After exposing his violent dad on Parkinson, Robson Green tells Gavin Docherty about their reconciliation and how art is now imitating life.
Robson Green's private life has rarely been out of the papers over the past year, caught between the breakdown of his marriage and the revelations that his Page Three girlfriend, Vanya Seager, had become pregnant with his child.
Understandably, his mood swings were like uranium 235 : not quite stable.
Pure Geordie and not born to be a diplomat, he was prone to sudden outbursts of temper that could make the hairs on your neck come to full attention. But all this tantrum stuff appears to be definitely relegated to the past-tense department. Replaced by this new bloke who looked sharp, talked sharp, and exhibits more calm than a bona fide swami from India.
The reason, of course, is his new-found happiness with Vanya and 12-month-old son Taylor. When talking about them, he positively glows with pride.
"Taylor is not just the apple of my eye," he says. "He is my whole orchard."
Perhaps his time with them has also helped him come to terms with his difficult past.
Which is just as well. Because on the agenda today are the thorny subjects of his unhappy childhood, the effects of his parents' divorce on him when he was 12, and the matter which he describes as "the nemesis of my life" - a violent father whom he so unceremoniously outed on the Parkinson TV programme.
Reflecting on his appearance on the show one night last November, Green says: "I am the biggest critic of Trisha and Kilroy. You know - talk to a therapist rather than a TV audience. And there I am with eight million viewers tuning in to me talking about my violent father."
What Green didn't reveal on Parkinson was how he finally made peace with his dad. He says: "I had had it out with him, mano a mano. It was all right. He said, 'I know I treated you badly, I know I was firm with you'. We had a few drinks and we had it out. Which was very healthy.
"That was the nemesis in my life; I carried it around with me, having to confront this upbringing. I am clear of it. It was cool. I can talk to him now on any level. I was a compulsive liar when I was a kid. Because everything at home wasn't right. Even as a kid, I was acting."
But to expose it all on prime-time TV: what did his father think ?
"He was okay about it," he replies. He is sure that when his mum, Anne, began divorce proceedings, there was "haemorrhaging and guilt" that went on between his parents that was massive.
He says: "Divorce was not a socially accepted thing in those days. And this was happening in a little mining village. The solicitor came to the house. Who is this guy with a 'tash and the old suitcase coming in ? My brother and two sisters and me, we were sent upstairs. Were they booking a holiday ? Then mum announced it. I understood. It was deeply upsetting, their arguments."
Paradoxically, in Green's latest television project there is a very strong whiff of art imitating life.
It is more than a touch masochistic to have just emerged from this much-publicised bust-up of his eight-year marriage to Allison Ogilvie, then having been scandalised by a couple of his affairs, and later he falls in love with Vanya - and to cap it all he promptly co-stars with Beth Goddard in Take Me, Scottish Television's new six-part thriller about a couple who attempt to salvage their failing marriage by joining the swinging couples set.
Freely admitting there are uncomfortably close parallels between himself and Jack Chambers, this venture capitalist son of a shipyard worker who returns to close the Newcastle yard which employs his father who beat him as a child,
Green says: "I am happy pushing the boundaries back." Chambers's father (played by Keith Barron), who walks out on the family, happens to be a great ballroom dancer, which Robson's father was as well. Chambers's father was a man of the people, a great union leader. Robson's dad, also called Robson, was a miner and union man who worked down the pits.
The role will surprise the legions of female fans used more used to seeing their idol playing the romantic charmer.
But he says: "I have made these sweeping statements many times that I would never play a baddy. But a baddy you care about - now that is interesting."
Such risk-taking has helped boost him to one of the highest-earning television actors. Unfortunately, his colourful private life has masked his professional achievements for which he could be viewed as a role model for inner city kids who struggle to improve their position in life.
Born in a north-eastern mining town, Green, 35, entered the shipyards after leaving school. Starting off as a welder, he became a shipwright and ended his years there as a draughtsman. Then his burning ambition to be an actor finally paid off when he was rocketed from the rank of amateur to his first shot at fame in Casualty and then Soldier Soldier.
He became the first actor to be signed exclusively to ITV when he signed a #1.75m deal. Then a second deal, signed for #2m, followed in June last year. He owns the company, Coastal Productions, that makes his TV dramas.
Though Green bosses the company, he does not make a single business deal without first consulting his executive producer, Sandra Jobling, who quit her job as his bank manager to become his main fixer. It was Jobling who was brokering the deal with Bruce Willis's Cheyenne Productions, which has bought the American rights to Touching Evil, and which wants to sign up Robson for work in Hollywood.
His last TV outing, the legal drama Close and True, was shot in and around Newcastle, which is also the setting for Take Me. During filming, the set designers had changed an old Ever Ready battery factory into a TV studio.
This thrilled Green, seeing all this activity going on. There was another scene of him filmed right on top of the roof of the shipyard which his character is closing down. He says: "I stood on the roof of the office I worked in. It was interesting, you know; in reality, this is the place that you used to work at and you are now playing a character who is closing it down.
"But it was not romantic working there as a young man. There is nothing romantic about a shipyard at all. Even the launch, the work the men used to put in. They are not nice places to work. I never rejoiced getting up and cycling to Wallsend Shipyard. Not one hour. I was always a clock-watcher."
But nostalgia is not his bag. In Newcastle they wanted him to run as mayor. He declined even though his mum thought it was the greatest thing. They also asked him to invest in Newcastle United.
"I said I think they have got enough. But I do enjoy bringing investment back to Newcastle. It's emotionally very rewarding to bring work back there. It's that socialist ideal - creating employment, investing in people. They associate socialism with poverty. They associate it with struggle. Bollocks! People will say, 'You can afford to say that'. Sure, what is wrong with that ? I have worked for it. I love champagne. What is wrong with it. It is gorgeous ! I'll drink bucket-loads of it. It's much better than beer."
It'll be interesting to see whether he'll be cracking open the bubbly after the ratings for Take Me. Though ITV insists he is still one of its more popular acting stars, he has not been immune to the critical batterings that have come along recently, particularly for Blind Ambition, in which he played an athlete competing in the paralympics in Australia but then finds out his wife was unfaithful with his trainer.
"A slump in ratings has hit a couple of the shows," he agrees. "People mention the Midas touch - is he losing it ? I do the best I can. I do feel I was guilty of a couple of programmes that stiffed. I guess that goes with the territory. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't."
Those doubting the man's continued appeal as a heart-throb need only check out the various Robson internet web sites. Devotion is merely a few mouse-clicks away.
Yet Robson himself says he cannot comprehend the sex symbol tag. He says: "I am surprised that Vanya is interested. She is so glamorous and beautiful. I think, what the hell are you doing with me ? I don't see it."
What the fans will make of his latest screen incarnation is anyone's guess. With Take Me, he is much less than the clean-cut hero they have come to expect.
He explains: "The experience of Jack Chambers is proof that in any relationship chaos is just around the corner. I was interested in that notion. It deals with the controversial topic of wife-swapping. Probably the most destructive thing that two people can do to one another.
"There is this notion of trying to bring excitement back into a relationship; that you can have other sexual experiences and everything is normal.
"That is a very corrosive experience to both partners. Normal affairs, adultery, however it is found out, I think is more accepted. Swinging is just its own separate culture. I think all the characters are in turmoil, everyone is lost."
Time was when he could have said the same about himself. Now everything in his personal life is great. He mentions that his dad bought young Taylor a baby-sized Newcastle United kit.
"Like grandfather, like father, like son," Robson chuckles.
The Herald, Gavin Docherty, 2 June 2001
Every morning at six o'clock, Robson Green is woken by a very special alarm clock - the sound of his 15 month old son wanting to be fed. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, the TV star stumbles across the cosy room, lifts baby Taylor into his arms and climbs back into the bed he shares with his wife Vanya.
Then, for the next hour or so, the three of them snuggle together under the duvet. It's the time of day Robson most cherishes.
For someone who once famously declared he may never have children, Robson, 37, has taken to the role of Dad like a professional. In fact, to prepare for the part he religiously read Miriam Stoppard's baby books, and even practiced changing nappies on Rupert the Bear!
He describes the birth of Taylor Robson Green (using surnames as first names is a family tradition), in April last year as 'the proudest moment of my life'.
"It was so emotional, and I was terrified when I had to cut the cord. I'm no surgeon and I knew that anything could go wrong. The experience was so highly charged. It's a cliche, but you really can't explain it unless you've done it. Afterwards, we had this wonderful time- just Vanya, Taylor and me in our little hospital ward. I don't think I've ever been happier with life than I was in those few hours."
