Recommended second chance
Charles Dickens’ The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby is set in the present day for a five-part daytime series. The original story’s location of a boys’ school is now a care home for the elderly, and Nick Nickleby discovers that its residents are being abused by a malicious manager. Andrew Simpson, who plays Nick, tells TV Choice more…
Did you know the original novel?
I was aware of it, but I hadn’t read it. When I got news of the audition, I didn’t have time because it’s such a thick book. But since then I've read it and I used it as a reference for ideas.
How would you describe Nick’s personality?
Yesterday, one of the producers said that this sort of character has gone out of fashion on TV. It’s not cool to be good any more — especially for a young person. It’s hard to think when I’ve last watched a character like this on modern-day TV. He’s ultimately good and he strives for what’s good, but he has his flaws — like his temper. And I definitely wanted to play that.
Is this your biggest role to date?
Well, it’s definitely the most demanding because I was in everyday for six weeks, and we had eight pages of script to do every day. I’ve done a lot of film, I haven’t done much TV, and so I was getting used to the quick turnaround. You only get one or two shots at a scene, and then you move on. That was quite tough at the start, but I think I got used to it.
Nick is surrounded by grotesque characters, including his evil uncle Ralph, played by Adrian Dunbar. What was it like working with him?
Oh, he was fantastic. I just texted him this morning, and we’re going to meet up soon in London. He’s delighted with it as well. He’s just a professional. He’s so cool under pressure — even if we have 25 minutes left to do one scene and everyone is losing it. He’s directing a play, which is coming up soon, and he was asking if I’d be interested in auditioning for it. I would love to work with him again.
How did you get into acting?
When I was a kid, my mum and dad sent me and my sisters to a speech and drama school just to meet friends. It was once a week on a Saturday morning. And it was called The Foyles School of Speech and Drama. Then I went to an open audition for a filmed called Song For A Raggy Boy. And I ended up getting that, and then getting an agent. But there was never a serious career path until I found myself, at 23, relying on money coming in from acting. That made me realise that I am an actor now.
You’re now 23, but you also starred in Notes On A Scandal when you were 16. So did you know you wanted a career in acting following that?
No, not really. After that I didn’t really audition for a good couple of years, because I wanted to finish my A-levels and go to university. I just really wanted to have a life at university because I’d always wanted to study law.
Did you ever fancy studying at a stage school like RADA?
No I never looked that way. For stage, it’s a drawback that I’ve never been professionally trained. I was in a play earlier this year, which was well received but I found myself thinking, ‘There’s so much to learn.’ But in terms of acting on screen, I’m happy that I’ve learnt the natural way.