This is the second instalment of the exclusive Nickolas Grace Interview. You can read Part One here too.
“Ironically, I failed Spanish A level. I rang Vanessa and asked if I could come and talk to her. I didn’t get my 3 A levels. She said well you’ve got to apply to all of the drama schools. I said but they are all full now, it’s almost August.”
‘Never mind she said You must write to them all.’
“So I did. Cutting a long story short, Royal Central had one vacancy, and offered me an audition if I wanted it.
“I went along on whatever day and there were about fifty other people, then it got down to twenty and then down to ten, and then two. It was me and this incredibly handsome boy, and I thought well at least I can say I nearly got in and this really handsome boy did. By the end of the afternoon they said right, Nickolas Grace come down to room E, and I waited and waited and no one came so I thought god why can’t they just tell me. So I crept into the office and said ‘Excuse me, I’m Nickolas Grace and I’ve been waiting’ they went ‘ what did you say your name was?’ I said again ‘Nickolas Grace’ she went ‘ oh you are in, you’re in, sorry we forgot to come and tell you’.
“Three years later I finished college and the head of the school asked me, ‘Do you remember your audition?’ I said ‘Well how could I forget?!’ He said ‘Do you remember there was a classically handsome boy that auditioned with you?’ I said ‘Yes’. He went on ‘Well he’s Helmut Berger and he’s a bit of a film star now’. So I was a lucky boy to get in but I thought if I hadn’t maybe I’d have been a film star too.
“Getting into Central was my dream. It’s where Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft, Vanessa Redgrave, Julie Christie had all gone. So getting in and doing three years there was fantastic. I was very very lucky.”
“Yes they was proud, but they didn’t like to show it. My Mum told me that when any visitors come round, dad would say, ‘have you seen this bit from Brideshead Revisited, Robin of Sherwood, or Col Porter, look at this look at this etc…'”
“When he came to see me in my show I did in the west end in 1991, he came secretly to a matinee because he didn’t want to come backstage. He was proud of me but he couldn’t come round to me and say ‘fantastic’. He was a bit scared of showing his emotions. I’m one of four: a very happy family, and always secure.”
Lights, Camera, Action
“Well my first job funnily enough was at Frinton in Essex. The joke always was if you can act, you’ll go straight into films or telly. And if you can’t act you’ll go ito weekly rep at Frinton-on-Sea in Essex. So Lynda Bellingham and I got offered Frinton on Sea weekly rep. Oh god. Haha. But it was the best job in the world because you’d just spent three years studying hard doing dancing, movement, voice. having to learn a play a week was putting everything into practice. So it was great. When we got there, feeling a little bit low, we looked on the big board in the Women’s Institute Hall which is where the summer theatre was, and it said previous members of the Frinton Theatre company included Julie Christie, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Dennison, so we thought, that’s not bad. We had a great summer. Then I went into rep in Manchester.”
“It started from aged eight when I saw Sir Michael Redgrave play Hamlet. Also seeing Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Alec Guinness. Alec Guinness was a great character actor. They were my heroes as a school boy before I went to Central. Seeing Vanessa Redgrave at Stratford playing Rosalind. It was an incredible production. It made her a star. She was beautiful. I always remember her being this stunning girl. So both she and her father inspired me. Also because at that time, Redgrave was one of our most versatile actors. He could do the classics. He was – very famous Richard II and Hamlet. Then I saw him in a farce, ‘Out Of Bounds’ in the West End and I thought I want to be as versatile as that.”
“Then I saw Olivier at the National Theatre and I realised he probably was the greatest actor of his generation. Because he could do the lot. He was incredible.
“I was lucky enough after drama school and Rep to get into The Royal Shakespeare Company, there was Dame Eileen Atkins playing Rosalind, Sir Alan Bates playing ‘Petruchio’, and many other great actors. I was very very lucky.”
Part three coming soon.