More than a year on and Robson is just as enchanted. "Fatherhood is much, much harder than acting," he admits. "But it's the most enjoyable experience ever. You can get a high in acting but there's no high like spending time with someone you love, and someone who loves you back unconditionally. It's tremendous."
Last December, Robson decided to take four months off work to stay at home with Taylor full-time. "Can you see what it's done to me! I used to look so young and carefree!"
But despite his jokes Robson has never seemed more relaxed - or happy. The future he has built for himself revolves around those people he is most devoted to - Vanya, 45, her 14 year old daughter Lara, and now their little son Taylor.
Whereas his old life was driven by rehearsal schedules and learning lines, Robson has fitted happily into a new routine of supermarket shopping and toddler groups.
There are about 20 mums and kids - and me. I'm the only bloke there but no-one bats an eyelid. I have a great time playing with all the toys and swapping advice about baby psychology with the other mums ! "Just the other day, Taylor bit a little girl. I tried to tell him off, but I'm hopeless at discipline. As soon as his little lips began quivering I picked him up for a cuddle !"
And during the evenings, the doting dad sings Taylor to sleep with lullabies. "It's natural that becoming a father has really changed me. I feel more mature, more responsible. I feel guilty now for the times in my life when I've been irresponsible. The world suddenly seems a much more dangerous place."
Then, with blue eyes sparkling, he leans forward and makes a confession.
"You know, the thing that's really surprised me about the whole thing is how much I can BORE people to death talking about Taylor ! Honestly, I could talk for 24 hours a day about his smile, his walk, the noises he makes- and I could still go on some more!"
Taylor's childhood is sure to be very different to Robson's. The star grew up in the Northumberland village of Dudley, and his mother took on two jobs as a shop assistant and cleaner to supplement his father's pit wage.
"I suppose I'm buying all the things for Taylor that I never had as a kid," he reflects. "I've gone bananas in toy shops - I've spent a fortune on stuff he won't be able to use until he's about 10! It's really for me as much as him. But he won't become spoilt. I suppose the one thing I really hope to teach Taylor is that love conquers everything, it really does. And, of course, that Newcastle United are the only team to support," he adds, grinning. Today, Vanya has been left to baby-sit while Robson has the happy task of promoting his new TV project, Take Me, which is a thriller.
It is set in Newcastle and produced by the actor's own company, Coastal Productions. Included in the script is a much publicised storyline about wife-swapping, but Robson is anxious to emphasise the programme is not really about swingers.
Turning very serious, he says: "I'll be GUTTED if people label this as a programme about wife-swapping. If you involve yourself in that kind of activity, which is supposed to be the most honest kind of affair, you perpetuate jealousy, betrayal, revenge, hatred and loathing. Essentially you end up in emotional chaos. It's one of the best pieces I've been involved in, it's very precious to me."
Now there's talk of Robson working in America. His honey tan was picked up in LA recently when he went to discuss future movie projects with Bruce Willis.
Robson says: "When he rang me up to say he was interested in us working together I thought it was a mate having me on. But I went on to meet him on the set of Bandits, his new film, and he was very pleasant. "I don't really get nervous about meeting famous people, but I was pretty flattered when he waved me over to him. I don't know whether we'll end up doing anything, it depends on dates, contracts and lawyers- but we'll see."
Hollywood may now beckon, but Robson is unlikely to forget his Geordie roots- or that his career was launched playing a hospital porter in Casualty.
"I was ruthlessly ambitious in that show. I remember reading the script and if I wasn't written into a scene I'd just push my trolley in, make myself part of the action, and try to hog the lens anyway! I was terrible- always trying to upstage people. I look at myself back then, cringe, and think, 'You little git !'"
But he went on to star in some of the most watched TV shows of the 80s and 90s - in the process winning the hearts of housewives across the country. Though this, he denies. "I don't know what being a heart-throb means. All I can say is where were all these women 18 years ago when I was earning 355 a week in a shipyard ?
"I don't understand the attractiveness thing, I never had it at school, I never had a girlfriend then and there's hardly women queuing up now! When I do get attention I find it very flattering. But truly, the only reason people stop me in the street is to look at Taylor and say how beautiful and happy he is."
And once again he's off - back on that favourite subject of his...
Robson Green is definitely one of Britain's most popular actors. After appearing in some of the best television dramas of recent times, including Soldier Soldier, Grafters and, more recently, ITV's Take Me - produced by his company, Coastal Productions - he is regarded as one of the best-loved faces on the small screen.
But Robson's appeal and obvious talent are not just recognised here in the UK. He has recently returned from a trip to Hollywood, where he was courted by some of the movie industry's biggest movers and shakers - including Bruce Willis.
However, Robson, who has a one year old son, Taylor, and who married long-term partner Vanya Seager a few months ago, was not readily impressed by Tinseltown.
Indeed, the Geordie actor is keen to keep his feet on the ground while he considers his next big project. He speaks to this week's OK! On Air about becoming a father, his pop career and acting.
You've had an amazing career and it's still on the up...
Thanks. Part of the equation for actors is luck and I've been very lucky. I've been given lots of good advice and been surrounded by great writers, the kind of people who throw good stories together that you want to read and watch.
What's the best bit of advice you have ever been given ?
Never trust anyone who says trust me. You get many directors who say 'trust me', then your career falters for it. I am guilty of trusting a lot of directors and producers who shall remain nameless, who did damage to things that should have been great. I was in a show called Ain't Misbehavin' which was a '40s musical - it should have been fantastic because they threw money at it but it was an absolute shocker.
You got a lot of attention in the late '80s as Jimmy the hospital porter in Casualty. That was great, wasn't It ?
Yes, everyone remembers Jimmy the porter. It was great to be part of something that celebrates the NHS while not having to pay for the misfortune of being ill. I was, and still am, a Newcastle-based actor, and my expenses at that time were 3800 a week! I used to get a bus to Bristol, called the Clipper, which took six hours. So when I started getting paid 33,000 a week in Casualty, I was able to fly! It's the best way to travel.
After Casualty was Soldier Soldier. Did you expect it to be such a success ?
If the truth be known, the show wasn't going to be re-commissioned after the first series because the first episode was watched by nine million, and then it sank to six, and that in ITV's eyes is a failure. But they were so great, and I am so grateful, that they decided to give it a second series.
They took the concept of the effect of army life on people and put it in a foreign backdrop, so we went to Hong Kong. And that second series just took off. It ended up getting watched by 12 million and by its fourth series it peaked at 17 million - that was the episode we sang the song.
You had a number one with Unchained Melody and a number one album. Would you ever do it again ?
No, and I don't need to do it again. Firstly, music is for everyone to enjoy but we certainly weren't nicking fans from Oasis. We were chuffed to bits that we got a chance to sing these great classic songs. People were mocking the fact that 80 year olds were buying music and that anybody over 35 was buying our music, but I didn't have a problem with it and if you don't, in marketing eyes, it's an absolute gem. We kept RCA buoyant. We had a ball and I met some great people - Tina Turner, David Bowie, my hero Cat Stevens - but it took me half an hour to realise it was him, because he's called Yusuf Islam now.
But there was Robson & Jerome mania during that whole time wasn't there ?
It was fun but we weren't going to the record company and saying: 'Can we do some music with you?' The actual workload only lasted six months. We didn't enter into a five-year contract. We were able to afford a very good lawyer and our premise was: 'Are we going to be financially secure after this ?'
It's funny, more people spoke about the music than they did about the drama and I earned more in that six-month period than I had done in 14 years of acting - and I was a well-paid actor. We simply pretended to be pop stars for six months!
You said that you met David Bowie and some other heroes. What was that like ?
It was great. He and Tina Turner both said: 'Well done, it's great that you're having a good time and making money. And you're very honest about why you are actually in it,' So many bands are screwed by contracts. I'll also always remember being on Top Of The Pops and being totally amazed - Bon Jovi were in the audience watching us sing I Believe. That was a surreal image, I have to say.
Was hitting the charts ever part of the plan when growing up ?
I don't know if I've mentioned it but I was a singer before I was an actor. I was in an a cappella group called the Workie Tickets. We did Phil Spector numbers for about four years and also supported the Flying Pickets. It was great fun and I always thought it would be nice to make a living out of it.
However, the pop industry is very fickle, as I'm sure you know, and you have to have a good business brain on you if you want to enter it, because they will just screw you.
