgtickets.com


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