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20 Questions: Hugh Skinner - 'The director asked if I was actually an actor'

The W1A actor, who is currently appearing in The Trial at the Young Vic, talks bad auditions, P Diddy and being mistaken for Doctor Who

Hugh Skinner in rehearsal for The Trial
© Keith Pattison

1. Where did you grow up?
London, Tunbridge Wells and Eastbourne.

2. What made you want to become an actor?
All sorts really. I guess when I was younger kids party entertainers. Also just watching films and telly and stuff; I loved Mr Bean and Ace Ventura and Edward Scissorhands.

3. First big break?
Every job feels like a different break in some ways but I guess my first paid theatre job I did was French Without Tears with ETT which Paul Miller directed. That was the first time I felt I was doing actual paid acting work which was quite exciting.

4. Career highlights to date?
In theatre I loved doing 2nd May 1997 at the Bush. Jack Thorne is a brilliant writer and it was really exciting and felt new and different for me. American Psycho again was a really different experience, it was great.

5. Worst ever audition?
Loads! How long have you got? There was one pretty good one where I got the script the night before and the people next door to us had a party and I didn't sleep all night. I went into the audition the next morning for this telly thing - I won't say exactly what - and I sort of thought I got away with it. But then two weeks later I got a call from my agent saying that the director had asked the casting director if I was actually an actor, so that was really great.

6. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
I remember at school they did a production of Agamemnon and it had P Diddy's Godzilla theme in and they wore sunglasses and I remember thinking that was really cool. But then I guess Shockheaded Peter I saw in the West End, with the Tiger Lillies: that was incredible, I just loved it. The Tempest at the Almeida, I remember was the first time I understood a Shakespeare.

7. And the last?
Happy Days at the Young Vic.

8. Who are your idols?
Lots - Julia Davis, Kim Noble, David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Andy Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman, Gene Wilder.

9. What's the best advice you've ever been given?
I can't really think of any. My advice to myself would be I should probably listen to advice.

10. Why did you want to get involved in The Trial?
Well, Richard Jones the director - I'd seen his production of The Good Soul of Szechuan at the Young Vic and thought it was brilliant, he just had brilliant ideas. Also I really liked the adaptation which Nick Gill's written.

11. Did you know the book?
I read it before we started rehearsals. I found it really unsettling, it made me feel quite paranoid after a while. It's like a sort of terrifying vision but then weirdly mundane.

12. Favourite moment/line in the show?
When we did our first run through, I hadn't seen the first 20ish pages so watching that I just thought, yeah that bit – it's brilliant!

13. What do you enjoy most about acting?
Working with different people, finding different and new ways of doing things.

14. And least?
Unemployment! And I guess when you're working, if you get stuck in received ways of doing things or traditions.

15. If you could go back in time and see a single production, what would it be?
I wish I could have seen Andy Kaufman live.

16. Do you often get recognised?
Not really. A while ago I used to get a congratulated on my stunning work in Doctor Who – never been in that.

17. You were in the Les Mis film, and American Psycho at the Almeida - any interest in doing more musicals?
Yeah. I really enjoyed doing both of them, very different experiences. Yeah I'd love to do more. I love Jesus Christ Superstar.

18. Do you have any dream roles as an actor?
Jesus Christ Superstar! A while ago I had an idea with a friend to do a one man Jesus Christ Superstar with loads of different beards. Next stop the Palladium.

19. How do you unwind?
Rubbish TV, a drink and food.

20. If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Greg Wallace. In fact, no, Jay Raynor, because then it would be a bit quieter but I could still eat lots.

The Trial runs at the Young Vic Theatre until 22 August