So the majority of my time back then was made up of unpleasant experiences with worthless promotion, and you never stop. Luckily, I am a fan of the notion that there's always something different around the corner.
You have a little son - what does he think of you ?
Being a dad is strange because you do have to behave. Taylor, my son, is just over a year old and sees me as a role model. It's strange, the other day, I was watching Newcastle United, and when we scored I just went bananas, but I saw Taylor's reaction and it was one of 'dad's gone mad!' Goodness knows what he will think of me acting.
Taylor's incredibly cute. You must be so proud.
Yes, he is lovely. Come on now, how many times do we say, 'Oh he's so cute', to a friend's baby and they're not. Let's be honest, they're like monsters some of them !
They're crinkly little things but they do grow into something beautiful. But yes, he's fantastic - he's got so much energy and is a happy little boy. He has made me a much happier adult, too. I love him to bits.
Colette Walsh, Ok Magazine
I could understand his thinking. He was a big guy with hands like shovels, working in the most dangerous occupation in the world. Then I tell him I want to put on make-up and ponce about in front of a camera. He didn’t like it one bit.
Nor did my brother, who was a scaffolder, or my two sisters. Mum tried to get her head around it but it truly seemed I wanted to go into a world that only I understood.
But I knew the shipyard wasn’t right for me. I had this need to stand up in front of people. Dad had never been to any of my drama club performances or even a school show. But he did come to my first professional play, which was wonderful. He turned up with his mum and my mum and I was very nervous, knowing they were in the audience.
It was the first night I’d seen Mum and Dad together since they’d separated ten years earlier. After that, Dad became my toughest critic. He’d see something on television and ring me up and say, ‘I hope you weren’t paid for that.’
'You want your parents to be proud of what you do, but he knew acting was an insecure profession and the conversation didn’t go well'
Dad had left home when I was 11. There’d been arguments between him and Mum and I kind of saw it coming. When they separated, I didn’t take sides. Dad moved to a house just a couple of streets away, so I knew where he was and I kept up a relationship with him. Me, more so than my siblings. I just wanted to knock about with him. He was called Robson as well and he was a very funny man, larger than life.
It was only after he died, three years ago, that I found out my dad had also enjoyed performing too. As a young man, he spent his spare time ballroom dancing with his sister, my auntie Brenda, and they became competition champions. He was 18st but so light on his feet. I had no idea, and of course he never said.
Whatever I do, I wonder what my dad would have thought of it. He always had an opinion. My abiding memory of him is this big man who grafted hard, walking to work as the sun was setting. He may have left our house but he never left me. I still miss him.
Robson âgé de 19 ans dans l'émission télé 'Off the Peg'
LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF
Mount Pleasant star Robson Green, aged 47, on designing ships as a young man and finding legal ways to silence Simon Cowell.
On my 16th birthday – December 18, 1980 – I was allowed to take my girlfriend to see The Life of Brian.
I thought it was the funniest film ever. Unfortunately, as soon as Mary told the Three Wise Men they were all drunk, my girlfriend stood up and walked out. Little did I know her mother and father attended church every week: she thought it was the work of the devil.
That 16-year-old would be surprised to be an actor, given the environment he was in.
I told the careers adviser: “I think I want to be an actor. I really feel I have the tools.” They went: “Oh don’t be silly.” One teacher, who will remain nameless, said: “An actor? Green, you’re a fool, and you’ll always be a fool.”
I wanted to stay on and do an O-level in drama, but I left school at 16 out of economic necessity to work at Swan Hunter shipyards as a draughtsman.
I was there for nearly five years. There were about 400 of us at our boards, all in lines, building and designing beautiful ships, from Type 42 destroyers to supertankers. But instinctively I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life in that place. I had to get out.
I’d remind that 16-year-old that luck is part of the equation, but that hard work makes you luckier.
I was still at the shipyard, but I was doing a play called The Long Line and there was a casting director called Jane Arnell who, instead of going to the Theatre Royal, decided to see a local play. She came and saw me afterwards and said: “There is a series on TV called Casualty and we are looking for a new character.” I took the bus to Bristol for the audition. It cost me £15, but they gave me expenses so I flew back home.
I would warn that 16-year-old that there should be a sign – Danger: Actors at Work.
I’d tell him to beware of anyone who takes acting too seriously. It isn’t mining. It isn’t saving lives. It’s a job. You are telling stories and that’s it. I hate it when anyone calls Ricky Gervais or someone a genius. They aren’t in the same league as Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton, so just shut up.
That 16-year-old could never have thought I’d help Simon Cowell make his first millions.
I refer to that time as my own personal Vietnam – The Song! [Unchained Melody, with Jerome Flynn]. Soldier Soldier was one of the most popular shows on British TV, watched by 17.8 million at its peak. There was an episode where the band don’t turn up and we sang The Song, but it was two years before we released the single. I didn’t want to go on Top of the Pops. I was travelling the world and I was already being paid a fortune for what I was doing.
But Simon wouldn’t let it go.
I didn’t have an agent, so he was pestering my mother – all the time – wanting me to sing That Bloody Song with Jerome. I got a lawyer to stop him ringing her, then I called him myself and told him: “If you do it again I will take this to court. This is harassment.” Then he went: “Can I just say, I will give you THIS amount of money if you will just go into a recording studio and record the song.” The advance he was talking about was in seven figures. Come on, put that 16-year-old in my shoes – of course I said yes!
I’d tell that 16-year-old to invest in others, not yourself.
And if you were going to do something, to really commit to it. It doesn’t matter if it is a job, running a marathon, or a relationship. Commit – and good things will come from that.
In 1980, the year Robson Green turned 16...The USA boycotts the Moscow Olympics... The Iranian embassy siege takes place in London... Robert Mugabe is elected as prime minister of Zimbabwe... Kristin Shepard is revealed to have shot JR...
Thomas Quinn, The Big Issue no 1110, 14 Août 2012
Robson Green : He may not have enjoyed school but the TV actor learnt a lot from one teacher who had faith in him.
Iwould be lying if I said I enjoyed my education. I didn't. I left school at 17 and have some real regrets. I read so much now and often think I would love to study English literature again. As a professional actor I think it would be invaluable.
I'm not blaming the teachers. As in all schools, mine had good and bad. I went to Seaton Burn High, a comprehensive near Dudley, the Northumberland mining village where I grew up. Like most of the kids, mine was a working class background. My dad was a miner, my mum worked as a cleaner, a secretary, a shop assistant; anything to try to provide for her four children, of which I was the third.
Nobody who attended the school was rolling in it and I'm sure there were the usual problems of big class sizes and kids who were disruptive; the kind of problems that teachers are still dealing with. But when I hear them complaining, I often think: "Hang on, this is a job you have chosen. And it's an incredibly important one. These are our kids. This is our future.
If you are a good teacher you devote yourself to the children in your care and you find ways to inspire and understand them."
Howard Beckett, at Seaton Burn, was a prime example of what good teaching is all about. He was my music teacher, a lovely, gentle guy who was 6ft 2in and looked like a ginger version of Mick Fleetwood from Fleetwood Mac.
Mr Beckett was passionate about his subject and constantly on the look out for kids who shared his enthusiasm. I was crazy about music and always singing at home. But I never had the confidence to do anything publicly.
Round my way, that kind of thing was likely to get you beaten up.
Still, Mr Beckett heard me sing in his class and said: "You're really good." He ran a music group after school and asked me to go. To me it was amazing that a teacher valued something I could do. I remember one teacher said to me: "Green, you're a fool and you'll play the fool for the rest of your life."
Mr Beckett, on the other hand, saw beyond the kid who arsed around. He cast me in a school production of The Pirates of Penzance and I discovered that I loved being on the stage. It was thanks to him I joined the Backworth Youth Theatre and formed my own bands.
Looking back, I find his faith in me completely moving. As pupils, it seemed that everyone else was preparing us for work but he was about elevating you to a level beyond what you experienced in your everyday life.
He allowed you to feel that you could achieve anything and that you had as much right as anyone to dream and have ambitions. When I became a successful actor, I set up a theatre school in Newcastle and it remains a passion for me. Perhaps, I just want to help kids in the way Mr Beckett helped me Robson Green, 42, is one of Britain's most successful television actors.
He has starred in dramas including Reckless, Touching Evil and Grafters. He has set up a theatre school and Coastal, a production company, responsible for prime-time dramas such as Wire in the Blood. He is appearing now in City Lights, on ITV. He was talking to Daphne Lockyer
THE name’s Green, Robson Green, and he’s not James Bond . . . yet !
