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20 Questions: Great Britain's Lucy Punch - 'I'd like to have been a wizard'

The actress has taken over from Billie Piper in the West End transfer of Richard Bean's satire on the phone hacking scandal

Lucy Punch as Paige Britain
© Johan Persson

1. What made you want to act?
I was a childhood show off that made my parents watch my epic and interminable dance routines to Like A Virgin, when a) I didn't know what a virgin was and b) I couldn't dance. So I did loads of school plays, and joined the National Youth Theatre along with all the other little girls that a) didn't know what a virgin was and b) couldn't dance.

2. If you hadn't become an actor, what might you have done professionally?
I like to think I'd have become a shaman or a wizard or maybe even spy, but truthfully I never had another option. I'd have been an unemployed actor - which I still dabble in, on a semi-professional basis.

3. Do you remember your first audition?
My first important audition was for the National Youth Theatre. I was 15 and terrified because I really wanted it. I remember my mouth being so dry my lips were sticking to my gums.

4. What was your first big break?
I've had more of a series of little breaks along the way. Although I suppose getting cast in one of Woody Allen's movies changed things a lot for me. Professionally, I started to get seen for bigger roles, and personally it gave me a lot more confidence in myself as an actress.

5. Career highlights to date?
I've been fortunate enough to work with many wonderful actors and directors, although I think the TV series I did many years ago with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders called Let Them Eat Cake was the highlight of my entire life. I was so star struck I couldn't speak for the entire job. I LOVE them.

6. Any regrets?
I regret that I can't sing. I am rather good at mouthing along to songs so if I had any actual talent, I'd be incredible. Probably.

7. What was the first thing you saw on stage that had a big impact on you?
My mum took me to see a number of Theatre De Complicite productions. I remember being so excited and inspired after seeing The Street of Crocodiles, it was like nothing I'd seen before, or since really.

8. And the last?
The Killer, by Ionesco. It was in New York starring Michael Shannon. He was brilliant, and the show was brilliant.

9. Who are your acting heroes?
Gene Wilder, Bill Murray, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, Gena Rowlands, Samantha Morten, Christopher Walken, Danny McBride, Philip Seymor Hoffman, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Kevin Spacey and The Streep, obvs.

10. What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Eat coconuts while you have teeth.

11. Why did you want to get involved in Great Britain?
Well the idea of working with Nick Hytner on a play by Richard Bean was obviously very appealing. The script is fantastic, all the other actors in the show are wonderful, and the part's not bad either.

12. How have you prepared for the role of Paige?
I haven't done any theatre for over 10 years, so the biggest challenge for me has been adjusting my performance for the stage and also doing voice work. The show is fast paced and raucous and so I need a lot of volume and energy to get through it. I've been working with this voice coach from the National, Kate Godfrey, who is absolutely brilliant.

13. Favourite line in the play?
"I love horses. The smell. The way they can take a shit and keep on walking."

14. If you could play another character, who would it be?
Perhaps the newspaper proprietor Paschal O'Leary. I've never played an Irish man before, so that would be a challenge.

15. Have you had any tabloid run-ins yourself?
Nope. Fortunately. Although I've been mistakenly pap'd in LA on several occasions when I've been confused for someone else!

16. What's your favourite post-show hang out?
Groucho's. The last show I did in the West End was The Graduate, many years ago, and I always went there for a vodka tonic or two and a bowl of twiglets. So I have very fond - and blurry - memories of the place!

17.How do you unwind?
Walking my dog, glass of red wine, long bath... the usual.

18.If you could swap places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Father Christmas.

19.Favourite book?
I don't reread books, so I don't have a favourite one.

20.Where would you like to be in ten years?
Sitting on a sun lounger on a beautiful beach reminiscing about how amazing and perfect the last ten years have been.

Great Britain continues at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Come on our hosted WhatsOnStage Outing on 2 October and get your top-price ticket, a FREE programme and access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with the cast - all for £37.50

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