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Michael Sheen at MCM Comic Con London – transcript

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Michael Sheen in a white shirt and black jacket, sitting on a sofa on stage holding a microphone.

A transcript of Michael Sheen’s panel at MCM Comic Con London on October 30 2022, hosted by Claire Lim.

Notes: I did the best I could with the names of the people who asked questions, and what the questions were. If you are one of those people and want to give me any corrections, please contact me @TheSheendex

Claire Lim: Hello! How are you doing everyone? How are you doing? Who’s been here all weekend? And who’s here just the Sunday? Having a good time? I can’t hear you, having a good time? Yeah? Yes. Ok. I am going to introduce to you, one of my favourite people, yes, I want to hear a raucous round of applause for the one and only, it’s mister Michael Sheen…


Michael Sheen: Hello! You look amazing! Look at everyone. Aw. Fantastic. Couple of nuns here at the front!

Claire: [Laughs]

Michael: Ah wonderful.

Claire: Gorgeous crowd.

Michael: How you all doing, you good? Ah great.

Claire: And how are you doing, Michael? How’s your weekend been?

Michael: um, it’s been absolutely brilliant, I’ve, so I’ve been to a couple of conventions before, but only as part of a group, you know, when we, when the first series of Good Omens was coming out, we did a couple of conventions. So I’ve never done where, you know, I meet people individually and that kind of thing, and I really didn’t know what to expect, and it’s one of the greatest experiences of my life! [Audience cheers] It’s been, it’s just been great. Because what you don’t quite understand until it’s happening, or I didn’t think about it, is that everyone’s here because they really want to be here! And everyone’s having a great time and enjoying themselves, and it’s just a great vibe!

Claire: And I guess as an actor, you know, you’re working long days on set or you’re on stage, and you don’t actually get to see the actual, physical or…

Michael: No

Claire: …or spiritual effect your work has

Michael: Yeah

Claire: How does that touch you, what kind of things do people say to you at these events?

Michael: Well unless you happen to be in Ystradgynlais Tescos – other supermarkets are available – then I don’t get to meet you that often. But what I’ve found as well, especially with Good Omens I think, is that a lot of people talk about how that has helped them in some way, or watching that has got them through a difficult time, and so then, I think when you meet and talk about something like that, it gets very emotional very quickly, it’s sort of very meaningful to people. I mean, of course, you know, the things I do are very meaningful to me, for all kinds of reasons, but when you meet someone who has a very, very meaningful relationship with something that you’ve been in, it’s very, you know I feel very humble, I feel very grateful to be in something that affects people in that way. And I think also with Staged, because that came out through the lockdowns and the pandemic, and I think, you know, people have talked about how much that has, you know, gave them a lift at a time when they needed it. So I do feel incredibly grateful to have been in things like that. Or just, you know, having played a serial killer and people just really thinking he’s cuddly. Even that makes me feel good! So it’s lovely. And to the one person who brought a Frost/Nixon photograph yesterday, good on yer! 


Claire: When you were a younger actor obviously you want to become an actor because you just love it, you want to be creative, there are different reasons, and now as an older actor have the reasons for, you know, staying in the industry changed for you, when obviously you speak to people, you’ve done so much work on stage and screen.

Michael: Yeah. It has, it’s changed a huge amount. I mean when I was younger and just starting off, you know, my family were quite into doing, they were in what used to be called amateur operatics, so it’s sort of amateur stuff, and so I grew up around it, you know, I knew what going to a theatre was, and I knew what performing was, and that kind of thing. And then I, so I got into it just because it’s what my family did, and I was encouraged to do it, and then I joined a youth theatre, started to take it a bit more seriously, and then just sort of followed people through, I mean the youth theatre I was in, Russell T Davies was in as well, for any Doctor Who fans, [audience cheers] and yeah so I, you know, I just saw what other people were doing and sort of carried on, you know, on after them and went to drama school. And then you know, early on, it was about trying to make my mark as an actor, and you know, trying to do the best I could, and get people to notice me and all that kind of stuff, and then slowly over time, it does inevitably change your relationship to it, and why you’re doing it. And especially as you start to, you know, get feedback from people, like I say, where the things that you’ve been in are very meaningful to them. And then also it changed again for me when I realised that I, through the work that I’ve done, that I have a sort of a platform, you know, that I have a voice, and that I can, I get invited to speak at things, and do various things, and I realised that I can use that platform to highlight what other people are doing, and to, you know, use it in that way. So that has also changed a lot of the reasons for why I do certain things as well. 

Claire: In terms of your career, you know you’ve done so much on stage, and behind the camera, is there a medium that you prefer? Or does one inform the other?

Michael: Well it, I mean I started off only really being interested in doing theatre, I didn’t really think about doing TV or film or anything like that for a long time, and I just loved doing theatre. And then when I did start doing more film and TV, I started to see different things about the mediums that I enjoyed, so I liked the sort of immediacy of doing theatre, obviously, being on stage in front of a, you know, all sharing the experience together like we are today, and the unpredictability of that. But doing the same play, the same performance, even though it does change each night, but doing six months of that is, sort of does funny things to your brain, and it does sort of play tricks on you a bit. Whereas filming, you know, you’re doing different material every day, and I liked, I enjoyed that aspect of it, and also on stage, you know if we’re in a theatre as big as this, the sort of performance that you give has to be able to be, you know, as entertaining to the person right at the back as it is to the person at the front. And that requires a certain kind of performance, a way of performing. Whereas with film and TV obviously the camera is right there, it can see all kinds of different things. But what I have enjoyed about working on film as well, is how can you play quite big characters on film, you know that might be, the characters themselves might be quite theatrical, or quite large characters, and how do you find a way to be able to do that on film or TV, that is still believable and that and audience still can invest in, and I kind of enjoyed that. So for, you know, there are moments like when I hear people talking about, like the laugh I did as Aro in Twilight or something, and – [cheers from audience] thank you very much! And I remember someone sending me 24 hours of that laugh on a loop!

Claire: [Laughs] Did you listen to it all?

Michael: I listen to it every day! That’s actually impossible isn’t it? To listen to it every day, because it is 24 hours…

But no I did like that. But you know characters that I’ve played that are quite big, I mean Martin Whitly in Prodigal Son is a big character – [cheers from audience] thank you very much! And I’m just gonna name things I’ve done, until eventually everyone’s gone “woo!” at something. 

Claire: Michael will say thank you and that’s the panel!

Michael: Quick shout out for Wesley Snipes, for anyone who likes 30 Rock [woo from audience] Thank you very much, thank you! Glad to see you here, thank you.

Claire: I wanted to talk about another way of performing during COVID, because you did a socially distanced performance for Faith Healer.

Michael: Yeah.

Claire. Now, that must have been very strange, it was on Zoom? Or was it just…

Michael: Yeah well no, so that was, so during the pandemic, it wasn’t during the lockdown but it was when there were a lot of restrictions in place, and the theatres weren’t open yet, the Old Vic theatre in London were doing a series of things, a series of performances on the stage at the Old Vic, but with no audience, and it would be filmed but it was live, I mean it was a live, you could buy a ticket, and I know quite a few people who I’ve seen over the last couple of days said that they watched it. So it was a weird mixture of doing a thea… it was a play called Faith Healer, a Brian Friel play called Faith Healer. And so it was a live performance on a stage, in a theatre, but I had my back to where the audience would sit normally, I was facing, so if this was the Old Vic I was facing that way, and the cameras were up here, so the camera could see me and the other actors and then the empty auditorium behind us, and you could buy a ticket to watch a performance of it, and it would be a live performance. So we did, you know, a week’s worth of performances, at the Old Vic, with nobody in the theatre, and, but knowing that there were, you know, thousands of people watching live at home. And that was a very weird experience. I mean it suited the play really well, it’s an extraordinary play. But to be in a theatre with nobody there, and then, but knowing that there were loads of people watching as well. You’d get all the nerves of doing a live performance, and yet there was no-one there! It was like performing for ghosts, which was kind of good for the play, and I loved it. I was a bit nervous about, because I’m always a bit nervous when I’m doing a live performance on stage, and it’s gonna be filmed, because acting for a camera and acting for a live audience are two very different things, they’re two very different styles of performance. So if a live performance is being filmed, then it’s quite hard to know where to pitch it. So I was a bit nervous about Faith Healer, given that we were on a stage but people were watching it at home. But I think there was a sort of inherent theatricality to that play as well, that kind of did work on film. And I loved it, I’d love to do more of that, it would be great!

Claire: Interesting! I thought your response would be “oh god it was so weird I don’t want to do it ever again”

Michael: No, it was thrilling. Exhilarating.

Claire: Interesting. Now a year before that you became a new dad again. And then this year you became a new dad again!

Michael: A new dad again again! 

Claire: So how do you feel having two new little ones, has that been stressful with the work, is it informing what you’re doing?

Michael: I feel absolutely exhausted!

Claire: [Laughs]

Michael: Yeah so my oldest daughter Lily is 23 now, and an actress. She was in an amazing film, I don’t know if anyone saw it, where she played the daughter of Nicholas Cage, this year, and she was absolutely brilliant in that. And then I have, we have our three year old daughter Lyra, and now our five month old daughter Mabli. And yes so a big gap, twenty years in between! A lot has changed. Certain things haven’t haven’t changed: nappies haven’t changed that much. But car seats have changed quite a bit, which is good. And again talking about my relationship to acting and my career and stuff, obviously I’m in a very different position to where I was twenty years ago, when, you know, twenty three years ago, when Lily was born, when I was sort of still relatively early on in my career, and then when Lyra was born, you know, I’m in a very different place. And also, Lyra was only about five, six months when we went into the first lockdown, so that made a big difference as well. So being able just to be at home and not having to go away, and that kind of thing made a big difference. But yeah, physically it’s quite exhausting having a force-of-nature three year old running around the place, but it’s absolutely wonderful, I mean I’m so happy. And recently Lily came over from New York, and we had, you know, all, everyone in the same house for a period of time, because obviously a lot of people who if they have grown-up kids, you know, maybe haven’t seen them that much during the last few years with the pandemic. So to have Lily and Lyra and Mabli all in the house together was just, it just made me so, so happy, it was just wonderful.

Claire: Well congratulations again on the new wee one, because that must be amazing!

Michael: Yeah thank you very much. Thank you. Yeah.