The North actor, appearing in the TV series Extreme Fishing, admits he wants to be 007.
The series sees angler Robson trying to catch the world’s most dangerous fish in exotic locations around the world.
He revealed his hopes of landing the super-spy role during a fishing trip to Costa Rica.
As he chatted to a local guide the actor, who learned to fish in the rivers of Northumberland, cracked a gag about the coveted part.
He said: “I auditioned for James Bond. I didn’t get it. "
“There’s a scene in James Bond when he walks out of the water.”
He joked how cold water in the North Sea shrivelled his tackle during the audition. Pointing to his groin and then his ears he said:
“I auditioned in the North Sea. My trunks were here and my testicles were here.”
And he wistfully says: “One day, one day...” harbouring thoughts that he may replace current 007 Daniel Craig.
But whether Robson has the courage of James Bond is not clear.
Before embarking on the trip he complained there were no luxuries in his hotel room.
He says: “There’s no hot water. I know I’m a poncey actor but there’s no hot water. Disgraceful.”
And before going into a teeming river, where he was expected to fish while floating with the current, he claimed it was too dangerous.
He said: “I could get a stunt double for that.”
Robson was fishing for machaca, a relative of the piranha, at the time.
The four-part series on Five also sees Robson lose his battle against arch-enemy Goldfin.
He bumped into a huge fish only to find it evaded capture. He said: “I banged into a nice fish, almost two feet long, and the bugger just flew off.”
It was obviously the one that got away.
The series also sees Robson cast out for more exotic destinations in Africa, Europe, America and China, where he met some of the world’s most skilled fishermen.
Along the way he hunted all manner of slippery characters including a giant catfish, a prized blue marlin, and a hammerhead shark.
Wire in the Blood star Robson Green tells Liz Thomas why it is time to turn his hand to comedy after a string of dark, gritty hits
In the past five years Robson Green has been involved with a lot of productions tackling life’s darker side, from the powerful domestic violence drama Beaten to chilling murder series Wire in the Blood.
Now the star, who became a household name as Dave Tucker in Soldier Soldier, is turning his attention back to life’s lighter side. Green says: “I was on the lookout for scripts that were a lot lighter, maybe a comedy-drama. Something with a bit of romance and a bit of fun in it.”
Audiences can currently see him in BBC1′s Rocket Man, where he plays George Stevenson, a widower determined to grant his dead wife’s final wish – that her ashes are sent into space in a rocket. Billed as a family drama, the series follows the character’s attempts to build and launch the rocket with his children and friends.
The six-part drama, which is a co-production with his company Coastal, BBC Wales and indie Touchpaper Television, has taken four years to come to fruition. He explains: “We took it to ITV and Nick Elliott [controller of drama] said, ‘Oh, rockets? Don’t be ridiculous’. We went to the BBC, who went, ‘Don’t be ridiculous’. We went to Channel 4 and Sky. Nobody wanted it.”
The project was then taken to BBC Wales, who agreed to help fund the project and the show is set in the region and much of the cast are Welsh. Now that it is off the ground, the actor is confident that it will be a hit. A second run has already been commissioned and Green is hopeful there will be five series in all.
He is also starring in ITV1 show Northern Lights, a spin-off of last year’s seasonal special Christmas Lights. The show follows competitive brothers-in-law who also live next door to each other and is written by Jeff Pope and Bob Mills.
Green says: “I just loved the new scripts. Just as in Rocket Man there’s a rivalry between blokes but also the love that is often between them but which is never ever spoken. It’s that male bonding thing, women can actually talk about their relationships and men can’t.
Men talk about cars and football, women talk about all sorts of deeply personal things. Women seem to have progressed so much in the last 100 years, while men have done nothing in the past century.”
The talent, whose credits include Trust, Grafters and Reckless, hasn’t turned his back on gritty drama entirely. The fourth series of Wire in the Blood is currently in production in Green’s native Northumberland, although this run will not feature regular co-star Hermione Norris.
It too is made by Coastal and has been sold to more than 100 countries worldwide. He’s very proud of the firm, which he says injects £13 million into the local economy every year.
Green reveals that his first starring role was in a school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat but admits that growing up was pretty difficult because he suffers from dyslexia.
He says: “I was terrified of being asked to read out loud. It caused me a lot of problems when I’ve had to read scripts – I need to know them off by heart, learn them until I’m word perfect – so I need to see things in advance.
Of course it has cost me jobs. I had an audition for a part in a West End production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame once and I only got the script when I walked into the room. I blew it totally. Taylor [his son] is only five and reading beautifully and I envy that.”
Things have obviously picked up for the star, whose first break came when he played cheeky porter Jimmy in long-running BBC1 hospital drama Casualty and he has found those that gave him a hard time during his childhood have eaten their words.
He laughs: “We filmed Wire in the Blood at my old school earlier this year and there was a teacher there who, when I said I wanted to be an actor, said, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Green. You’re a clown. You’ll always remain a clown’. He was still there when we pulled up, so that was good.”
It may be ten years since he released his version of Unchained Melody with Soldier, Soldier co-star Jerome Flynn, which stayed at the No 1 spot for seven weeks but Green is still something of a housewives’ favourite and promises he has no intention of leaving the UK.
He has rejected reports that he is trying to boost his television career in the US by moving to California but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of working in film.
He says: “There have been a few TV offers but they work on the USA idea of the actor signing up for at least five years and committing themselves to a particular project. I need to be doing a lot of things, being creative and not dedicated to just one series. Just a single concept for five years, whether it is a success or not ? I don’t think so.”
Green has been vocal in his criticism of reality television in the past and it seems, if anything, he is even more dismissive of it now. He says: “It’s demeaning. God, when you see people doing things like Celebrity Detox you lose all respect for them. I think that TV is at its best when it is telling a good story, fact or fiction, and we have to get back to that.”
We ask Robson Green a set of devilishly probing questions - and only accept the definitive answer....
Actor Robson Green opens up about his seriously sweet tooth. Robson also says that Skippy Never Dies is the book that holds everlasting resonance with him.
The prized possession you value above all others…
A family tree of my ancestors going back to a David Robson in 1851. He was a putter - the guy who pushed the carts of coal from a pit - in Rothbury, Northumberland. It hangs in my home in Northumberland and gives me a sense of place and value.
The unqualified regret you wish you could amend…
In 2007 I was filming in South Shields and paid a security guard £10 to keep an eye on my black Range Rover Vogue. I came back and it was smashed up. I went into a rage and said, 'You'd have to work ten years to afford a car like that!' He said, 'That's not your car!' Mine was round the corner.
The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions…
I'd spend all morning circling Earth in the space shuttle with the American astronaut Jim Lovell telling me stories about the Apollo 13 mission. We'd ditch in the North Sea and I'd meet my 12-year-old son Taylor [Robson separated from Taylor's mum Vanya two years ago] for haddock and chips at Robinson Crusoe's restaurant in Tynemouth. We'd find a pub and watch Newcastle beat Manchester United in the FA Cup Final, while discussing the meaning of life with Professor Brian Cox. Then Taylor and I would hang out at home watching Family Guy DVDs and looking at the stars through my telescope.
The temptation you wish you could resist…
I'm addicted to Rowntree's Randoms and can eat five bags a day.
The book that holds an everlasting resonance…
Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. It's about unrequited love and takes me back to when I was nine and gave a girl a box of Milk Tray. She ate the lot then went off with the hardest lad in school.
The priority activity if you were the Invisible Man for a day…
I'd watch Daniel Day-Lewis preparing for a role.
The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...
Reality TV shows like Big Brother. Those people have an attention-seeking disease.
The film you can watch time and time again…
It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. I watch it every Christmas Eve and it always makes me cry.
The person who has influenced you most…
Max Roberts, who was the artistic director of my youth theatre when I was 15. He gave me the encouragement to stick with acting and I've never forgotten it. We're still in touch.
The figure from history for whom you'd most like to buy a pie and a pint…
George Stephenson, creator of the Rocket steam train. I'd like to know how you go from being a cobbler and miner to an expert in steam locomotion. How does thathappen !?
The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child…
The most ordinary life can be extraordinary, not because of what you are given, but because of what you are able to achieve.
The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity…
Fireworks. For my 40th birthday [he's now 48] I was given a course in pyrotechnics. I even spent £25,000 on a display for New Year's Eve 2005. Boys love a bang !
The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again…
Muhammad Ali's autograph, which my mum got for me when I was 12. She was a cleaner at the Holiday Inn in Newcastle and he came to stay. It was lost during a move.
