Meet Larry Lamb

Larry Lamb with his son GeorgeLarry Lamb with his son George

Ahead of his appearance at Wanstead Library this month, Larry Lamb talks to the Wanstead Village Directory about his newly published autobiography, Mummy's Boy. Interview by Lee Marquis

Your life story is punctuated by a seemingly endless array of new jobs and new homes. How difficult was it to recall all those events?
In a funny way that made it easier because everything sets itself up chronologically. My life has been like a journey with a schedule, making it easy to recall because there has been an order to it.

Before becoming an actor you held a variety of jobs in several different countries around the world. Did you always have a desire to travel?
Yes, one of the positive things my father gave me was a wanderlust. I wanted to discover a world out there that wasn't laid at my feet. I also had an instinct for foreign languages. Once you've learned what it feels like to be able to communicate with people in a another language it opens up an area of your mind that makes it easier to master other languages. I like an element of control in my life and the only way I can have any sense of control in a foreign country is if I speak the language.

It was in Germany that you found a passion for acting in amateur theatre. Was that something you always wanted to get involved with?
I had absolutely no idea of anything to do with acting at all. Somebody just said to me 'you should be an actor' and it wasn't until I moved to Canada that I decided I wanted to make a career out of it.

When you became a professional actor in Canada you left a very well paid job in the oil business. Was this a difficult decision?
I was 27 and in terms of somebody who set out to become successful in some sort of business, starting from zero, I was doing incredibly well and I had a job for life. In theory I had everything I wanted: I owned a house; I owned an apartment; and I was making a huge salary. But I was at the beck and call of a company. I had worked myself into a situation that I had imagined I always wanted, but when I got it I realised it wasn't what I wanted after all.

Your film and TV credits are varied. Do any of them particularly stand out for you?
No, they all make up a part of the tapestry of my life. It's all about the people you meet along the way, it's not really about the things you're doing. Sometimes you work on something really memorable, but a lot of what makes it memorable is the people you are working with. I've run into an extraordinary cast of characters during my life.

One of those characters you have met was Muhammad Ali. How was that?
It was a completely random event and he was the first famous person I ever ran into. With great confidence I bounced across the room to him and he turned around and started sparring up to me.

Would you say you have had a lot of luck in your career?
If you don't have luck you ain't got a career! You have no control over the opportunities that are going to present themselves and it's how you deal with them when they do come along that denotes how your life will run. I came into this business with a modicum of talent and I was very lucky to get the breaks that I got.

You played Bruce Reynolds, one of the Great Train Robbers, in the 1988 film Buster. What are your memories of getting that role?
It was rather strange because I had read about the fact that Phil Collins was going to be doing a film about the Great Train Robbery, but because I had already done a film on the subject – where I played Ronnie Biggs – I thought there was no way I was going to get the job. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane back to London to do a screen test and to act out a couple of scenes with Phil.

The EastEnders character Archie Mitchell is perhaps the role you are most famous for. Were you worried about becoming typecast?
I'd always been wary about getting involved with long running television series, purely and simply because they can take over your life. So if you are trying to develop a career as an actor it can overshadow that and you become known as the character. But if you've had a career and you've got yourself a name as an actor, then chances are you can come out the other side and still be you, which in the end, I feel, turned out to be the case for me.

It has been reported that Archie was based on your own father. Can you expand on that?
All I said to a journalist about three years ago was that my father had been a part of the formation of that character – its an amalgam: it's life; my father; my uncle; my grandfather; and people I've worked for, all rolled up into one.

Before Archie, you became well known for playing Mick Shipman in Gavin & Stacey. Were you aware of the potential for that show from the beginning?
To be involved in a comedy series is a great plus in your career. I knew it was very well written, but I needed to get into it and be the character. At first the subtle style of comedy eluded me a bit, but gradually, as I got familiar with it, it took me over.

Where will we see you next, on stage, on our TV screens or in Hollywood?
I'm going to be doing something for the BBC, co-presenting a programme with Lesley Garrett, about the history of royal weddings. Apart from that I have no specific plans.

You will be visiting Wanstead this month with an appearance at the library. What can we expect from this event?
It will be an interview. An actress colleague of mine, Roberta Taylor, will be asking me questions about the book.

Mummy's Boy, by Larry Lamb, is out now published by Coronet, £16.99. Larry will be speaking about the book at Wanstead Library on Tuesday 26 April at 7.15pm. To book tickets visit www.redbridge.gov.uk/bam or call 020 8552 9993


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