I always loved putting on shows - when you're the youngest of seven and five are older sisters, you've got to get noticed somehow! I did puppet shows and magic shows... even ventriloquism. My doll's name was 'Dan,' and I used to write these scripts, and my schoolmate hid under the table and supplied Dan's voice.
I was 11 when a teacher suggested to my parents that they should send me to drama classes to curb my disruptive ways in the classroom. The next Saturday I was acting, and thereafter it became a ritual of my youth to see a show at the Belvoir on Sundays and, if I was lucky, another at the Opera House on Monday after school.
As we mature and grow older we collect a lot of baggage, and a lot of that stuff you collect on life's journey gets in the way of acting. My kids can imagine a character and transform in the blink of an eye. It's so simple for kids, so complex for adults.
In all honesty, if somebody asked me the secret of auditioning for Americans, I don't know. Often, I do what's called self-taping for America. I go over there quite a lot to sit in a room and do stuff in front of people. You feel like a performing monkey. It's bizarre.
I think you have to find the humanity in the character and then the deterioration is a part of the process - the journey of the character. It's like playing King Lear. You can start off as a nice old man who finishes up crazy.