The unending quest that drives you on…
To go into space. I tried to sell a TV series following me on Richard Branson's spaceship, but it was turned down - because Branson's doing one !
The poem that touches your soul…
Wilfred Owen's Dulce Et Decorum Est because it sums up the horror of war.
The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase…
People often say to me, 'You're one lucky Geordie!' I say, 'The harder I work, the luckier I get.' It's no fluke to survive in this business for 30 years.
The event that altered the course of your life and character…
My dad's death from an aneurism in 2009. He was also called Robson. I lost a sense of self for a while. Dad worked down the pit and taught me what real work is.
The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it…
Well, I've already got away with serious crimes against music - my three number ones with Jerome Flynn!
The song that means most to you…
Bill Withers' Lovely Day lifts my spirits.
The happiest moment you will cherish forever…
In December 1973 when Malcolm MacDonald, the legend of Newcastle United, came to our school.
The saddest time that shook your world…
When HMS Sheffield was sunk during the Falklands War in 1982. I remember sobbing at the footage.
The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you…
To play Hotspur in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry IV Part One.
The philosophy that underpins your life…
There are wonderful folk in the world, meet as many as you can.
The order of service at your funeral…
Just bury me in the Northumbrian hills while Kathryn Tickell plays The Cliffs Of Old Tynemouth on the pipes. Then I'd like a knees-up at Crusoe's with re-runs of Soldier Soldier on the TV.
The Soldier Soldier star, 47, on telling his miner father he wanted to leave his job as an apprentice in a shipyard to become a professional actor.
Telling his miner father he wanted to leave his job as an apprentice in a shipyard to become a professional actor was the day that changed Robson Green's life
The day that changed my life was the day I told my dad I wanted to be a professional actor. By the time I was 21, I’d spent three years as an apprentice draughtsman at Swan Hunter shipyard on Tyneside and all my spare time at drama clubs.
Having to tell my dad, who was a miner, I wanted to be a professional actor was hard. I loved him but I’d always been scared to tell him how I felt. You want your parents to be proud of what you do, but he knew acting was an insecure profession and the conversation didn’t go well.
When I told him, he said, ‘What do you mean you want to be an actor? Do you know what you’re doing? You’re being paid a fortune at the yard, do you know how hard it is to get a job?’
Actor Robson Green was born in Hexham, Northumberland, where he still lives most of the year.
His TV and film career includes Wire in the Blood, Reckless, Touching Evil and Soldier Soldier – with his co-star Jerome Flynn, his record Unchained Melody sold more than 1.9 million copies. Robson Green, star of Wire in the Blood, has travelled around the globe but maintains one of his favourite places is a seaside village in Northumberland.
Robson Green talks quaint cafes, mead and Northumbrian pride.
Today, his company Coastal Productions makes feature films and TV dramas in the North East and supports local talent.
Robson recently presented his Extreme Fishing TV series, will soon appear in Strike Back on Sky and is working on an ITV documentary, How the North was Built.
AS A CHILD, WHERE WAS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE ?
Family camping and caravanning with my two sisters and brother in Seahouses and Bamburgh. Everyone else was going on package holidays to Majorca and Minorca but we felt we had the better deal. It was a more beautiful and inspiring landscape; even the journey there, along the coast, was epic. Dad was a keen swimmer and he’d throw us in the North Sea – it was a case of sink or swim.
WHAT THREE THINGS WOULD YOU TELL A FIRST-TIME VISITOR TO DO ?
Take a walk up the Coquetdale Valley - it’s one of the few places where the word awesome is exactly right. Go to Holy Island; better still, spend an evening there and meet the locals to get a sense of the place and its history. Go to the Farne Islands to see the puffins and the seals. It’s an extraordinary sight; there are thousands of them. I used to take my son Taylor there. The puffin was his favourite bird. He loved it when we were poo-ed on.
YOUR FAVOURITE WALK ?
Around Alnmouth; it’s pretty and peaceful and good for the soul. I walk along the beach when I need to get into a new character, or when I’m learning lines for a new part. Afterwards, I’ll go to one of the lovely little cafes on the main street plus I’ve bought a lot of paintings there, mainly seascapes, which are now hanging in my living room.
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Get up at six and go for a run along Druridge Bay. I like to be next to the sea, so I might go to Seahouses or Bamburgh, as it reminds me of good times with the family. I might take some lines to learn, or work on the book I’m writing that will go with my Extreme Fishing TV series. I’ll have fish for lunch then home to Hexham and cast a line on the South Tyne as the sun is setting.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX ?
Fishing. It all started for me on the Coquet, aged seven, when I first cast a line and caught a trout.
I go back there many a time, now with my uncle, my Dad’s brother.
We’ll fish for trout or salmon and then cook it on the river bank.
WHAT WOULD SURPRISE A FIRST-TIME VISITOR ?
I was working with a film crew in Northumberland recently and what shocked them was the coastline. They couldn’t believe how beautiful it is. And how friendly everyone is. There’s a real sense of pride and camaraderie, for all that the population is sparse. It’s a community that’s quietly aware of just how beautiful their county is.
WHAT WOULD YOU SUGGEST A VISITOR BUYS TO BRING HOME ?
Have a go at the mead on Holy Island. When I was filming there three years ago for an ITV programme Wild Swimming, I swam from the mainland to Holy Island, in memory of my father, who was a great wild swimmer. It was one-and-a-half miles and nine degrees. The island’s sweet but potent mead was very welcome – it gave me a lovely warm feeling.
ROBSON Green, 47, the actor, singer and presenter, lives in Northumberland. He has one son, Taylor, aged 12.
1) BA Gold Card
I’m a seasoned traveller and pretty adept at roughing it but while I am in transit I crave comfort and opulence.
My British Airways Gold Executive Club card gives me instant access to the first class lounge which means I can relax. If I’m honest, I love being called “sir” and having my glass topped up.
2) My wallet
I have a plain brown wallet with the word “dad” embossed on it.
It wasn’t particularly expensive but has great sentimental value as my son Taylor bought it for me while on holiday in Mauritius a few years ago. It is the first present he chose himself so I will treasure it for ever.
Taylor is a very kind and thoughtful soul and for Father’s Day this year he took me out for lunch and insisted on paying for the meal with his pocket money. He is not yet a teenager so I was touched.
3) Alan Shearer’s Autograph
This might make me sound a little strange but I become socially inept in the presence of famous footballers.
Normally I’m an outgoing kind of guy but the first time I met Paul Gascoigne I became inexplicably mute.
I thought it was a one-off but the same thing happened when I was introduced to Newcastle player Ryan Taylor. One day I found myself sitting next to Alan Shearer [right] on a plane from Newcastle to London. I was totally overwhelmed as Shearer has always been a legend in my eyes.
I had so much that I wanted to say to him but all I managed was to ask whether he was off to play football, which was agonisingly lame.
Luckily he was really nice to me and happily gave me his autograph. I keep it in the back of my wallet as a lucky talisman.
4) Super glue
Not a lot of people know this but I have false teeth.
Sometimes they can get a bit wobbly and the best thing I have found for keeping them in place is Super Glue. It sounds ridiculous but it really works and using glue has saved me from several potentially embarrassing situations.
My teeth started to fall out when I was 15 when I was punched in the face by a lad at school.
I arrived home in such a state that my father, who was also called Robson, saw red. He went straight round to the lad’s house, headbutted his dad and then threw him in the dustbin.
My dad was a coal miner for more than 40 years and was this big, tough guy who nobody messed with.
Underneath though he had a heart of gold and would do anything for his family.
I started fishing with my uncle when I was nine and quickly became addicted.
It encompasses so many things that are important to me such as solitude and peace and I love being surrounded by nature.
The downside is that years of casting off has left me with some very sore shoulder blades.
I have physiotherapy and acupuncture to try to relieve the tension and I also use a massage ball.
However I don’t think a few aches and pains will ever put me off fishing. For me it isn’t just a hobby, it’s a lifelong passion.
There really is nothing as satisfying in life as patiently pursuing your quarry, catching it, then eating your own freshly-caught fish.
Robson Green is an ambassador for Dunlop’s new range of fishing equipment. For the full range, log on to sportsdirect.com.
ROBSON GREEN REMEMBERS TAKING THE LEAD ROLE AGED SEVEN AND WORKING IN A SHIPYARD
Flashback: Actor, singer and extreme fisherman Robson Green,47, lives in Northumberland.
Here I am aged 14 at my comprehensive school in Dudley, Northumberland. I grew up there with my two older sisters and younger brother.
