Having spent six years speaking in an American accent, is it quite a relief when you can talk properly in a film?
Yeah, it’s a real relief. It inevitably cramps your style a bit if you’ve got to do it regularly in a strange accent. Certainly with the McNulty accent, I found it very inhibiting. I’ve done a few plays were I’ve had an Eastern European accent or an Australian accent, and that didn’t have the same effect, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t surrounded by people who had that accent.
Talking of accents. You’re from Sheffield originally but now you obviously have this received pronunciation accent. Did you ever have a proper Northern accent?
A little bit. I can’t quite remember but if I look at my nephews and nieces they have a little bit of a soft Yorkshire thing, and my wife is from Yorkshire.
And how did they take that when you went to Eton? Were they accepting of you?
Me and a few others, we made a feature of being Northerners. We used to take the mickey out of soft southerners, so I think I made a virtue of it.
You were at Eton at the same time as David Cameron. Are you fed up of people asking you what he was like?
Well I wasn’t actually at Eton at the same time as David Cameron, as he’s a great deal older than me, so I didn’t know him. It’s a misunderstanding. But I got to know him a bit afterwards because I’m friends with his wife. So we’re all used to hanging out with her a bit.
Would you help out with a party political broadcast if he asked nicely?
Well it depends what I get in return. I’d wouldn’t want just a junior ministerial post. I want a peerage. A peerage would be nice. I don’t think you can get peerage from doing a party political broadcast, though.
Do you think The Wire has come to define your career?
It has rather. I think most people, the only reason they’ve ever heard of me is because of The Wire.
Does it bother you?
It doesn’t bother me. I’m delighted. I don’t think it’s one of those characters that people forever associate with you, or can’t see you as anything else. That happens occasionally in an actor’s career and that’s a mixed blessing, I suppose, but with me, the reason I’m known is The Wire, but I don’t think it stops me being believed in another role.
Do you do the whole celebrity scene in America? Do you have it large with Eminem and people like that?
Well, we did a bit with The Wire. We always used to go to the boxing in Vegas. If HBO were sponsoring the boxing then we’d all go along. Anyone from any HBO show could go along, but the only show that always turned out was The Wire, because we’re all freeloaders. You’d get to the party and there’d be The Wire table in the backroom. We were living in Baltimore, we weren’t living in LA or New York like everybody else, so we were keen to go out.
Have you ever had any weird moments when an A-List celebrity has been starstruck to meet you?
Well, I mustn’t drop too many names... None as good as the guy who plays Bubbles (Andre Royo), who was in Prague last year filming and went along to hear Obama giving a speech on the street. Andre was standing there and Obama stopped mid speech and said ‘Hey man, it’s Bubbles!’ and pointed at him. I’ve not had anything that good, but I went backstage at a black music festival and Smokey Robinson came off stage and said ‘I’m a very big fan of yours’ and I said ‘I’m a very big fan of yours Smokey’.
Do you find it weird that it’s attracted such a cult following?
I’m sure people’s interest in it won’t last forever. It’s a very good TV show; very well written and amazingly well acted. Cult basically means that it’s not very popular and it’s rather a nice place to be. I’ve been in things that are much more popular and much bigger, but not at the forefront, and it’s quite nice to be part of a select part of popular culture, rather than a very big part of popular culture.
Centurion is out now on DVD