What attracted you to Dial M for Middlesbrough?
It's a lot of fun. It's a very silly, glorious, gruesome comedy. I adore comedy in all its forms, but like many people, I am also an absolute sucker for the police procedural. When they are put together like this, I love it. Some of my all-time favourite films are the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies, Police Squad! and Naked Gun. I have dreamed of being part of something like this. So when they asked me, I jumped at it.
It wasn't a hard choice to make, then?
No, it was a very easy decision. I pretended it would be very difficult to fit into my really busy schedule. I made them wait a few minutes before coming back to the phone and saying, "Yeah, I think I can fit you in - even though my diary is totally empty!"
What do you particularly adore about the police procedural comedy?
It's the joyous thing of taking something serious and taking something ludicrous and putting them together. It's the incongruity of it. There is something gleeful about laughing about authority.
Talk us through your character.
I play Neil, a conservationist and keen twitcher. Neil is absolutely full of himself and extremely abusive towards his assistant. He is a pillock of the first water.
Tell us about his relationship with his assistant.
Neil is a terrible bully. He and his assistant are deeply entwined, but the poor woman is so browbeaten. She doesn't even realise what a bully he is. He needs a good talking to!
Why has Neil gravitated towards birdwatching as a hobby?
It could have been anything. He just happens to have chosen birds. What's important is that people know he is very clever and has high status and is better than them. It had to be a small pond. It could have been 16th century baroque string instruments or the history of oil rigs, as long as he was the big fish.
Why will Dial M for Middlesbrough chime at Christmas?
Because it's great communal viewing. You can imagine teenagers and granddad and auntie Barbara all finding a particular character they connect with. Christmas is the only time of year where we get that sort of communal viewing. It is not easily achieved, but this manages it really well. It succeeds in bringing all the generations together.
What do you hope the takeaway will be from Dial M for Middlesbrough?
I hope it will appeal to a really wide audience. I remember sitting down with my mother, sister and daughter to watch Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. All the generations were rolling around with laughter. It was such a lovely shared moment. I hope this will have the same effect.