I live in Northumberland again now and have my own river to fish.
Fishing has been a passion since I was a kid, although my first ambition was to join the Air Force. But two weeks at an officer training camp
in my teens made me realise that if the RAF and I were to survive we had to part.
My father, Robson Hartley Green, was a miner. He had a huge personality and was known as Big Rob. Like his brother, my father had a private
His father was a miner and his mother a cleaner and maid, but they saved up so their two boys could have a better life. But Dad, who passed
away two years ago, chose to be a miner. He loved the job and the camaraderie.
My mum, Anne, who lives five minutes from me, is the most beautiful, charismatic and intelligent woman I have ever come across.
Her philosophy is, ‘There are a lot of wonderful people in the world and you have to try and meet as many of them as you can.’
My first school, Dudley Primary was ruled by fear. To the headmaster, Mr Jones, it was all about the cane. I was a good lad, but there were
lads who weren’t and I hung around with them. Twice I was punished with the scallywags for something I didn’t do.
But Mrs Chew, who taught me to write, was lovely, and I can’t forget Mrs Mott, who had a mole on her face with inch-long hairs growing from
it. Why ever didn’t she trim it ?
I adored my music teacher Mrs Anderson. She taught me to sing and play the guitar. I loved maths and I was good at drama. A highlight
at school was taking the lead role, aged seven, in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I felt at ease on stage and was hooked
on the cinema and theatre and, as young as ten, would go off to watch Shakespeare on my own.
At 11 I went to Dudley Middle School. It was no less violent. A teacher called Mrs Bates enjoyed strapping us, but there was a great teacher there called Mrs Moffit. She was the first person to tell me, ‘You have what it takes to survive as an actor.’
And my drama teacher, Howard Becket, told me, ‘You were born to perform.’ He was the musical director and I loved him because he instilled confidence in me. He and Mrs Moffit shaped my future at a school set in the middle of five pits. If you looked out the window – that was your future.
At 15 I was in a school production of The Pirates Of Penzance and Max Roberts, who was in charge of the Backworth Drama Centre, came to see it, and asked me to join the state-funded working-class drama school.
I left Dudley Middle at 16 with five O-levels, and as well as my acting classes, I worked in a shipyard for five years. The big break came at 21 in a play called The Long Line by Tom Hadaway. I played the lead and was given my Equity card – earning far less than in the shipyard, but doing something I really loved.
ROBSON GREEN, 47 is best known for the television series Wire In The Blood and his hit version of Unchained Melody with Jerome Flynn. The angling fanatic presents Robson’s Extreme Fishing Challenge on Channel 5.
Robson Green reveals his favourite reads :
1/ Oor Wullie by Dudley Watkins
My mother’s grandmother read this to me as a child. It was innocent and engaging and gave me escapism.
I wanted to live his life and have a pet mouse called Jeemy.
I still remember his spiky hair and dungarees. It was my favourite Christmas present, my equivalent of Harry Potter.
2/ Dairy Crest Cookbooks
Both my parents worked when I was growing up so I would prepare dinner. This was my first cooking bible. Simple and accessible, nothing fancy.
It captures the essence of simplicity in food and reinforces that fresh is best. My dad’s favourite was salt prawns which I still make today.
3/ Animal Farm by George Orwell
I loved this as a child and the character Boxer really reminds me of the life my dad had.
He worked down the mines for 40 years and was in essence a slave to those in power, the same as Boxer. It resonates with my father’s demise.
Animal Farm was my first insight into politics as a child, that the pursuit of power will always end in corruption.
4/ Wilt by Tom Sharpe
I will always remember Wilt as the first book where I actually laughed out loud.
When I read it on the Tube there were four or five moments when I nearly fell off my seat. Sharpe manages to turn the absurd, ludicrous and slightly psychotic into something quite beautiful.
It reminds me of Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David.
5/ THE God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
I remember going to church as a child and having this feeling of fear and suspicion.
Atheist Dawkins asks where the proof for God is and depicts a joyous world in which God and religion don’t exist. This reinforces my own beliefs. It is engaging, funny and intelligent.
6/ I’ve Never Met An Idiot On The River by Henry Winkler
I love this as it doesn’t alienate anyone with a complexity of fishing. It just celebrates it as conversing with nature.
It reminds me that it doesn’t matter who I’m with or what I’m catching, whenever I’m fishing it’s hard to be unhappy.
ROBSON GREEN WAS DESPERATE TO ESCAPE HIS PIT VILLAGE FOR A CAREER IN TV, BUT RETURNING FOR A NEW SHOW MADE HIM QUESTION EVERYTHING...
Robson Green’s father spent his working life down a mine, and hated it. So he was delighted when his son chose the bright lights of the stage rather than follow him to the dark, unforgiving coalface hundreds of feet below ground.
‘He never wanted me to spend so much as two minutes down a pit, let alone the 40 years that he and most of the men in our little village were condemned to,’ says Robson.
‘As a boy, I used to see him come home dead beat after his shift, his face and body so black it was scary to see his bath water. When I grew up and moved away, I felt as if I’d escaped.’
But now, aged 46, and two years after his father’s death, Robson has followed in his footsteps to go down a mine for an ITV documentary. And it was, he admits, a humbling experience. In fact he had something of an epiphany.
‘I got a real kick up the backside to remind me of where I’m from,’ he says. ‘Long ago, I left the mining community and a lot of friends in order to take up acting. Going down that pit, I realised for the first time how little I had known of Dad’s life and work. I’d always known that miners faced danger and that you had to be a special kind of man to handle all that. But it never hit home just how special they were until I saw it for myself.’
Robson’s documentary, made by Oscar-winning director and writer Jon Blair, charts the remarkable story of the Pitmen Painters, a group of miners who started going to art classes and went on to achieve international renown in the 1940s and 50s. As a miner’s son who grew up in the heart of the coal industry in Dudley – a pit village in North Tyneside – Robson was an apt choice as presenter, even though he knew little about it.
‘For the programme, I visited Maltby in Yorkshire. I had to walk three miles underground before I got to the coalface. I was shocked to realise that Dad and his colleagues also had to do this – although in their day they had to crawl along the mine shaft. It was roasting down there – up to 38ºC.’
When Robson was growing up, his father did everything he could to discourage him from becoming a miner. ‘I didn’t need much persuading because I knew I wanted something different, or what I thought was better. But in a twist of irony, I’ve realised what I pursued was no better than what they did. All my life I’d left the mining world behind, but going back to do The Pitmen Painters made me realise that community, and my father’s blood, sweat and hard labour, have never left me. In fact, they’ve made me what I am.’
Robson visits Ashington, the Northumberland town where his father worked and where the famed group of painters called the Ashington Group, first attended classes aimed at selfimprovement.
The results of their work, which shows the industrial heritage of their world, can now be seen at Woodhorn Museum in Ashington. ‘It was an honour to be asked to present their story because it’s a celebration of the life and community I was surrounded by as a child,’ he says.
As part of the programme, Robson was asked to paint a picture of himself and his father. Robson painted himself as a child sitting on his father’s bare back as he crouches on all fours. When asked to explain the symbolism of the painting in the film, Robson is moved to tears. ‘My reaction was totally unexpected. I realised I’d painted a picture that represented me claiming back my identity and my roots.’
Even though Robson’s parents divorced when he was 11, the community was so close it barely made any difference. ‘Dad was always turning up at Mum’s house. She was devastated when he died in 2009 of lung cancer at the age of 73.’
Robson married his wife Vanya in 2001 and their son Taylor was born in 2000. ‘Taylor came to Dad’s funeral and I’m glad he saw our heritage. My painting of the boy on his dad’s back was about me living off my father’s toil and that of his colleagues, like the Pitmen Painters.’
FAME AND FORTUNE - Robson Green, 46, grew up in a mining town before taking up acting. A keen angler, he lives with his second wife, Vanya, and their son.
HOW DID YOUR CHILDHOOD INFLUENCE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS MONEY AND YOUR WORK ETHIC ?
I'm one of four children. We grew up in Dudley, the heart of mining in north Tyneside. My father worked down the pits, and mum worked at a local supermarket during the day and cleaned houses in the evening. Mining is probably one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, as we saw in Chile and New Zealand more recently.
It breeds a certain type of man and my father was that man – big, powerful and courageous, but he was also exploited and he knew it. He got very little reward for working so, so hard. I don't know how he and mum managed to bring up four children on their wages.
