Marcella star Jason Hughes on fitness, fatherhood and Midsomer Murders
Marcella actor Jason Hughes prioritises yoga and family over long hours and lifting weights. He talks to Gabrielle Fagan about staying healthy and balancing work with his loved ones
WELSH actor Hughes broke TV ground when he played gay lawyer Warren Jones on BBC's This Life in the 90s. Since then, he's found fame as detective sergeant Ben Jones in the perennially popular Midsomer Murders and in this year's ITV hit, Marcella.
You were destined for a career in sport at one stage, weren't you?
"I wanted to be [a sportsman], I was a good rugby player and a good cricket player, too. I played for my county at cricket, and I went through to the boys' clubs of the Wales squad. Had I not had my drama teacher at school, I think I would've ended up trying to go into playing rugby in some shape or form."
You've previously said that you experienced burnout after seven years of travelling backwards and forwards for Midsomer Murders. Why was that?
"[When I was filming] I got up at half-past four every morning, got into the shower, was in the car at five o'clock, drove to a train station to get a train from Brighton to Gatwick, where I'd then be driven to the set. Then I'd work 11-hour days before going back to Gatwick to get the train to Brighton. I'd get home at half-past nine at night and then get up at half-past four the following morning.
"The producers helped me out by offering me places to stay, and if there were heavy days, they'd put me up for a couple of nights here and there. That broke the week up, which was good, but essentially, getting up and doing that for eight or nine months of the year – I just couldn't keep it up any more."
Are there any types of fitness that you're into at the moment?
"I love yoga, I think it's the most brilliant thing for your body and your mind. I go to this extraordinary yoga teacher called Jim Tarrant in Brighton and I think he's just incredible – so much so, that if I know he's not taking the class that week, I'll skip it. I recently went on a yoga retreat in India with him, which was amazing.
"I also like to swim. I don't like weights; with getting nearer to 50, it seems a bit of a false economy, because the moment you stop it all shrinks to nothing again. I'd rather do something like swim a couple of miles a week and be able to take a break from it."
You're a father to three children. What does being a dad mean to you?
"I think I've found myself by it. I'm not a guy of a million hobbies and I get involved with my family because my dad was away a lot when I was a kid; he worked abroad building paper mills, highways, bridges and nuclear plants. Obviously, it was to provide for us, but the downside was that we never really saw him.
"I do myself out of work, because I'm told it's going to happen in pockets of the country where I'd have to be away for three, four, five or six months, and I'm just not into it. I'd rather be near home. It's what made Midsomer so tricky: I wanted to be a presence in their lives, and it was important that I was there."
What would you tell your younger self?
"To not be so volatile, to be calm and to be patient. Also, not to be so angry, melancholic and impatient. I think I would tell my younger self that life is OK and to believe in yourself.
"Retrospection is a finite science. I think I've said or done stuff in my time which I probably wish I hadn't, but what's the point of dwelling on things? I can't change them and they're done now, so I just live for the moment. I don't really think I've nailed it yet, but I'm trying."
Now that you're 47, do you feel your age?
"I was standing outside the other day – I'd had a particularly busy day for some reason – and I suddenly said my age out loud. For the first time, it dawned on me that I'm almost at the end of my 40s. It's weird – you just sort of feel that you're still youthful."
What are your best qualities?
"I'm kind and I think I'm generous; I care about people that I love and people I work with. If people ask me for help, I always try to give it to them.
"I think I'm also somebody who makes something happen if it needs to. If we feel that things are not going well at home and things need to be changed, I make it happen. If my daughter or my kids need anything, I make it happen. If there's a problem at work that's not going right? I make it happen."
When did you last cry?
"I can't watch stuff on TV about people winning something against the odds, or emotional family stories, without bursting into tears. I can't stop myself. One Born Every Minute reduces me to sobs – I'm hopeless! That show particularly brings back the emotion and joy of my own kids being born."
Do you share any qualities with your Marcella character Vince Whitman?
"I think he's a guy that comes from humble beginnings and he's really had to fight for everything he's had. He has a very strong work ethic and he's one of those people that can't face being beaten by anything. When backed into a corner, he comes out fighting."
Jason Hughes appears as Vince Whitman in series two of Marcella, which is available on DVD now