When did you realise you wanted to act?
I was a dancer for years, but I knew that for longevity I would have to move on to acting or choreography: dancers have quite a short career. Acting felt like the natural choice. I’d always believed that when you dance, you should tell a story.
What was your big breakthrough?
What have you sacrificed for your art?
As a dancer, aching bones; as an actor, worrying about whether there is going to be another job. But so far, it’s been good; I’m sometimes quite relieved to have a gap.
Which of your roles has been most challenging?
My first Shakespeare: Twelfth Night, directed by Michael Grandage (2). He has a very good way of working with Shakespeare. He just insists that you do it at the speed of thought. “Just say it,” he said. “If you’ve got any rhythm, you’ll pick it up from the words on the page.”
Are there enough good parts for older women?
I suppose it’s natural that they dwindle, but it’s a shame. People are beginning to catch on that older actors still have an appeal, though: just look at a film like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. There could be much more. I remember that Coronation Street, for instance, used to be all little old actors. They were so funny and truthful. We shouldn’t underestimate the capacity of the young to enjoy the company of old people.
What work of art would you like to own?
Is there an art form you don’t relate to?
Tiddly-pom jazz. I just don’t understand what they’re doing.
Is there a downside to fame?
What’s the worst thing anyone ever said about you?
That I looked like a chicken. A critic wrote that about my performance in Twelfth Night. I think it was something to do with my costume: it flipped up at the back.
Is there anything about your career you regret?
I don’t think so. I’ve done a lot of rubbish, but it’s all learning, isn’t it?
How would you like to be remembered?
To be remembered at all would be enough.
Born: Welwyn Garden City, 1937
Career: TV includes Till Death Us Do Part, Worzel Gummidge and, most recently, Sherlock. Has also worked extensively in theatre, including at the National Theatre, the Menier Chocolate Factory, and in London’s West End.
Low point: “Some really bad pantomimes. But I had to take them to earn a living.”
High point: “Michael Grandage spotting me and giving me work. And doing Worzel [Gummidge].”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010