Claire: Now I watched a YouTube video, it was a really strange fan video, it was lovely though, and it was about the bromance between you and David Tennant…

Michael: I’m sorry I didn’t?
[Cheers from audience]
I don’t know who you’re referring to. 

Claire: [Laughs] I mean, what is he like to work with? He seems like a joy to work with and you guys get on really well.

Michael: I mean it’s like having an albatross around your neck, really. He sort of does drag you down, a lot of the time… No, I feel very lucky, you know, David and I were in a film called Bright Young Things together many many…
[Cheers from audience]
Thank you very much, thank you! Thank you! Yeah but we didn’t get to act together in that, and we didn’t really know each other from that, and we’ve known each other to say hello to over the years, but it wasn’t until we did Good Omens, the first series, really, that we…
[Cheers from audience]
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you.
That we got to know each other. And of course we spent a lot of time together on that, and people would come in and out, but you know, it was essentially me and David, sitting in a tent all day every day a lot of the time. And so, we sort of slowly got to know each other doing that, and then, actually it was probably doing the publicity for that and the press for that, that we really got to know each other, and then because we both had babies within weeks of each other, you know me and Anna, and David and Georgia, you know, we got very kind of bonded then because, over that. And we say that, so David and Georgia’s little girl Birdie and our little girl Lyra, we say Lyra’s only got one friend and that’s Birdie. And so we got very close, but we were very lucky because you don’t know what the chemistry is gonna be like between you and another actor, until you start working together. And you know, interestingly David and I probably hadn’t worked together because we, a lot of the time we were up for the same parts, or you know, there was only one David or Michael shaped hole in the cast, and only one of us would fill it. So we didn’t get to work together. And I’d been, you know, a big fan of his work, for years and years, and really admired, you know, what he did, and so then getting to work opposite each other, it just sort of clicked very quickly. And I remember when we did the table read for the first series of Good Omens, and we were sitting there next to each other, and starting to read the lines together, and we’d not really talked about the characters much before then, or how we were gonna do it or anything, and you could sort of feel the two of us kind of adapting to each other over the first, you know, few pages, and then we just kinda, it just clicked, the characters just clicked and we just sort of, without having to talk about it, we just instinctively understood how they would be together, and I remember Neil Gaiman and Douglas the director, saying that watching it, it was like that as well, you just saw these characters sort of circling around each other a little bit and sniffing each other out, and then bomph you’re just suddenly dancing. And it’s been that ever since really. It was such a joy to come back and do the second series together again, and it was like, once we put the costumes on again, and we were on the Soho set, we filmed it up in Scotland, and they built like an entire block of Soho, on the first one they only built a small amount of it and it was in a freezing cold car park outside Oxfordshire and it was miserable. And this time we were in a lovely, warm soundstage with the whole of Soho built. But once we got the costumes on, and I remember our first scene together, because David was a bit ill at the very beginning of the filming so he wasn’t there for the first few days, and then when we did get to do our first scene together it was just sort of walking across the street or something, and it was almost like the costumes were walking for themselves! Like they just knew what to do, the characters just sort of took over, weirdly. And we were in that kind of groove again. So it’s an absolute pleasure working with him and spending time with him, and it’s so lovely that we found these two characters, or these two characters found us, to be able to sort of put everything into, you know, and to feel so comfortable with each other. It’s been brilliant, and I hope when it comes out next summer, I hope everyone really enjoys it. I think there’s gonna be a lot of great surprises for people and I hope you enjoy it!

[Cheers from audience]

Claire: I mean Michael, that’s all very well, that’s very sweet, what a lovely story, but I want you to dish some dirt.

Michael: [Laughs]

Claire: Tell me, is there something, is it a bad habit, is it an annoying habit, that he wouldn’t want us to know about? 

Michael: About David?

Claire: Yes.

Michael: Oh my goodness.

Claire: Here we go…

Michael: David doesn’t have any bad habits! What can I tell you about… I mean he’s, he is a bit too good to be true, really. He’s always lovely to everyone. Oh! I’ll tell you what his bad habit is, he leaves it to me to, when there’s a problem, and we’re unhappy about something, because I’m supposedly the grumpy one, he leaves it to me. So he can be the “oh I’m sorry, it’s just Michael has a wee problem with this, I don’t know… it’s not me, I’m fine with it, you know” but you know, the two of us have gone “oh that’s a bit out of order isn’t it”, and then I’m the attack dog! Who has to go out… There we are, we’ll say that.

Claire: Ok I like the juice, I like a bit of juice! When you find, I wanted to ask about accents, because I often travel to America to work, and they do like this accent, I don’t know how they feel about the Welsh accent as well, but even though I find when I work in America, there’s still a sort of language barrier even though you know we speak the same language, for example I have to drop the Ts. so instead of saying “can I have a water please” it’s “waddah”, “buddah”, that kind of thing. Do you find that when you’re working in America you’ve had to posh-up, speak clearer?

