You’re a bald man, yet women still fancy you. What’s the secret?
How dare you! I’m pretty pissed off about this actually. I’m not that bald, and I feel a bit exasperated by people thinking I’m a slap head. My hairline has stopped going backwards, I swear. The way I look at it anyway, monkeys are covered in hair, and as we’ve evolved from them we’ve become less hairy. So if I’ve got less hair, that means I’m further evolved from the monkeys. Rant over, there’s no secret.
You compensate the hairline with a great ’tache in Murphy’s Law. Do you keep it after filming because it makes you feel hard?
I tend to keep it but literally just an hour ago I shaved that thing off of my face. I grew the chin to try and transform it from a mean ’tache to a friendly beard, but I just looked way too hairy, like some kind of goat’s bottom, so the whole lot had to go.
As an Irishman does a ’tache like that cause problems with Guinness?
It was driving me insane with every pint. You look like Santa after every sip. That was the main reason it had to go actually.
Last ’tache question – do you get a lot of gay biker groupies thanks to that lip-tickler?
Well no, not really, but most of my fans do happen to be men. Not necessarily gay, but just men who like to send people fairly dull letters. I got one yesterday – “My name is Nigel, I like your work, keep it up.” Thanks Nigel. Letters from women meanwhile, are rarer but more bonkers. One lady sent a photo of her in a lake and wrote underneath, “I’d like to eat your arse.” That’s fine love, but what’s with the lake? Are you insane? Yes, you are.
You’re starring in a new show called Jekyll about a man with split personalities. Surely that’s been ?done before?
Well, yeah, but it’s not really adapted from the original, it’s quite different. I don’t want to give you some press blurb, but whereas the Victorian Hyde was a fully blown monster, our guy is the modern face of evil. He’s quite attractive and good fun while being a totally horrible beastie. I think we’re all fascinated with our own personal dark sides and this is what it’s all about. Jekyll struggles to suppress what’s happening. I hope it’s funny as well. It was fantastic fun to play.
You have a well publicised dark side yourself – is that currently under control?
It was never out of control.
What about the drugs and hookers?
It was never out of control. I never had a dark side controlling my bad habits, those things happened because I made them happen.
What one thing triggers bad Jimmy?
Champagne. Stupid drink. I have a very bad reaction to that horrible stuff, but I’m a good lad these days. I’m a family man and nothing is more important to me than my wife and daughters.
You must still have the odd vice…
Well, aaah, yeah. I seem to go to charity auctions, get hideously drunk and spend too much money. This is a real problem as my wife has a bit of a habit for it too. I can’t go to one of these things without paying way over the odds for some holiday and then waking up confused the next morning.
You’re also a huge Manchester United fan. Is it true that you paid ten grand to the campaign to get the American owners out of the club?
That’s not true. I don’t know where that came from.
So you’re happy with the Americans being in charge?
No, I’m not actually. Listen, about a year ago I did a voiceover for United’s TV channel. I said, “I can’t do this. I’ll get crucified by my mates.” So to appease them, I gave my fee for that to the United supporters trust. They just happened to put it towards their campaign against the Glazers. All I care about is that United keep winning.
When you go do you sit in the posh corporate “prawn sandwich” seats or out with the riff-raff?
It depends really. I’d rather be sat with the fans, but when you’re me it’s often a lot easier to get tickets in the corporate seats. On some occasions I can even get in the directors’ box, and once I got to have a cup of tea with Sir Alex Ferguson before kick-off.
You had tea with Fergie?
Yeah, but unfortunately we lost the game. He’s a magnificent guy.
Have you ever successfully started a terrace chant?
I haven’t. The problem is if I stand up, stick my arms in the air and start shouting, nobody’s going to join in, they’ll just go, “Is that the twat from the Yellow Pages ads?”
Have the crowd ever turned on you for being famous?
Yeah, they have. I did the half-time raffle last year and when I came out the away fans started chanting, “Jimmy Nesbitt, you’re an actor, you’re an actor.” It was so to the point, it somehow became really cutting.
What do people tend to recognise you in the street from? Yellow Pages?
Well yeah, those adverts were pretty unavoidable for a while. “Oi! Murphy!” is quite popular, thanks to Murphy’s Law. Kids also seem to come up to me to talk about the Danny Boyle film I did called Millions, which is always quite surprising. Middle-aged people want to talk Cold Feet, crinklies Sunday Bloody Sunday.
What’s the worst acting job you’ve ever had?
I did a 40-week tour of Hamlet around the world. On paper that sounds great but we were really bad – universally panned wherever we went. We’d be performing in some theatre in Tokyo and you’d look down at all these pained Japanese faces, genuinely sad that you were entertaining them in such an awful manner.
You’re a tabloid favourite, what’s the strangest bit of gossip you’ve read about yourself?
I’ve read that I’m in the new series of Six Feet Under so much I actually started to wonder if I am in it. I was doing an interview the other day and they kept on about it so much, I found myself recalling stories from my time filming the show. I was never on it!
What about the more personal stories, like the hooker who stole your shoes?
Well, most of the personal stuff was pretty true. I was a pretty wild man back then, but I’ve calmed down now.
What was your wildest night out on the town with John Thomson during your Cold Feet days?
I honestly can’t remember – it was wild enough to destroy my memory of it. I’m not saying there weren’t wild nights, there were.
Come on, you must have one memory…
I remember one messy night we ended up back in my flat and decided to film each other making our wills. We got various members of the crew down with the cameras, and made wills in case we died.
Crazy. What’s your favourite memory from Cold Feet?
I don’t know. Half of the stuff from that time I can’t remember because of the state I was in. I had such a great time doing that whole series. My favourite times were probably in the make-up truck with Helen Baxendale. She’s so daft, we’d have such a laugh, and I miss working with her a lot.
Did you cry genuine tears when she got hit with the truck?
Nah. The character cried genuine tears.
Did you get a good look at Kate Winslet’s big muff when you filmed Jude?
No, I never saw that. They wouldn’t let me near the thing. It was Chris Eccleston who got to see the muff close up, I was sat in my trailer during that scene – do your research, man!
Umm, we know you star with Michelle Ryan in Jekyll. Can you persuade her to star in FHM?
She’s fantastic, isn’t she? As is Gina Bellman, who’s in it too. They’re stunning girls. Now Michelle’s the Bionic Woman. She’s one of those girls you just can’t take your eyes off of when she’s in a room. Gina’s also… hot.
Finally, what’s next for Jimmy Nesbitt?
I think I’m going to have a bath.
Original interview by Lee Coan in the July 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine