5 minutes with: Daniel Rigby – 'You can't be in a bad mood when you're working with the Teletubbies'

The actor playing Alan Turing in the Manchester Royal Exchange’s revival of ”Breaking the Code” explains what it was like being the face of BT, why comedy is his thing and what it’s like narrating the ”Teletubbies”

Daniel Rigby as Alan Turing in Breaking the Code
Daniel Rigby as Alan Turing in Breaking the Code
© Richard Davenport

I played what must have been the youngest Fagin at school and I didn’t look back after that. Being on stage was literally the only thing I was good at. I went to RADA when I was 18, which was probably a bit young. I’m not sure I took on board anything that people were trying to tell me, like ‘Don’t climb on the piano’ and ‘Stop shouting’.

The only thing I ever specifically wanted to do was make comedy. Which is still the case. The acting side came about because there’s no equivalent of a drama school for comedians. I have done my own sketch comedy shows in Edinburgh and beyond and I did stand up for many years. I always try and fit comedy shows in when I have time.

I am fascinated by how you make people laugh. There’s something really mysterious about comedy. Even if you are incredibly experienced and had a lot of successful shows behind you, things can always go south. People just don’t laugh. I find that intriguing.

It’s daunting taking on a real character like Alan Turing. You don’t want to do a crap job when someone has such a sad story and when they have contributed so much to the modern world. But I have really loved researching the role for Breaking the Code and getting to know more about his life, it’s a fascinating story.

Being the man from the BT adverts sort of changed my life. It was a great job to get. At one point the adverts were on something like every 12 seconds. People did used to shout my name out in the street.

It’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you are working on the Teletubbies. I am the narrator and I can go in and feel miserable or a bit grotty and then there the Teletubbies are, making music, thinking everything is brilliant and they love each other and give each other big hugs. It’s great.

Tamsin Greig and Doon Mackichan are absolute comedy heroes. So it’s really exciting that I’m going to be in Twelfth Night at the National Theatre with them next year. I also have a part in a sitcom called Sick Note which stars Nick Frost and Rupert Grint. And a second series of Flowers next year. I’m looking forward to all that.

Breaking the Code runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until 19 November.