Michael: Well the first time I experienced that was coming, leaving Wales and coming to London, when I came to drama school in London, I remember going into a well-known fast food chain and at the time I used to drink a lot of milk. I enjoyed drinking “milk”, and I would go into this well-known fast food chain, who sold cartons of “milk” and I would say “ah, can I have some milk please?” and the person would go, “what?” “some milk please?” “what?” And I’d say it over and over again. Now I don’t know, I mean it’s not that different is it, “milk” and “milk” or whatever? I, my accent must have been so strong that they couldn’t understand that I was saying “milk”. So that was the first time I was like, oh I speak differently to people here. And it’s like when people say a fish doesn’t know its wet until it comes out the water, well until you leave home, you take so many things for granted and think everyone’s experience is the same, and when I first came to London that was the big culture shock for me, bigger than going from the UK to America really. But the move to America is surprising in that I sort of, to begin with, I felt like there wasn’t much of a difference, and then over time you realise, oh no there really is a difference, and it sort of creeps up on you, whether the, whereas the difference between coming from Wales and into London was an immediate kind of shock of difference. But yeah going over to America and spending time there, particularly Los Angeles, I mean Los Angeles is very different to New York, and they’re very different to, you know, being in other places. And I did find myself having to, if I was on the phone, I would have, and ordering something, I would sometimes have to just put on an American accent, in order to be understood. And I would feel so embarrassed, even though no-one could hear me, I’d be on my own, and I’d embarrass myself, putting on an American accent. But then sometimes if I was playing an American character, it was really good practice to just do that, or walk into shops and just say things in an American accent, and because that was the other thing, when I first started playing American characters over there, you know, all I could hear was me being really fake, and not sounding like myself, and to try and find a way to be an American character, and yet still sort of sound like yourself? That was, I didn’t really feel like I got there until I played Martin Whitly in Prodigal Son, partly because, I’d done a, you know, four-five years on Masters of Sex…

[Audience cheers]

Thank you very much! Masters of Sex! That’s for the Masters of Sex fans. But because that character was so different to me, I mean that was the kind of challenge of playing that character was that I tried, I set myself the challenge of playing the most unlikable man in the world, and then try and get an audience to kind of sympathise with him as time goes on as he changes. But it meant that the character was kind of far from me, so it, whereas when I played Martin Whitly I tried to make him as like me as possible. And I don’t mean that I kill lots of people, I mean that he’s sort of very kind of you know, he’s trying to be funny and charming and all that kind of stuff, and kind of relaxed and playful. And then just let the mask slip every now and again. So by that point I felt comfortable enough with an American accent for my own sort of personality to come through a bit more. And you know, if it slips a bit, it’s fine. People always say “oh you got a bit Welsh on that!” And it’s fine. You know. Sean Connery got away with it didn’t he!

Claire: I’m just glad that you’ve admitted that you are, because I’ve done that in America, I’ve ordered pizza in an American accent, and you’re embarrassed, I’m in my pyjamas looking in the mirror and I’m like who have I become? Oh my god, it’s awful.

Michael: I know, I know. Yeah.

Claire: Before we go to fan questions, we’re gonna play a little game, an easy game. It’s called The Sheening of Life. We have, yeah there it is, The Sheening of Life.

Michael: [Laughs]

Claire: Look, the things you do at 4am on Photoshop…

Michael: So that’s me in Faith Healer, when we did that play. And one of the great things about that was finally, I could use my lockdown hair and beard for, you know, for something practical. That’s what Anna had to live with for quite some time.

Claire: [Laughs] So this is an easy game, literally I’ve taken some quotes from the internet that you’ve said yourself, and we’re just gonna delve deeper. 

Michael: [Laughs] Oh god!

Claire: So the first quote is,  please? “I’m a huge fan of science fiction and fantasy – not so much horror because I get a bit scared”. Are you a scaredy-cat?

Michael: Yes. I am. I, so horror films, for many many many years, until very recently, I just, I couldn’t do it. I remember when I was, when I was about fourteen, fifteen, my sister is three years younger than me, and she had all her friends round to the house one night, and my mum and dad had gone out, so I was left like in charge of my sister and her friends. And they wanted to watch a horror film, and so I had to sit there and watch this horror film, with all these younger girls, and I had to look like I was ok, I was, I hated it, I hated every second of it. And I was terrified. And then my mum and dad came home, and in this film it was, I think it was, Amityville House of Horror 2, not Amityville House of Horror 1, Amityville House of Horror 2. 

Claire: The second…

Michael: And in Amityville House of Horror 2, there’s a teenage son, and he puts his walkman on –  for those of you who don’t know what a walkman is, it was, um, Spotify in a box.


Claire: Yes. Yep it was. 

Michael: And he’d listen to this music and then the devil spoke to him through his headphones and told him to go and kill everyone, that’s essentially what I think was happening there. And so when my mum and dad came home, me having been terrified all night, and having to pretend like I was ok because of my sister’s friends, I went to bed, and I thought I have to calm down, I can’t just go to sleep, I’m terrified. And so my mum worked in a factory that made the boxes, the cassette boxes for music tapes, and so she used to be able to bring like, music home, cassettes home. So she had Prince’s album 1999 on tape, and I thought, well, that’s very upbeat, I’ll listen to that before I go to bed. So I put that on, never having heard it before, put it on, on my headphones, and that begins with a voice going “I’m not gonna hurt you, I just wanna have a good time”, and I went WAAAAAAAH, ran through the house, terrified, thinking the devil was making me kill people.

Claire: I mean the devil sounds quite fun…

Michael: That is not a fun night for me. But, so I couldn’t handle horror films. But my, Lily loves them, is obsessed, watches like numerous horror films a day and is really into them, and so, I knew that genetically there must be something in there that likes, and now I do like them, now I watch them a lot more and I’m fine with it. But sci-fi and fantasy has always been my go-to, that’s all, I’ve always loved that. 

