Tom Davis swapped the building site for the audition room and then spent years wondering if he made the right choice.
"There were double figures of times when I thought this might not be for me or maybe I'm not good enough," Davis tells us over Zoom. "I was very fortunate to have a wife who supported in the times when I might have given up."
Thanks to Mrs Davis – and his own talent and hard work – Tom made his name as DI Sleet in Murder in Successville before creating the popular BBC sitcom King Gary. And it couldn't happen to a nicer bloke.
Davis sat down to discuss his inspirational friendship with Romesh Ranganathan, his ongoing obsession with glasses and his dream of owning a flying car. (What model of car? Doesn't matter. It can fly!)
What upcoming project(s) are you most excited about?
King Gary! Comes out on the 30 July, buzzing about it after a very successful first series and Christmas special. Hopefully it will cheer a few people up after football didn't come home!
We've been more ambitious with the storylines and the show in general. We've given a bit of an edge to it. Like anything in life, you need to push yourself a bit further when you have the chance.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
That I'm working in an industry that I love, after getting in very late. I've managed to keep working through the pandemic. Even at 32, 33 it felt like this was something that might have passed me by.
I came close to quitting many times. When you come from a background of working on building sites, where you used to be paid every week, and all of a sudden you're waiting on auditions, hoping scripts go your way or people like your stuff. There were double figures of times when I thought this might not be for me or maybe I'm not good enough.
I was very fortunate to have a wife who supported in the times when I might have given up. I felt selfish chasing my dream: I was very luck to have someone who stood by me in those moments and pushed me to where I am now.
If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?
It's easy to look back and think of moments of failure or things that didn't quite go my way, parts I might have got. But all of those things that are really painful at the time made me the person I am.
There's nothing I massively regret; a couple of films have been a bit dicey but at the time I needed the money. I'm not talking about porn by the way! British gangster films.
What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?
I'd like to work more in film. I'd like to do more British comedy films, maybe write a few.
When I started off in this industry, I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. Not many people know that but I still have unfinished business there. I'm trying to push myself to get back on stage and make that my thing.
Outside of your family, who is / was your biggest inspiration?
I work a lot with Romesh Ranganathan. He's someone that's had a similar life to my own, I care about him deeply as a friend and he drives me on, seeing how hard he works. You can easily forget that part of our job: you only get out what you put in.
I find Romesh massively inspirational, as as colleague and a person. When you spend time with him, you realise what a decent guy he is.
Tell us something nobody knows about you…
I'm still scared of the dark. I can live with it but now and again it creeps up on me. Last night I slept with a little light on.
What’s your favourite item of clothing – and what does it mean to you?
It's hard that one. You go through times when you have a special thing: this week I've been busting a Gucci high top, which I love, but it's got absolutely ruined.
Clothing is like comedy vs drama: there are garments you'll wear once and it's real high-end thing and you wait for the right moment because it's really special. Same with drama; you'll watch a great show once and that's it. Whereas comedy you can over and over again because it's comfortable – similar to my pair of Paul Smith joggers.
Favourite accessory – watch / jewellery / etc – and why is it special to you?
Glasses! I'm obsessed with glasses. I worked on building sites for years and I wouldn't wear glasses because you got teased.
When I got into acting and I lost all my hair, glasses became a massive part of my identity. I spend a lot of time trawling the internet looking for special frames and the like. I own between 25 to 30 pairs.
It's a statement of identity: if you're feeling confident you'll wear a wacky frame. If you're feeling demure you'll wear something a little less showy. You can pretty much tell my mood from the frames that I'm wearing.
What items do you take on holiday and why?
I don't go anywhere without my Apple watch. I'm obsessed. It's one of the great inventions, especially for trying to get in shape.
Then a good book, golf clubs, and a fine array of hats to shield my bald bonce from the sun or shield it from the cold. A hat is essential for a bald man.
Is there an item you threw away – or lost – that you really miss?
I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to stuff. Somewhere in this room I've got a medal for being the best sportsman in the chess competition when I was 12. I lost every game but I really enjoyed it.
What’s next on your shopping list?
A nice trilby. I'm 42 now, maybe I'm at an age where I can bust a trilby. Wait for autumn, nice crisp leather jacket and a trilby. Hit that Elliot Ness, Peaky Blinders vibe.
What would you buy if money was no object?
A flying car would be pretty cool. Doesn't matter on the model, if it flies I don't really care if it's an old Cortina or whatever.
Getting in a flying car and going anywhere in the world would be pretty sweet.
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King Gary series 2 airs weekly from 30 July at 9.30pm on BBC One. All episodes will be available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer from 30 July