■ The actor, 31, talks about cooking in lockdown, life in the Fox dynasty and the National Brain Appeal’s Story Time
Why are you supporting The National Brain Appeal’s Story Time?
My mother had her life saved by a brain operation at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Holborn when I was a little boy so I’ve always been indebted to the hospital. She had a build-up of fluid that was trapped where her skull meets her spine. It was putting pressure on her brain so she had to have it drained. She had Chiari decompression surgery, where they drilled through her skull into her brain to release the pressure.
You’re reading stories alongside other celebrities. How do the stories help?
They’re to help distract people with a lovely story in a difficult time and in doing so donate to an emergency fund for staff at the hospital, who are under enormous pressure with the Covid-19 outbreak. The fund is to help the staff have whatever they need, whether it’s for an emergency at home, healthy snacks during the day, toothpaste — anything to help make their day pass more smoothly. The stories are read by different actors. They’re around five to ten minutes long and one comes out every day.
What have you chosen to read?
I went back to the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My dad [actor Edward Fox] would read me stories when mum wasn’t well. I read The Adventures Of The Speckled Band where Holmes and Watson wait in a darkened house that has a menagerie of weird animals. I added some philosophy from Marcus Aurelius at the end.
How are you coping with lockdown?
I’ve got into Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals. I’ve cooked eight and I now feel like I’m about ready to open my first Michelin- starred restaurant. I’m also reading and doing jigsaw puzzles. We’ve just got a 1,000-piece one, which is the map of England according to Shakespeare.
Can you manage to get any exercise at the moment?
Hampstead Heath is the most beautiful green space in London. It’s within striking distance for me, so four times a week I go for a run and an HIIT workout. I’ve also got an unofficial roof terrace but it’s right on a main road. It’s not exactly relaxing but sometimes you just need vitamin D.
Are you able to stay in touch with your family?
They’re in Dorset and I FaceTime them every day. We do group chats, which my dad doesn’t understand! There’s a lot of the camera being very close to faces when you’re having a conversation! I go, ‘You can step further away!’
Have you tried the Houseparty app?
I’ve used it a bit. I’m going to do a cook-off with some friends over Houseparty next week but I find loads of them in a week quite stressful so I try to keep it to one a week.
When will you next be on television?
I’m in an episode of a new show called The Great for the streaming service Hulu, which will be shown on Channel 4. Later in the year I’m in The Crown, playing Mark Thatcher. And the second series of Year Of The Rabbit — a Channel 4 comedy I appear in — has just been announced.
Your parents, Edward Fox and Joanna David, are actors, as is your sister Emilia, your uncle James and your cousin Laurence. Was it inevitable you followed the same path?
I think it would have been my parents’ keenest desire for me to have become a neurosurgeon, to be honest! I applied to universities and I auditioned for the Guildhall School of Music & Drama at the same time. As soon as I walked into that building, I thought, ‘If I get into this school, this is where I’m going to go.’ It was pulsing with all the kinds of artistic life I wanted so badly — I wanted to be surrounded by musicians, stage managers and dancers.
Has the Fox name been a blessing or a curse?
A little bit of both. To have met the people I met when I was young was very helpful. But in auditions if they don’t like what you do, they remember more keenly perhaps than if I had a different surname and they never call you back ever again. Also, my dad is obviously seen as the archetype of Englishness. People expect more of the same and I want to do other things and play different kinds of roles and do different things.
When are you at your happiest?
When I’m in Dorset with my family, being able to go on walks with them, helping my dad work on the stream in the field at the end of the garden and clearing plastic out of bits of the wood. Things that give you a further appreciation of the natural world.
■ Follow The National Brain Appeal’s Storytime on Twitter @BrainAppeal, Instagram @brain_appeal, Facebook @TheNationalBrainAppeal. To donate to the appeal, go to justgiving.com/campaign/emergency-appeal