“There are only thirteen dwarfs in the Hobbit and I was one of them”.
That’s James Nesbitt’s epic claim to fame, as well of course as being the National Lottery’s new National Treasure, alongside Derry’s ancient walls.
Dr Nesbitt, as he likes to be called, was in town on Monday to receive the accolade at the Verbal Arts Centre, and while there held a press conference with A-Level students at the Verbal School of Journalism.
He spoke about his life, his experiences growing up in Northern Ireland and how his career changed throughout the years. Asked about how Derry has adopted him as one of their own, James said: “I love being associated with Derry. I feel I have a great connection with Derry, I’m from ‘only up the road’. The people I have met in Derry have made a great impact on me and they have stayed with me as friends throughout the years. I feel very privileged and proud to be associated with Derry.”
James spoke about on his experience of having opportunity to play the role of Ivan Cooper in the film Bloody Sunday coming from a Protestant background.
“If you’re an actor coming from a Northern Irish background you’ll have to at some point tackle the conflict of the troubles,” he said. “I, of course, played Ivan Cooper, who in the film was Protestant, nationalist MP for Derry. I saw this as trying to examine this event as a watershed for the troubles and thought that beforehand there would be a lot of concerns amongst my family and community. I know there probably a lot of suspicion with regards me taking the role.”
Asked, if he could take the reins at Stormont and steer Northern Ireland, James said he felt that Stormont should focus on the future generation of Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland is emerging from conflict. Some people are being completely ignored. I think they should be given voices and recognised. Think it’s important that the young people should be engaged in journalism or politics. They know about the past but they’re not interested in the conflict, their parents are interested in the conflict, but the young people are interested in the future. So I think that an awful lot of work needs to be done by politicians on both sides for the next generation.”
James gave us some insights into his showbiz life, stating that Woody Allen slept a lot, Quentin Tarantino is set to retire after his next film and that he is great friends with Manchester United boss, Sir Alex Ferguson.
The star, who once displayed ambitions to signing for Manchester United and argued that it still wasn’t too late, says he is happy enough with his acting life for the minute and told the young journalists of how he fell into acting.
“My father played a big part in kick starting his career on stage and on TV. He dragged me off the pitch after an under-13 rugby match and took me to the Riverside Theatre to audition for the Christmas production of Oliver. Before this the only performance I had done was an under six singing competition which I won. However when we got to the theatre the auditions had closed, but the director let me sing for him. I ended up playing the role of Dodger and from that moment on I really liked the aspect of performance.
“I felt then that there was a sense of hope, after I spent years denying the job because this wouldn’t particularly be the normal route for a young boy. It certainly became my interest. I liked the challenge of acting and decided to do it. I’m 50 in January and am still incredibly grateful I still get work and I feel really grateful that I am still challenged by it.”
James ended by giving the students some advice when they’re looking to start their career, whether it be acting, journalism or something completely different.
“You have to work to get were you want to go. If you understand the work then you can enjoy the perks of the job”.
James Nesbitt is a familiar face on our TVs and big screens these days. He is currently starring in The Missing and will soon continue his role as Bonfur in the last Hobbit film.