Claire: Let’s get through the next three real fast so that we can get to the fan questions.

Michael; Oh sorry.

Claire: No no, not at all! Ok the next one is “My tragedy is that all I want is a dog, and yet I have been cursed with cats all my life”. 

Michael: [Laughs]

Claire: That is the one cat picture I could find of you. Why do you like dogs, cats? Is there a preference? What’s going on?

Michael: I’ve always loved dogs, I’ve always wanted a dog. And, you know, since I’ve been old enough to have a dog, I’ve just travelled around a lot, and not been in one place enough, so I’ve always felt bad about that. But when, growing up, my mum and dad’s house has a sort of flat roof garage, you know, attached to the house, and we came home one day, yeah we’d been out somewhere, and we came home, and we heard this noise coming from the top of the garage, little sort of, mew! mew! And we looked up and there was a kitten, on the garage roof! My mum was like “well this must belong to someone”, and me and my sister were saying “can we keep it? Can we keep it? Can we?” And my Mum said “well no, it must belong to someone, so you know, you need to go round the neighbourhood”. This is in the days when you could send your kids off around the neighbourhood to knock on people’s doors, and you have to go and ask if someone’s missing a kitten. No-one was missing it, so we kept that kitten. That became Smudge, our first cat. Many years later Smudge died, of old age really I think, and within a week, we came home, mew! mew! Up on the garage roof, another kitten!

Claire: [Laughs] Manifesting on your roof!

Michael: The god of cats was just dropping them onto our garage roof! So that second kitten became Tibs. Our second cat. And then when Tibs died, obviously we thought there’s gonna be… there was no other cat. I will report if we hear a little “mew mew” at any point, but not as yet. So yes, so we had cats. And my mum always says that the cat got up to all kinds of mischief, because if my mum and dad went out and I was on my own in the house, just me and the cat, when my mum and dad came home, there would be various things broken in the house – because I used to play football in the house. But my story would be “I was holding the cat, and the cat jumped out of my arms, and smashed the lamp” or whatever, the cat was always breaking everything. So cats are quite useful in that respect.

Claire: So let’s, I’m gonna ask if we can go to the last image instead of the third one, the last one please. “I would like to be taller, thinner and more rakish looking”. Why?

Michael: [Laughs]. Essentially I’m saying I would like to look like David Tennant, aren’t I there, really? 


Claire: Have you always just wanted, is that just from an acting point of view you just, wished you looked different? I’ve always thought that myself.

Michael: No, I think, I mean, you know, I don’t know why I said that, I can’t remember saying that. But it depends on the day, doesn’t it? I think it’s like when I was growing up, I had very curly hair, and when I was very much younger, like, you know, ten, eleven, twelve, people used to make fun of me because of my curly hair, and people would say “ooh you do put curlers in at night” and that kind of “have you had a perm?”. And I used to hate having curly hair. And then when I got a bit older, when I was, I’d say by the time I got to about 21, I embraced my curly hair. And then I loved it and I became very, I just, and I’ve been very, my hair is essentially my career. The best thing about a lot of my performances is my hair, so I have a lot to thank my hair for. But I came to embrace that, and I think it’s similar with how I look, I think there have been times where I’ve wanted to look more, you know, sort of, cliched good looking or whatever, but I think the most attractive thing about a person is how comfortable they are in themselves, and the qualities that they, you know, are a bit less than skin deep, and I think the sexiest sort of most attractive people, it’s got nothing to do with how they look, absolutely nothing, and it’s about how they make you feel, and it’s just about how, you know, all kinds of qualities. So I think the days when I feel like that are few and far between. Most of the time I just love being me and I love looking the way I look, and I think that’s where you get confidence from I think.

Claire: I think it’s mostly, yeah.

[Audience cheers]

Claire: For me I’m just getting so old that I can’t be bothered in the morning, just like too old to even care anymore. Now we’re gonna go to fan questions, there’s a mic they’re gonna illuminate [makes noises]. Can we first have a round of applause for this first half of the panel, Michael’s been lovely! Hasn’t he been wonderful, thank you! OK let’s start over here. Hello my friend, what is your name and what is your question?

Chessie: Hello, my name is Chessie, this is actually a question that my dad wanted to ask you but he couldn’t be here. He wants to know, whether you preferred playing David Frost or Kenneth Williams?

Michael: Oooh! Well, I have to say, I mean I loved playing them both, but Kenneth Williams was such an extraordinary character, talking about earlier, about how can you, the challenge of playing a very big, larger than life character but for film, you know, rather than stage, Kenneth Williams is a case in point, because he was such an extraordinary character. So, and I did become obsessed with him, you know, whenever I’ve played a real life person, you do a lot of research and you know, look into, well of course Kenneth Williams wrote these incredibly famous diaries, and so there was so much to go on with Kenneth Williams, so I did become absolutely obsessed by him, in playing him, and when we made that film, we shot it in like something like fifteen days, it was a very short shoot, and I remember when I finished thinking, what am I gonna do with all this useless information I have about Kenneth Williams now? And I, for a while I had to be Kenneth Williams for a little bit of each day, even when we weren’t filming, because I couldn’t let it go, so I would say probably Kenneth Williams.

