Up and at it - what is your morning routine?
On weekdays, I usually get up at six o’clock and run eight or nine kilometres. Then I come back home, have breakfast with my family and take the kids to school. Once that happens, I go to a coffee shop, order a large black Americano and start writing.
What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?
Usually eggs – scrambled or poached – with some sourdough toast from a local bakery.
I hate lunch. I’ve always hated lunch. The idea of stopping in the middle of your day and finding something to eat has always been an irritant to me. I usually eat something very basic like a ham and cheese sandwich so I can get it over with quickly and get back to work.
Before I was married, I would eat lots of steak, pasta and pizza, but my wife is very healthy and has encouraged me to be more conscious of what I eat. I say ‘encouraged’ but perhaps it’s more accurate to say she’s browbeaten me into submission. I still love red meat and pizza but now there’s a bit more broccoli and quinoa in my diet.
Is nutrition important to you – do you take health supplements?
It’s becoming more important to me in middle age. I try to take vitamin C and D but I often forget.
Ever been on a diet – if so, how did it go?
No, I tried the 5:2 diet once. Worst mistake I ever made. I ended up putting on a stone.
My wife does most of the cooking during the week and then I do most of the weekend cooking. I usually make a curry for us on Friday night and we watch a movie – usually a romantic comedy from the 90s featuring Sandra Bullock or Hugh Grant. On Saturdays I make pizza for the whole family and we watch The Simpsons.
How do you keep physically and mentally fit?
By running and walking a lot. I go to church regularly and I’m part of a Bible-reading group. I read the Bible every day and I pray. Keeping close to God has worked out better for me than any cure for depression I’ve tried.
Best tip for everyday fitness?
I usually listen to gospel music while I’m out running early in the morning, usually in a park. Kanye West’s Jesus is King album is a favourite. It puts me in a great frame of mind for the day ahead.
Were you a fan of schools sports/PE or do you have a memory from those days that you would rather forget?
I loved football but we didn’t play a lot of that. It was usually rugby, which I hated. I also couldn’t stand swimming and I used to pretend to drown so I had an excuse to get out of the pool and sit on the sidelines.
Teetotal or tipple?
I stopped drinking in 1999, so I’ve been sober 24 years. It’s the best decision I ever made but I’m quite introverted, so it makes social gatherings a bit difficult. It’s worth it, though.
Stairs or lift?
You can’t get trapped on a flight of stairs (well, maybe you can, but it’s never happened to me), so I’ll say ‘stairs’.
What book are you currently reading?
John Baxter’s biography of Stanley Kubrick which is very entertaining. I read lots of books about difficult, self-absorbed artists. No idea why that sub-genre should appeal to me.
I don’t really watch much TV and rarely watch Netflix. The only thing I’ve watched this year on Netflix was Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front, which I loved.
Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself over the pandemic?
Well, I was very much on the anti-lockdown, anti-mask side of the debate. And most of my friends and family vehemently disagreed with me. I surprised myself with how obstinate and/or brave I was. And since then I’ve had to learn to forgive and be forgiven, rebuild bridges and move on. That’s been hard.
Any new skills or hobbies?
No, my work is my hobby. I love it.
How do you relax?
I don’t think I do.
What are your goals for 2023?
Well, in my career, my primary goal for this year was to make The Lovers as good as it could be. Thankfully, it seems to have been well-received. I wrote it as a love letter to Belfast and the audience in Belfast seems to have embraced it, which is a relief. In my personal life, I hope I can make my wife and children laugh as much as possible.
What time do you get to bed and do you think you get enough sleep?
I usually go to bed around midnight or 1am – far too late, but I love staying up, writing and reading and watching old movies. I never relish the mini-death of sleep.
Biggest gripe or regret?
Part of me regrets not starting my writing career earlier. I only really had any success by the time I was 40 and I spent most of my twenties and thirties broke and out of work. I regret that I wasn’t more successful as an actor. I had so many auditions that I messed up through nerves or naivety – from The Lord of the Rings to The Archers – but maybe that was all for the best. Where I am today is okay.
Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?
When I was a younger man, I never wanted to get married or have children, but being a father and husband has been the best experience ever.
Has coronavirus – or any health epiphany or life event – changed your attitude towards your own mortality?
To be honest, I didn’t perceive coronavirus as a threat to my mortality. I was afraid of death when I was younger, but my faith in God has taken that fear away. I love my life and I want it to last as long as possible, but I’m also looking forward to the undiscovered country.