“My asthma is triggered by dust and cats, but it was misdiagnosed as ‘a chesty cough’ for years. It really affected my childhood. When the air was cold, I couldn’t run - I couldn’t play football. It was terrible, especially when a lot of boys are judged on their physical achievements. I felt like the wheezing footballer nobody wanted to pick.
“When I was about 12, I had an asthma attack about 200 metres into a cross-country run. I was on my knees, and the teacher put his hand on the back of my T-shirt and literally forced me on. I nearly passed out.”
Freedom to explore
“But at 13 I got an inhaler, and then the whole world opened up. I started ballet and street dance, and joined a youth theatre. I chose a profession that I wanted to work in for the rest of my life. And I realised the only way to do that was to gain the respect of my peers.
“So I asked myself what these people thought was the hardest thing to do, and it was always Shakespeare. It’s strange that as someone who came out of school with one O-level and who never read Shakespeare at drama school, I’m considered to be a classical actor.”
Staying in shape
“When I got to about 28, suddenly food was hanging around my body a lot more than it used to – it happens to everybody! So I took up taekwondo, which was so unbelievably hard. But it’s actually a very good barometer for monitoring my asthma – if I can go to a class and not need my inhaler, come home and feel fine, I know things are going well.”