Romola Garai Q&A: “When am I happiest? With my family, in the bath”

The actor talks Aneurin Bevan, dancing to Kelis and wondering whether she should have been a teacher.

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Romola Garai, 34, has starred in acclaimed TV dramas such as “The Hour” and “The Crimson Petal and the White”, and in films including “Atonement” and “Suffragette”.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting cross-legged on the stairs in our house when I was five, trying to make a plait the way I’d seen my sister do it . . . and failing.

Who are your heroes?

My siblings, who have always been much cooler and more interesting than me.

What politician, past or present, do you look up to?

Aneurin Bevan is an all-time hero for the creation of the NHS. I also think Gordon Brown is a great man, a great orator and a better PM than we deserved. I’m loving Angela Rayner right now – and Jeremy Corbyn, of course. But Barack Obama will probably go down as the greatest politician of our era.

What was the last book that made you envy the writer?

The Ecliptic by Benjamin Wood. One of the most extraordinary novels I’ve ever read. The final pages in my paperback are smudgy with tears.

What TV show could you not live without?

I think The Wire is without doubt the finest TV that’s ever been made. But right now it’d have to be This Country on BBC3. I grew up in a small town in the West Country, so I laughed so hard I thought I was going to lose an eye in the episode where Kez has her house “plummed”.

What would be your Mastermind special subject?

Paw Patrol. I’d want them to ask me, “Why are there not more girl dogs?” so I could scream I don’t know. It’s f***ing annoying.

Which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live in?

The pre-invasion US. So I could see the majesty of untamed America before it was covered in Burger Kings.

Who would paint your portrait?

No one, I hope! But I’d love Nan Goldin to photograph my children.

What’s your theme tune?

“4th of July” by Kelis is my favourite song to dance to.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

If you’re about to get angry, ask yourself if there’s any way you could laugh instead. I try. Sometimes I end up just laughing in a crazy angry way. Either that or: “Anything you buy that needs ironing is like paying someone to shackle you to a radiator.”

What’s currently bugging you?

Tories pretending to care about society’s most vulnerable in order to win a fake election and impoverish our country by a Brexit born out of xenophobia. So looking forward to their hook-up with the DUP!

When were you happiest?

With my family, all in the bath.

What single thing would make your life better?

The absence of any mobile technology. It’s eating away at my soul.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A teacher. I love kids and I still wonder if I’d have been happier spending my life working with children. Either that or a professional walking guide, making a living wandering around in beautiful scenery.

Are we all doomed?

Doomed to what? The universe has already done its worst. Michael Gove exists. 

“Queen Anne”, starring Romola Garai, is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London SW1, until 30 September.

This article appears in the 29 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit plague

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