There’s more to Roger Allam than an arresting manner

Benita Adesuyan – The Express
14th April 2014


 

HE’S the gravel-voiced policeman who shows Morse the ropes in ITV’s new prequel series Endeavour. But there’s more to actor Roger Allam than an arresting manner.

Roger Allam has a confession to make. the actor may get squeamish when he glimpses himself on TV, but he has been known to Google his performances.

“I listened to a clip someone had put up of me singing I Am What I Am in the musical La Cage aux Folles. I thought I was absolutely dreadful,” he chuckles. “It’s like when you see photos of yourself at parties – at the time you thought you looked so cool and glamorous but you just look a bit drunk. In my defence, I don’t think I really got a handle on the song until later on in the run.”

An Olivier Award-winning actor and seasoned RSC star, the 59 year old is never far from the stage. But he has also featured in some of the biggest British films of recent years, from The Queen to The Iron Lady. Among his many turns for TV, fans will recognise him as Conservative MP Peter Mannion in The Thick of It and, more recently, as DI Fred Thursday in ITV’s Endeavour, a role that he’s about to reprise in a new series.

“I love that character,” says Roger in those famously deep tones. “He’s fundamentally decent and very much like some of my relatives from my parents’ generation – coming from a very ordinary background and trying to better themselves.”

That’s something that no doubt resonates with Roger. The son of a vicar who was a stickler for traditional professions, he discovered a love of performing through singing in school and church choirs. But his desire to pursue acting was met with some nervousness by his family.

“Getting a good education was of immense importance to my parents,” says Roger, who went on to study drama at Manchester University. “But they were happy that I was going to university, and I was happy that I was doing drama. I did hardly any academic work. I learnt a fair amount, though.”

And it paid off. Since Roger joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1981, he has been invited back season after season, clocking up plenty of classy film and TV credits along the way – and winning himself an actress wife, Rebecca Saire, with whom he has two sons, William, 12, and Thomas, eight.

Allam has also enjoyed a prestigious career in musical theatre, immortalising Inspector Javert in the original london cast of Les Misérables and landing the lead in City of Angels, in which he fulfilled a dream of singing with a swing band. But Shakespeare remains his greatest love, and this month sees him playing prospero in The Tempest at London’s Globe theatre.

Allam says he has a fondness for all the characters he’s played over the years and struggles to pick a favourite – but you sense that Javert has a special place in his heart. Russell Crowe recently brought this righteous role to the big screen in this year’s Oscar-winning film of Les Misérables.

But ask what Roger thinks of Crowe’s performance and he releases a deep, gravelly laugh, saying he hasn’t seen it. Would he have liked to be involved? “Oh yes, I would have liked to play Javert – that would suit me down to the ground.”

But then revisiting a role isn’t really Roger’s style.

“It’s important to take risks and challenge yourself,” he reflects. “That’s why I went into acting, really. If someone offered me a part and said, ‘This could go on for 20 years,’ or one of those American series – which are great, but you work all year and you don’t get a chance to do anything else… You end up as rich as Croesus, but the thought of doing the same thing over and over again just scares me silly.”