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5 minutes to embarrass Paul Nicholls

It feels like Paul Nicholls has been on the telly for as long as I’ve been watching it – from playing troubled teen Joe Wicks in EastEnders, through to his tear-jerking turn in The C Word with Sheridan Smith and Kay Mellor’s In the Club. Next week he’s starring at the New Theatre Oxford in the stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption, the Oscar-winning movie that starred Tim Robbins as Andy and Morgan Freeman as his friend Red (Mon 7 – Sat 13 Nov), so tis only right and proper that we incarcerate him on the pages of Muddy Stilettos for a few minutes.

Does the stage scare you? You started off in telly

I actually haven’t done theatre for ten years, because my voice gave out when I was doing Phaedra at the Donmar Warehouse. This is the first time I’ve been back on stage since then so yeah, it’s scary, but I love being part of a company. When I did Vincent In Brixton it was one of the happiest times of my life because we were all so close. It was like being part of a little family, a little group you belong to, then also going out there every night and getting that reaction. I can’t really describe it and maybe it’s self-indulgent, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be up there. It’s not so great when you come off stage and go ‘Oh my God, I was terrible tonight!’ but when you get lost in the play it’s a magical feeling.


Can you relate to the character of Andy?

The thing we have in common is that we are both fighters in our own way.  I can also kind of identify with the fact that you can’t be open with everybody. Andy is a character who is very intelligent and highly educated. I’m not highly educated, I’m kind of self-taught in a way in various subjects. I never did A-levels so immediately the fear was ‘I’m not clever or intelligent enough to play this part’, then you realise that’s not true and you don’t have to have a degree and a Masters and a PhD to play the part, you just have to say the lines!

It’s a touring production – how’s your geography?

I’m looking forward to exploring places but I’m so bad at geography. I mean, I know Manchester and Blackpool and Glasgow. And I know Wolverhampton is near Birmingham and I’m loving being in Oxford because I’ve never been until now. I’ve always wanted to study and this play has ignited a real thirst for knowledge so I’m looking forward to being around academics!

Do you have a pre-stage ritual

I do but I’m not going to tell you. I’m a very superstitious man.

Andy’s pin-up is Rita Hayworth. Who would yours be?

You’re definitely at the top of my list Hero, you’re absolutely gorgeous if I may say so, and really interesting too.

[I may be exaggerating slightly here… Shall we proceed?].

It has to be Angelina Jolie….


… because very time I see a picture of her I’m like ‘Oh my God, she’s just unbelievable’. I’ve never met her but I spotted her once walking down the King’s Road in Chelsea and she’s stunning.

[Hear that? That’s the sound of me wailing as I exit stage left]

‘The Shawshank Redemption’ runs at Oxford New Theatre from 7-12 November. Buy tickets




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