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Sixty Seconds with Russell Tovey

The actor, 38, on lockdown, making his dance debut and trying to catch up with Being Human co-star Aidan Turner

We’ve just seen you dancing in a classical music video. How did that come about?

My friend Jerry Reeve is an amazing choreographer. He came to me with this idea — he said his friend had written this amazing track and he was choreographing it and asked me if I’d be interested in doing it. We rehearsed it at Pineapple Studios and before I knew it I was dancing around in a vest doing a performance for this beautiful piece of music by pianist Fabio D’Andrea. We did it last year.

Why did you do it?

It was an important concept. It’s about a guy who’s in the public eye — and people often think their lives must be rosy. But we wanted to explore the concept of what’s behind the mask. With mental health it’s important to have conversations with other people, as sharing your experiences takes the weight out of the fear or shame.

Have you had your own experiences of mental health issues?

I’ve had low moments and anxiety — social anxiety and work anxiety. It’s a common thread through most creative people and most of society. At some point most people have felt really deeply sad. To be able to share that with someone else takes away the fear. When you’re in your own head, it can be quite scary to feel you’re the only person who feels like this. When you realise you aren’t, it makes it a whole lot easier.

Disconnected: Aidan Turner PICTURE: SPLASHNEWS

Are you a fan of contemporary dance?

I’ve always been challenged by ballet. I saw Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever watched. I’ve seen a lot of physical theatre and dance. When I was younger I wanted to be part of Frantic Assembly, who were a cool physical theatre troupe. I like dance that’s rooted in acting and is about connecting emotionally with the storyline.

What have you been up to in lockdown?

I did The Understudy, a radio play, and I’ve been doing my podcast Talk Art, where I talk to artists, collectors and curators about their relationship with art. We’ve recorded 30 episodes in lockdown. It’s become like a time capsule for this moment in history. It felt that people were culturally starved because all the museums and theatres are closed, and we wanted to create something people could connect to and hear how creative people are adapting — that’s what artists do, they adapt, they walk into the storm and embrace it, and they try to discover ways of making change in that environment.

How did you become interested in art?

With cartoons as a kid — things like Ren & Stimpy and Beavis And Butt-Head. I became interested in stop-motion animation. Through that I became interested in contemporary art. I was at college when the Young British Artists movement was happening. It felt like a very exciting time.

Incredible: Artist Tracey Emin PICTURE: GETTY

The first art you bought?

My parents bought me a Tracey Emin edition for my 21st birthday. Then I used my fee from The History Boys movie to buy an original Emin print. She’s incredible.

Have you been doing ‘at home’ workouts?

I wasn’t missing the gym. I was eating what I liked and was drinking a bottle or red wine a night. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve started running again and I’m looking at what I’m eating. As we’re coming out of lockdown, I’d rather be a bit fitter than getting out of breath when I’m running for the bus.

Do you still see anyone from Being Human?

I met Lenora Crichlow over Christmas and I speak to Aidan Turner when I find a phone number that works for him as he has about 100 different ones. There’s a lot of love there between all of us when we meet but Lenora spends her time between Los Angeles and the UK, and Aidan works all over the world.

Are you concerned about theatres permanently closing?

Who knows what’s going to happen with theatres, cinemas or live performances of anything? People should support the creative industries as much as possible. There’s a lot of theatre online now so there are ways to connect with live theatrical productions and donate money to theatres. We’ve got to support them.

You were doing Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? on Broadway when lockdown happened. Have you got used to not doing it?

We’d done eight previews and then it’s over and it’s not coming back. When I came back to the UK I was in a daze for a few weeks. In my diary it says ‘opening night, parents flying over’ and by now we’d have been well into the run. It’s crazy. Doing all that work and then only eight audiences saw it. It was such an exciting show, the reaction was amazing — then that’s it.

Have you been creating things?

I’ve got TV shows in development, character-driven dramedies about love. It hasn’t felt that I’ve slowed down.

Fabio D’Andrea’s Something Left To Love is available on YouTube