Like many proud miners, there was a feeling of bitterness towards people who had bettered themselves financially. I looked at the world around me and I wanted to escape mining. I couldn't stand the dirt and the noise. I also wanted economic stability. Mum often took my brother and me on her cleaning jobs, and I'd be in awe of the houses.
I never felt jealous though. My father and his father believed you were only a good or successful person if you'd struggled or come from a job that was surrounded by filth. I disagreed entirely with that.
To me money was never a bad thing, even though when I was first poncing about on a stage in my early days as an actor, I was only earning £33 net a week.
Capitalism was the work of the devil to many miners, but I was looking at the fact that money can do good things if you invest it in the right things, like people.
My childhood taught me that life is not about what you are given, it's about what you are able to achieve. An ordinary life can be extraordinary if you set your mind to it and commit to working hard to get it. I've always thought the harder I work, the luckier I get.
HAS THERE EVER BEEN A TIME IN YOUR LIFE WHEN YOU DIDN'T KNOW HOW YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE ENDS MEET ?
Not really, thankfully. Early on in my career, I worked in a scrap yard as a draughtsman for four years. I was earning good money as a 17-year-old, probably £95 net a week – I gave half to my mother for my board.
For a good chunk of my life, the only responsibility I've had was to myself. When I got my first acting job at 21, I never saved any of my £33 weekly wage.
I was always horrendously overdrawn to the point when my TSB bank manager told me I had to pay it all back – all £1,100.
Luckily, I got my first break on telly in Casualty playing porter Jimmy. My weekly wage was £1,000 and my travelling and per diem expenses were £800. When the studio asked for my bank details, I said "Not on your life", so each week I walked out of the North Acton studio with £1,800.
I was known as "short arms, long pockets" in those days! I didn't want the bank getting their hands on it. I came to my senses eventually, but I never went back to the TSB.
ARE YOU A SAVER OR A SPENDER ?
I'm one of those rare Socialists who practise what they preach. I spend, but I invest in people and their drive. That's one of the reasons why I set up my own production company, Castle Productions, in order to nurture the acting industry in the North East.
I think only good things can come from investing in people power. There are a lot of young people out there, who, like me in the Seventies, want to escape a certain fate.
Personally though, I am a good saver; I'm sensible, and don't take risks with my safe pension funds and bonds. It was only when I married my beautiful wife, Vanya, in 2001 and my son Taylor was a newborn did real personal financial responsibility come into the equation.
I did treat myself to £10,000 worth of fireworks recently and I've got a £7,000 Hardy split cane sensational antique boat. F
or my 40th Vanya actually sent me on a pyrotechnics course where I learned to set off Category 4 fireworks. I love the feeling you get after a display.
WHAT'S BEEN YOUR BEST BUSINESS DECISION ?
Definitely setting up Castle Productions 10 years ago. We've produced prime-time dramas for the UK and 36 other countries around the world, all from this little production company in the north-east of England, which I'm incredibly proud of.
When I look back on my career, I want to be able to say I've never harmed someone, and that I've done something constructive and made someone's life better. "Giving is better than receiving" is a good moral.
Was I nervous going out on my own? Not really, because when you have a brilliant team around you there's no reason to be nervous. I brought in top-drawer writers, cinematographers, make-up, you name it.
There are always going to be periods when times are lean and you learn to cut back, knowing that things will pan out just fine. We've had a very good 10-year run.
I met the right people, went on courses, met with financial advisers and learnt about every aspect of the industry. It doesn't take an Oxford don to run a film company, just common sense and commitment.
It's important for me to prove that London isn't the centre of all things cultural and financial. In order to survive, you have to create an infrastructure and one of the ingredients is commissions.
I was able to leverage my personal brand, which attracted heads of departments towards the North East, who not only wanted to work here, but live here.
WHO LOOKS AFTER YOUR FINANCES ?
I have a brilliant accountant and team in Newcastle who look after everything and who've given me nothing but great advice. But there was a horrible silence when I said I was starting up the production company, because a decent script for a 90-minute film wouldn't leave you much change from £60,000.
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT LESSON OF YOUR CAREER THAT YOU'VE LEARNT ABOUT MONEY ?
Never make a financial decision based on a verbal contract, always get it in writing. I once had a gentlemen's agreement with a network and that promise fell through, which proved to be very costly for us.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR WORST BUY OR WORST BUSINESS DECISION ?
Two ridiculously expensive suits from Savile Row, one which cost £4,000. I thought they were stunning. I got back home and went to show Vanya, who took one look at me in disdain and told me to take off my Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen coat as I looked like a fashion victim.
Her exact words were: "What on earth possessed you? Have you taken something illegal?"
There have also been times where I haven't trusted my gut instincts and have been let down. When you empower someone and they don't grab the opportunity, that really upsets me.
HOW DO YOU PREFER TO PAY FOR THINGS – CASH, CARD OR CHEQUE ?
Vanya prefers cards, but I love to pay for things in cash because then it's done and dusted, there's a conclusion to the transaction. With cards, you have to wait for the statement and then sort it.
HOW DO YOU TIP ?
Vanya thinks I'm a ridiculous tipper because I sometimes give up to 30pc. I just look at the poor person and see someone who's on very little money, especially in some of those places where you go on holiday. My tips can equate to two months of their salary. I just like the feeling it gives me. It all comes back to investing in people. Plus, they will remember you and treat you well.
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO TRAVEL WHEN YOU CAN ?
We absolutely adore Saint Géran, Mauritius because we can all chill together as a family. We also like Africa, especially Richard Branson's place, Ulusaba.
DO YOU INVEST IN STOCKS AND SHARES ?
No, none of that. I have e-saving accounts, bonds and pensions, that's it. The past three years have just reinforced my views that I'm right to avoid the stock market. I'm very safe with my money now that I have a family.
I wouldn't want to risk my son's education – he's at a great school and I want him to go to university. I have a dream and nightmare about him. On the one hand, he's on stage, like me, but accepting a Nobel Prize. The nightmare is him behind a till asking: "Do you want fries with that?" I want to invest in the former.
DO YOU BANK ONLINE ?
I prefer dealing with people. The internet and emails are all so impersonal. There's no substance, emotion or feeling behind them. If you speak to or see a human being, you can get to know them better.
WHAT'S YOUR FINANCIAL PRIORITY FOR THE NEXT FIVE TO 10 YEARS ?
My family, but I'm also off to the United States and something big may happen there, so I'm putting in time to get that off the ground.
Actor Robson Green, 45, found fame as Fusilier Dave Tucker in ITV drama Soldier Soldier in the early 1990s.
Then, with his co-star Jerome Flynn - and mentored by Simon Cowell - he embarked on a brief singing career.
Since then he has had starring roles in TV series such as Touching Evil and Wire In The Blood, and he now has his own show, Extreme Fishing With Robson Green.
He lives in Surrey with his wife, Vanya, their son, Taylor, nine, and his stepdaughter, Lara, 21.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life ?
My mum, Anne, who worked as a cleaner, instilled me with manners and respect, and taught me right from wrong.
But the comedian and actor Billy Connolly was a huge influence professionally. Like him, I'm a working-class lad who had to struggle to achieve success.
He derived humour from the poverty and privations of his boyhood - he didn't see them as negatives. He made me realise that you don't have to be constrained by the life you were born into.
How did your childhood affect the person you are today ?
My late father, who was also called Robson Green, was a coal miner for 42 years.
It was such a dangerous occupation that he didn't want me following him into it. I was encouraged to embrace opportunity and realise there's a whole world out there.
What was it about your wife that attracted you to her - and what keeps you together ?
I believe in love at first sight because it happened to me with Vanya. We first met when she was working as Simon Cowell's secretary.
I'd gone to his office with Jerome Flynn and there she was: the most beautiful woman I'd ever set eyes on - she's a former Bond girl and model.
Coincidentally, she'd seen me the night before on TV in Gambling Man [a Catherine Cookson adaptation] and she told me it was wonderful and I'd made her cry. Then she asked me out - and I declined.
I'd just got divorced and felt I wasn't ready for a new relationship.
The second time she asked me, I said yes, and we've now been together ten years. Our marriage lasts because it's passionate, we understand each other and we're developing together.
Who irritates you ?
Tony Blair. He deceived the electorate over Iraq and led us into carnage. I feel suckered by him.
Who would play you in the movie of your life ?
Declan Donnelly. Like me, he's from Newcastle, and when I saw him in A Tribute To The Likely Lads with Ant McPartlin a few years back, I was impressed.
What music would you have played at your funeral ?
