HE’S one of our most talented actors having starred in everything from Gosford Park to Inspector Lewis and Victoria. He also sings and plays piano and guitar and is about to release his second album. But Laurence Fox admits he is most often recognised for Celebrity Gogglebox.
He had viewers in stitches when he appeared on the celeb series of the Channel 4 show alongside his cousin Emilia Fox over the summer. Sitting on the sofa, he famously drooled over Nigella Lawson as they watched Nigella: At My Table and joked he wouldn’t mind doing the spaghetti game, inspired by Disney cartoon Lady and the Tramp, with the voluptuous TV chef. “People recognise me weirdly from Gogglebox nowadays,” chuckles the star. “I get a lot of Gogglebox attention, especially at the airport. This one guy came up to me, and I joked, ‘Which one of my great dramas do you want to discuss?’ and he said, ‘Nah, mate, you’re that bloke from Gogglebox’.”
The 41-year-old actor is in an ebullient mood having come straight from rehearsals for a forthcoming tour in support of his second album, A Grief Observed. He is tanned and refreshed after a week’s half-term holiday in Corfu with his sons Winston, 10, and Eugene, seven.
He said: “The album is chronological. The first song I wrote three-and-half years ago, to the last song, recorded just three weeks ago, and it charts the downs into the ups,” he explains.
Clearly a doting dad, Laurence admits: “In order to be a semi-decent parent, you have to know you’re not a very good parent and try to improve on your parenting.
“All of this namby-pamby parenting is a complete waste of time and the kids turn into spoiled brats. I try to restrict time on my kids’ devices because that tablet comedown is a killer. You think it’s doing you a favour but it’s just making them quiet.
Then you take it off them and they go mental. Modern schooling seems to be that ‘everyone gets a part’ and life isn’t like that. Not everyone gets a prize!” Laurence is determined not to send his sons to boarding school after he was expelled from Harrow, one of the most prestigious private schools. “I’m not sure what private schools have nowadays other than making good contacts,” he muses.
“I didn’t like being away from my family. It didn’t suit me but my eldest brother loved it and my little brother loved it.
“I was a complete brat as well. I got expelled, but they did let me back to take my A levels.”
Laurence is one of five siblings, the son of James Fox and his wife Mary, and thus part of a theatrical dynasty. His uncles are the actor Edward Fox and producer Robert Fox. His cousins are Emilia and Freddie Fox, both also actors.
His family live close together in south-east London.
“My extended family are very together,” he says. “It was great to have that support network. You have to have someone to hold it all together for a bit. Everything is working for me now, though, and I feel very blessed.
“Even when you go through dark times and think, ‘God, this is the end of the world’, the world that replaces it is better than the one you were in. Nothing good comes without a bit of pain and it takes a while to go, ‘This is great’.” The dashing actor is involved in a new romance but is reluctant to divulge too many details.
“After what happened, it did put me off dating,” he says candidly. “I didn’t date anyone for a year. I tried once or twice but it didn’t work and then, after a year, it did and now I have a girlfriend.
“As a dad with kids, I get on better with women who have kids because life changes when you have them. I want to hang out with somebody who understands what it’s like to have zero sleep ever.”
Laurence admits it’s a fine balancing act looking after his boys, filming and recording his music but if he relies on one thing, it’s his trusty motorbike.
“I balance it with great difficulty but I have a motorbike for that sole reason to get me to and from work.
“When I was in a play in Bath, rather than see the inside of a Travelodge, I would dash home after the performance. The following morning I’d wake up, do the school run, have a nap, get back on the bike and drive to Bath.”
While this might sound a bit reckless, he admits his tempestuous streak has occasional got him in hot water.
“Filming can be a 12-hour day so yes, I like to keep people on their toes and play pranks,” he smiles.
“I can also be very direct. I was playing Charles de Gaulle in a play a few years ago and this heckler started shouting out that certain parts of the dialogue were historically inaccurate. It turned out he had a back operation and was really mashed on painkillers and had been drinking before he watched the play.”
Laurence told the audience he wouldn’t bother telling the story because the rude theatregoer had ruined it. Then stormed off stage.
He recalls: “I’m not hugely proud of my behaviour and it was about two days after I found out I was getting divorced, so I wasn’t in the perfect frame of mind.
However, I stand by it. I could have dealt with it better… but I could deal with most things better.”
Whenever Laurence doesn’t have his head in a script, he is either writing or recording music – and later this month will be seen presenting a gong at the National Lottery awards.
“Music is a massive passion of mine and so it’s never a chore,” he states simply. “You never know, I might be on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury next. You’ve got to keep plugging away, haven’t you? That’s what I’ve done in life and it’s served me well so far.”
A Grief Observed by Laurence Fox is out now