Chessie: Thank you!

Claire: Thank you!

Michael: And please say hello to your dad for me!

Claire: Well, thank you! Ok over here, what’s your name, what’s your question?

Debbie: My name’s Debbie

Michael: Hello Debbie!

Debbie: It’s a bit of a similar question, but mine is you’re a bit of a chameleon as an actor, because you’ve played Tony Blair, Kenneth Williams and Chris Tarrant, how hard is it to do those parts, you become, you seem like you become them completely?

Michael: Well one of the biggest challenges of playing those people is that everyone knows them, you know, so everyone comes to watch what the performance, with a set of expectations, and I’ve found that you have to somehow answer those expectations, because you want the audience to feel comfortable that you are that person, and it doesn’t necessarily matter how much you look like them or sound like them or whatever it is, you just have to find a way to make people feel comfortable that you are being that person.

Debbie: I thought you were them, it’s that good

Michael Oh thank you! Oh thank you. And I like, I’ve enjoyed that challenge, I was not someone growing up who could do impersonations of people or anything like that, I’ve always said that it was when my oldest daughter Lily was little, it was her asking me to be the characters from the films that she liked, and I would find myself doing Snow White and Seven Dwarves with her and she would be Snow White and I would have to be all seven dwarves having a conversation with each other, and I started to find that I was quite good at doing the voices. So I put it down to Lily really.

Claire: Thank you. Thank you so much! You look amazing, what’s your name and question?

Michael: David? David? 


Alba: No, hi, my name is Alba so I’m from Italy originally and when I go back…

Michael: Thank you, thank you very much

Alba: and when I go back I often show my parents English films and series to teach them some English, one of them was Good Omens and they both loved it. And one time I was you know, just zapping through channels with my Mum trying to find something to watch, and she at some point told me “wait, go back, is that Michael Sheen? Let’s keep watching this because this is going to be good”, so that was Four Feathers.

Michael: Wow! Deep cut! No-one cheering that one, I see!


Alba: My question for you is, do you have a standard for yourself for the roles that you accept or audition for, because consistently so far, anything that I’ve checked, even without knowing anything about you, that you were in, ok I’m gonna keep watching this, this is guaranteed to be good?

Michael: Oh. Well that’s lovely, I’m glad that you’ve said that. When I was, I mean when you’re starting out as an actor, and you know, sometimes for a long time, you don’t have a huge amount of choice about what you do, you know, but I’ve been very fortunate in my career that I have had choice from quite early on, and I’ve always, I mean my criteria has always been, I read the script, and if I enjoy reading the script and it sort of you know, pulls me in, and I wanna find out what happens next, so the story grabs me, then that’s the first thing. The character, do I feel like it will be an enjoyable character for me to play, do I feel like it’s within my range, and sometimes if it’s, if I feel like it’s a bit outside of my range, then that can always be a reason to do it, if I’m feeling brave. And then also about, you know, what it’s about, just generally, like, the issues it touches on, or you know, I have to kind of go along with all those things, and if all those criteria are there, then, you know, it’s as our American friends say, it’s a no-brainer! But I know that, you know, I’m in a very fortunate position in that respect. And there have been times in my career as well, where you sort of feel like, well, I’ve done a lot of this kind of thing, or you know, I wanna do something different, so that comes into it as well sometimes, to do something maybe that’s a bit more unexpected. But I know ultimately, you know, I’m a fan first and foremost, I’ve always thought I’m a better audience member than I am a performer, I’m really good at being an audience, I really enjoy things. And I know that a lot of actors can feel like, when they watch something, you know, because you’ve sort of seen behind the curtain and you know what’s going on, it’s hard to lose yourself. I’ve never found that, I, you know coming to a convention like this, I wanna be out, you know, being, you know, just on the floor and going and looking at things, that’s what I’d love the most. So that does come in handy in terms of the things I pick, because I, it’s the things I respond to really. And hopefully that means that other people will like them as well.

Alba: Thank you!

Claire: Thank you very much, thanks! Over to this side, hello my dear, what’s your name and question?

Mels: Hi Michael, my name is Mels, my question is more about the acting industry as a whole since you’ve got such an established career, I wondered if you could talk to us about hidden financial facts about the acting industry, for example, I used to want to be an actress, so I know there’s a Spotlight fee, you have pay your agent a part, but recently what came to mind is an actress from Euphoria I think it was said she doesn’t get paid enough to not do back to back projects, which is different than the view we have of actors, that they’re all millionaires, right?

Michael: Yeah! 


Mels: So yeah I wondered if you could give an insight on that, especially how it’s changed over your career?

Michael: Yeah. I think one of the most important aspects of what you’re bringing up is, not just with actors but across the creative industries, that there has been for a long time a sort of an attitude that when you first start out, you have to kind of pay your dues somehow, and that you’re expected to do things for nothing, and you know, that that’s just sort of earning your, you know, your stripes, to be able to be part of the industry. And of course what that means is that it’s only people who can afford to do that, that actually are able to be part of the industry, that it’s, you know, the bank of mum and dad as people call it. If you don’t come from a background where there is some money to be able to pay for you to a) live in London, you know, there’s an expectation – that’s why it’s so important that creative centres need to be outside of the main cities, it needs to be much more, you know, geographically diverse, so that people don’t have to come and live in London, where it’s expensive to be a part of it. And then be expected to do things for little or no money, because, you know, you’re just getting your foot in the door. But it’s absolutely outrageous because it means that we’re only gonna have people from certain kinds of backgrounds who are able to get into certain kinds of industries, and that means if it’s things like journalism and writing, performing, you know, these are our storytellers, and if our storytellers are only telling the stories of a certain group of us within our society and our culture, then our cultural and social story that we tell about ourselves and who we are, is not truly representative, we’re only gonna hear the same stories. So we have to make sure that it’s opened up.