Heaven by Simply Red. It's written in my will.
Who would you like to be marooned on a desert island with and why ?
Alan Shearer, the former Newcastle United and England striker. He's a fellow Geordie and a record goalscorer, and I'd want him to talk me through every one of those goals. He's a sporting hero of mine, and if we were stranded long enough, I'd learn such a lot about football technique, shooting and passing from him.
Ever been heartbroken ?
Yes, the saddest day of my life was when my Dad died last February.
He had a blood clot in an artery and it ruptured in his stomach. He'd been ill for some time but I was in denial about it.
When did you last cry ?
It was while I was watching the film Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep in the title role as the late US cook, Julia Child. I wept when Julia, who cannot have children, finds out that her sister is pregnant. Streep plays the moment with such poignancy. You really feel for her character.
What is the most outrageous thing you've ever done for love ?
I spent a ridiculous amount of money on a firework display for Vanya in Mauritius. It was on our fifth wedding anniversary and we went to Le San Geran [a luxury hotel on the island].
We had a table at the end of a pier on a lagoon and after we'd had our meal I said, 'I'm about to light up the sky for you.' Then the heavens exploded in a blaze of coloured lights.
Did you know ?
Robson's Christian name was passed down from his grandmother - it was her maiden name. His middle name, Golightly, was his great-uncle's surname
What's your biggest indulgence ?
Fireworks. I organise displays as a hobby. I might spend up to £60,000 on a show but I'd never think of it as sending money up in smoke. A wonderful display set to music stays in the memory for a lifetime.
What keeps you awake at night ?
A good box set of DVDs. Vanya and I watch them in bed. We love American TV dramas: Boston Legal, The West Wing, Mad Men. Our longest viewing session lasted from 10pm until 4am.
What's your greatest fear ?
What was the most showbiz party you've been to ?
It was when Jerome and I got to number one in the charts with I Believe in 1995. All the record company's top acts were there - bands like Sugababes and Eternal - but we were squeaky clean.
While other rock stars were throwing TVs out of hotel windows, I'd be reading the newspaper and Jerome would be meditating. I did get drunk that night, though.
What is your earliest memory ?
I was three years old and my brother, David, had just been born. All the attention was focused on him and, in a fit of jealous rage, I ran straight over his head with my tricycle at ramming speed. There were tyre marks over his forehead - but, miraculously, he remained unscathed.
A 10-hour car journey to Devon in a Hillman Imp. I was about five. My younger brother David was car sick for most of the journey and my two older sisters were talking about lads. We stopped by the side of the motorway to eat egg sandwiches; my dad put windbreakers up to protect us from lorries!
Best holiday ?
Mauritius, at Le Saint Geran resort. It was the most idyllic, do-what-you-like holiday and I found Mauritians to be the most inspiring culture.
Favourite place in the British Isles ?
Northumberland, where I was born. It's home and gives me sense of identity.
What have you learnt from your travels ?
No matter how idyllic the landscape or awe-inspiring the buildings, it's the people and culture that you remember most. The Philippines really stands out for that. It's a poor nation, and without wanting to sound patronising, I found that there was dignity within the poverty. They are some of the happiest people I've ever met.
Ideal travelling companion ?
My wife Vanya. She looks after our over-enthusiastic son Taylor and my stepdaughter Larushka while I'm being totally selfish, reading or watching movies on the plane.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie ?
Perth, particularly Cottesloe Beach, is the perfect backdrop for a beach bum. It's beautiful and clean with an almost retro feel to it. However, at the age of 45 there's the distinct possibility of feeing insecure and old there.
Greatest travel luxury ?
My BA Executive Gold Card, which gets me any seat on any flight and people to ask things like, "how would how would you like your steak cooked, sir?" at 38,000ft.
Holiday reading ?
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins or anything by Tom Sharpe and Bill Bryson. They turn the ludicrous into something beautiful.
Where has seduced you ?
Fremantle in Perth, for the colonial buildings and Cappuccino Strip, the street performers and musicians. It's like the Edinburgh Festival without the drizzle.
Better to travel or arrive ?
Before I was an actor I wanted to be a pilot. I particularly love flying in 747s, because even though I was taught the principles of flight as an air cadet I'm still amazed that 850,000lb of metal takes to the skies.
Worst travel experience ?
I was fishing on a 138ft vessel in the north Pacific off Vancouver Island. I thought I was going to die. We entered a force 7 gale, which increased into force 9 then went into a hurricane: the worst 36 hours of my life.
Worst hotel ?
The Hotel Accommodation in Upala, Costa Rica: a bed, with Jesus on the cross above it, a TV in a cage that was bolted to the wall, no running water and a toilet of the squatting variety.
Best hotel ?
The Cliveden in Taplow. It's quintessentially English and they make you feel like a treasured guest.
Favourite walk/swim/ride/drive ?
Swimming and snorkelling in the crystal-clear turquoise water off Rottnest Island in Western Australia.
Best meal abroad ?
Cicerellos in Fremantle, which is in an old boat shed that serves fresh seafood. I ate there on Australia Day, so there was a wonderful fireworks display.
Dream trip ?
I would like to take my family on a proper safari in Kenya to see animals in their natural habitat.
Where next ?
Hopefully Hong Kong. It's where Vanya is from. She hasn't been back since she left at the age of 15 and she wants to show Taylor and Larushka.
Robson Green, 43, has appeared in Casualty, Rocket Man and Wire in the Blood, which returns to ITV1 on Friday 12 September. "Unchained Melody", performed in the series Soldier, Soldier, was the first of three No.1 singles for Robson & Jerome.
Dudley was a small pit village in North Tyneside; my father was a miner and the pits dominated the landscape. Mrs Anderson was a lovely teacher at Dudley Primary who encouraged creativity in young people. She encouraged me to sing, act and read.
Mrs Wheeler at Dudley Middle School, where I went from 10 to 13, also saw I had the ability to perform and entertain people. But let me say Dudley Middle wasn't my favourite school. Discipline was by fear. Punishments were public humiliation – that is, standing outside the headmaster's office, being hit on the bottom and the strap.
"Chop" was one teacher's nickname because he used to do a karate chop on your back. One of my best mates told his dad, who came in and chinned him. It was very Kes.
I was in a class of 43 and we were put in rows according to our ability. Some teachers called them league tables. Many a time I was, as it were, in the Vauxhall League.
I loved science. Bunsen burners – I couldn't wait for an explosion! I have a Category 4 Pyrotechnics licence and I do firework displays. I have an eight-year-old son and for birthdays we get other kids round and build rockets with parachutes and a "pencil" videocamera.
I'm always fascinated by something that leaves the surface of the earth. My series, Rocket Man, was based on a true story of a man who put his wife's ashes into space.
At Seaton Burn High School [now Community College] I got into engineering. We used to make go-carts with engines that would do 35mph. I made a trowel for my mum and ornaments to bring a smile to her face; she was bringing up four of us after my father left.
I had a band, Solid State, and Steven Williamson, who is now a headmaster, played bass guitar. We called him "The Professor" because of an answer he gave in biology. We were looking at a little sliver of onion under a microscope.
When the teacher asked what the cell structure was called, he put up his hand and said: "Tessellated elongated hexagons." It was a real showstopper. That's some answer when you're 14. He was bullied because of his intelligence and I was quite protective of him.
The teachers were over the moon at someone who had an IQ above that of a gnat.
I was in the school drama group and Max Roberts [director of The Pitmen Painters at the National Theatre], who was at Backworth Drama Centre, saw me in a production of Dracula Spectacular, in which I played Hans the Transylvanian innkeeper.
He was looking for local kids to be involved with local playwrights.
I got six O-levels and was offered a job at the Swan Hunter shipyard as a draughtsman but Harry Robson, a lovely man and the first teacher whose first name I knew, said: "Be a designer – the aspirations are higher."
I stayed on to do two A-levels – design technology and technical drawing – in a year. I got two Bs.
When I was working in the shipyard, I realised that if shipbuilding were to survive, it and I would have to part.
Towards the end of my fourth year at Swan Hunter, Max, who was now at Newcastle Live Theatre, called me and said:"I've got a play by Tom Hadaway – The Long Line – and a play by Alan Plater – Where is my Old Friend Bing Crosby Tonight ? – that I think you will be terrific in."
It was a seven-week run with no sign of another job afterwards. I took it.
By a great irony, in a series called Take Me I played a venture capitalist and in the opening scene I stood on the roof of the draughtsman's office of Swan Hunter where I had actually worked – and I closed down the shipyard.