The actor on racism, reality TV and falling off the stage

Born in Birmingham, David Harewood, 53, studied at Rada. In 1997, he became the first black actor to play Othello at the National Theatre. His television work includes Homeland, The Night Manager, Madiba and Supergirl. Most recently he made the BBC Two documentary Psychosis And Me. He reads The War Of The Worlds by HG Wells for the new Penguin Classics audiobook series of 50 titles. He is married with two daughters.

What is your greatest fear?
Doing a reality TV programme like Im A Celebrity.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Falling off stage when I played Romeo at the Young Vic. I turned and ran excitedly into what I thought were the wings, but fell straight into the audience.

Aside from a property, whats the most expensive thing youve bought?
In New York, I once went shopping and spent something like $7,000 on a couple of shirts, trousers and a jacket. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was ridiculous.

What is your most treasured possession?
My passport.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

What is your most unappealing habit?
Drinking alone.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I had no idea. When I was a week away from leaving school, a teacher said, Weve been talking in the staffroom and we all think you should be an actor. I thought, Thats exactly what I want. The rest is history.

What do you owe your parents?
My sense of humour. They had the most wonderful laughs and watched a lot of comedy when I was growing up: Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson, Morecambe and Wise.

What is the worst thing anyones said to you?
I am amazed that people still use certain racist words.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Real-life detective programmes.

To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
My first girlfriend when I left drama school. I was a bit of tart.

What does love feel like?
A warm knowing.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Maya Angelou and actor James Earl Jones.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
In a minute.

What is the worst job youve done?
I was a bailiff for half a morning. I couldnt stand it.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I would have had a bit more belief in myself: I would have reached for America sooner.

When did you last cry, and why?
After my documentary aired. I suddenly had a bit of panic, because its very personal. I couldnt watch it on the night, I was so scared. The next day people were walking up to me on the street and telling me their life story. It was extraordinary.

How often do you have sex?
Not very often, because I am not in the same country as my wife.

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Having my family closer.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Ive helped create a path for young black actors. When I go to swanky Hollywood dos, its great to see more and more young black British faces. I can remember a time when I was the only one there.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
That it doesnt necessarily always work out as planned, but its still worth living.



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