[Cheering from audience]

Claire: Thank you.

Michael: So thank you, that’s a great question, thank you for asking that.

Claire: Thank you very, very much. Over to this side, what’s your name my love, and what’s your question?

Zarich: My name is Zarich, and…

Michael: Thank you very much for the cube [?], thank you very much.

Zarich: Good, you’re very welcome! I thought it would be some fun.

Michael: And there is an extraordinarily gorgeous, I don’t know, what are we calling this? A gown of some kind?

Zarich: The correct name for it is a banyan.

Michael: A banyan

Zarich: But I think usually it’s just called a robe.

Michael: For anyone who can’t see it, it is, you need to come and have a look. Not now. 

Zarich: It’s from Our Flag Means Death if you know Stede Bonnet!

[Cheers from audience]

Zarich: My people! 

Michael: Thank you very much!

Zarich: I wanted to ask you, I think that everybody who can visualise characters, which I know isn’t everybody, but when you’re reading a book, do you have instantly quite a fixed idea of what the character looks like, specifically I’m wondering about Aziraphale

Michael: Hm!

Zarich: because you loved that book before you got to be in Good Omens, I’ve heard said, I… so I’m just wondering how it is to have a vision of what Aziraphale looks like and then play it, can you remember what he looked like when you visualised him, or is it now you, or is it David, or does Crowley look…?

Michael: Yeah. That’s an interesting question, yeah, so I’ve read Good Omens when it first came out, the book, I think I’d just left drama school I think, and whilst I was at drama school a guy in my year, Gary, had introduced me to comics, basically, and gave me Sandman and Watchmen and V for Vendetta and Swamp Thing and various, and Hellblazer and stuff, and that’s what got me into comics, and what first introduced me to Neil’s work, through Sandman, and so I was already into, you know, Neil was on my radar, and when the book Good Omens came out I got it, and read it, and that introduced me to Terry’s work as well, and I started reading his stuff. But yes, so I was a huge fan of the book, so it’s so interesting, it’s such an interesting question, because when it came to being in Good Omens, I realised that I didn’t have, like I couldn’t describe to you what Aziraphale looks like in my head, but it’s in some ways it’s like I guess, sculptors who, you know, you look at a block of marble and somewhere inside there is the finished thing, it’s already existing in there, you have to kind of just get rid of all the bits that shouldn’t be there, and then it’s there. And it’s the same with a character I think, for me, when I read a book, I may not be able to tell you what I think the character looks like, but it is in there, something feels right, and you know, some things feel right about the character, some things feel wrong, if you… So coming to play the character, I remember being in the costume fitting room and we just sort of tried different things and I would say oh is there something… usually you go to a place where there’s massive storerooms of costumes, and I’ll say oh, maybe it should be this sort of a colour, or that sort of a colour, it should be this kind of a coat, that kind of a coat, and you try different things and then you go, oh yes that feels right, nah that doesn’t feel right, it should be something more like… I mean at one point Aziraphale would have been wearing like a sort of trench coat, like a Columbo trench coat, we tried that, that wasn’t quite right.


And then slowly it starts to emerge, and you go yes that’s what was in there. So it’s what it feels like rather than what it looks like maybe to begin with, and now of course I can’t imagine him looking any other way. So yes so it’s like that, it’s sort of like it’s in there, and you know when it’s not, when it doesn’t feel right, and you know when it does feel right. 

Zarich: Which actually chimes in with what you were saying earlier, that it’s the who they are, not what they look like…

Michael: Yes. Exactly, exactly. 

Zarich: Yeah, feeling your way towards it. Thank you.

Michael: Thank you.

Claire: Thank you.

Zarich: Thank you for all your work, it’s been so fab.

Michael: Aw thank you.

Claire: Thank you very much. Now we only have time for one question here, then one question here, I’m sorry, everyone has to go sit back down.

Michael: Oh I’m sorry! Sorry, sorry! I’m sorry, I talk way too much! I’m so sorry.

Claire: I’m so sorry guys, you’ve been lovely so far! Ok, is it lady Beetlejuice, is that what we’ve got here? You look incredible. Give us your question, what’s your name?

Alice: My name’s Alice, I’ve got like a load of Welsh family, and I’m surrounded by that stereotype that the Welsh are really lovely and happy all the time and singing all the time. So do you find it particularly fun to play villains like in Prodigal Son and especially in Apostle?

