Q: What attracted you to Belgravia?
A: I seem to have a pattern - I do a costume drama once every ten years! I did Vanity Fair in 1998 and Cranford in 2008. So, the timing was right for my next ten-yearly costume drama!
Q: Tell us more.
A: It's Julian Fellowes, obviously. He's got a pretty good track record! So when he offered me a role in this, I thought, "I'd better take it! At my age, I'm not going to get the next Fast & Furious!" This is a wonderful role in a wonderful drama, and I'm delighted to be involved.
Q: How would you describe your character?
A: James is a nouveau riche, self-made property developer. He starts off as a supplies man for the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. 25 years later, he's become extremely successful and built Belgravia. That's not a bad achievement for old Jimmy Boy!
Q: Is he eager to mingle with high society?
A: Yes. He wants to be hobnobbing with dukes and duchesses. He is a great networker who will go to the opening of an envelope – unlike his wife, who always wants to stay at home. Anne is quite happy with an OBE, but James wants to be a sir!
Q: What else is going on in the lives of James and Anne?
A: Through all this, they're hiding this dark secret which revolves around their daughter and grandson, and involves Lady Brockenhurst. It's a great tale. I spent Christmas reading it, and it's a genuine page turner.
Q: What was it like working with Tamsin?
A: It was lovely. She's great fun and has a great sense of humour. We did a lot of laughing, which is not always good when you're in front of the camera! One day we were shooting a dinner party scene in a country house near Reading. People will see five minutes on screen, but it took all day to film it. I 28 said to Tamsin, "This is insane. We’re all dressed up to the nines having a six-course lunch at 9.30 on a Tuesday morning when everyone else is going to work". Tamsin replied, "Remember, we do get paid for it!", "I know, don't tell anyone!".
Q: What sort of audience will Belgravia draw?
A: It will appeal to a very broad audience. It's not too often that the family can watch something together, but they will all sit down together and enjoy Belgravia. It's giving us a history lesson at the same time as a wonderful drama. That's why period drama sells so well around the world. When I was filming Living the Dream in the US, the neighbours came round and said how much they loved British TV. I asked them, "Have you heard of Life on Mars?", "No, we've never heard of that, but we love Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife".
Q: Did you have a good time working on Belgravia?
A: Yes. This has been a really enjoyable job. It was a great atmosphere on set. It was a brilliant cast and crew and also a brilliant producer, Colin Wratten. If every producer was like that, it would be amazing. I remember one day when we had to do this shot where we arrive back from the Battle of Waterloo. There were a lot of extras and horses, and we had to do seven or eight takes. When we wrapped, I noticed Colin went up and shook the hand of every extra, telling them, "Your contribution has been immense, and it will look wonderful on screen". That is class.
Q: What other big scenes did you have to shoot?
A: The director, John Alexander, had some hellishly big sequences to film. But he was so well-prepared, he never lost his temper or got panicked. For instance, he had to shoot the ball before the battle of Waterloo at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, which was an epic sequence to film. I can't praise the crew enough. You can see why so many producers want to come to this country. We have so much talent in front of and behind the camera.