Michael: Oh wow yes. Well I mean actors tend to say, oh it’s much more fun to play the bad guy because they’re so, you know, it’s so juicier and you get to, you know, do all the things that you’re not allowed to do and that kind of stuff. And in a way what, in some ways what I tried to do with Martin Whitly in Prodigal Son was kind of exploit that, in that I, because I don’t think that there is anything, I mean it depends on what the kind of genre is that you’re doing I suppose, and you know, there are certain characters like for instance, like the character I played in Dolittle, who is such a kind of stock villain that you have to kind of enjoy that and be exuberant about that, and play the kind of ridiculousness of it. But then if you’re playing someone who is genuinely doing terrible things, you know, it shouldn’t be that they’re fun, you know. Because they’re horrible! Doing awful things! And what I liked about playing Martin Whitly was being able to play somehow who exploits that themselves. They, I mean he’s a monster, and he’s done terrible things to people for a long time, but he somehow manages to make you feel, aw he’s just a nice guy really, and he’s funny, and he’s cuddly and look at his lovely cardigan! And awwww. And then he’s killing you! And that of course is brilliant for him, it’s a great kind of tactic, it’s a great sort of disguise, it’s like that, I used to think about, you know that fish that’s really ugly and has like horrible teeth and then has a kind of light hanging on, you know you see that…

Alice: Angler fish?

Michael: I used to think of Martin being a bit like that. So the light is him being all kind of like heyyy I’m a great person to hang out with and I’m really fun, and then he just eats you. So I like that kind of aspect of it. But playing sort of, and I am fascinated by people who do, who cross a line, who cross the line of civilisation that we all essentially agree to live in certain ways and do certain things, and that’s how we get along and that’s how we keep going, and then there are some people who cross that line. And I’m, I think we all are fascinated by that, because in the same way as, you know, fairy tales are about the big bad wolf, because the wolf used to come and eat us, and so of course we’re fascinated by it, and tell stories about it, and I think it’s a similar thing with bad guys, you know. But I mean, for instance, like the part that David played, of Des, recently, playing Dennis Nilsen, the kind of utter blankness of him, and the kind of banality of evil, I think is truly terrifying. You know the kind of campy, over the top, bad guy is really enjoyable to watch but, there’s something much more fascinating about people who have crossed that line, I think. 

Alice: Thank you very much.

Claire: Thank you. Right last question, very quickly.

Michael: Hello. 

Claire: What’s your name, what’s your question my dear?

Kay: I’m Kay. and so you’ve played a variety of various monsters over the years, like various fantasy creatures, you’ve played Lucian in Underworld, you’ve done Aro in Twilight, you’ve done… 

[Cheers from audience]

Twilight fans…

Michael: Thank you very much!

Kay: You’ve done both briefly Crowley but you’ve definitely done Aziraphale in Good Omens, who was your favourite to play, and are there other mythical creatures that you still want to do?

Michael: Ooooh. That’s a good question. Well, because there’s such a sort of tradition of vampires, you know, and I do love, having said I don’t like horror films, I am, partly it’s because I’m so, they have such power over me in a way, I’m so sort of sensitive to that material that I, that that’s partly why I didn’t watch things, but I’ve always been fascinated by vampires and what they represent to us, what they symbolise to us, and how they’ve changed over generations, you know, each generation sort of finds its own version of vampires, and so doing Twilight was part of that, and I saw how that had affected my daughter, those books and that story had affected my daughter, and you could see that it was a very powerful thing, and then you know, and werewolves as well, the idea of men and women I suppose who sort of, their anger and their appetites just sort of overtakes them, I mean that’s true of a lot of them, aren’t they, vampires as well. But I’ve always been drawn to all that. But in a way the challenge of playing an angel is, has been the one I’ve enjoyed the most, because I am sort of fascinated by goodness, by what it is to be good, and what is, and the concept of goodness. And that we as a society tend to, sort of undervalue goodness, it’s sort of seen as sort of somehow weak and a bit nimby and “oh it’s nice”, and you know all that, and I think that to be good takes enormous reserves of courage and stamina, and I mean you have to look the dark in the face to be truly good and to be truly of the light, and it takes such courage, and the most, the bravest people I’ve ever come across in my life are people who’ve gone through terrible tragedy and terrible pain and terrible grief, and have somehow managed to turn that into something positive, to make positive change for other people, and I, whenever I’ve met anyone who’s done that, I always think it’s a miracle, it’s an absolute miracle. And the idea that goodness is somehow lesser, and less interesting, and not as kind of muscular, and as passionate and as fierce as evil somehow, and darkness. I think it’s nonsense. So that idea of being able to portray an angel, a being of love, and I’ve loved seeing the things that people put online about angels being ferocious creatures, and I love that and I think that’s a really good representation of what goodness can be, what it should be, I suppose. So yes, so I’ll, I’m gonna say the angel.

Claire: Thank you! A round of applause for all of the questions!

[Cheers from audience]

Michael: Excellent questions, thank you very much!

Claire: Thank you! And can we also have a round of applause for our interpreters over here as well? They’ve been working hard all weekend. Michael, honestly I wish the panel was double the length because there’s so much more I wanted to talk…

Michael: Oh and I’m sorry to all the people who had questions, but if we ever bump into each other please ask me your question!

Claire: Please do!

Michael: And I will bore you for hours!


Claire: Michael, you’ve been an absolutely wonderful guest and it’s been an honour to chat to you! Thank you very much!

Michael: Aw thank you so much, and thanks everyone for coming! It’s such a pleasure to be with you!

[Audience cheers]

Claire: Michael Sheen everyone, round of applause!

Michael: Thank you! Thank you.