"I found Nottingham to be really friendly and it had such a romance about it" Actor Paul Kaye Reminisces on his Student Days in Notts

Interview: George White
Monday 18 October 2021
reading time: min, words

From fighting in the Greyjoy Rebellion to giving Ricky Gervais therapy sessions, Paul Kaye has had an on-screen career like no other since studying Theatre Design at Nottingham Trent University. We hear from the 56-year-old about his time in Notts, filming in Iceland and his love for Sleaford Mods…


What made you want to study in Nottingham?
I visited the city and fell in love with it. The Theatre Design course at NTU felt a bit like Fine Art with a purpose. They had a big studio theatre which was ours to use. I ended up writing, directing and designing a play with my mate Andrew Purvin centred around a seventeen-year-old Luddite called Daniel Diggle, who was hanged in Nottingham in 1817. I found out years later that he was an ancestor of the Buzzcocks’ Steve Diggle, so revolution obviously runs in the DNA.

How was your experience of the city?
I found Nottingham to be really friendly and it had such a romance about it. There was a community vibe down in Forest Fields and Hyson Green which I’d never really experienced in London. I was really into my reggae and we had the Marcus Garvey Centre on our doorstep. I got to see Steel Pulse, Burning Spear and Lee Perry down there. 

The long gone Cricket Players on Radford Road was such a great pub, a hatch would open on the side of the building at midday and you could buy a can of Red Stripe and an oiled reefer for less than a quid. I lived on Ewart Road for my first year with an amazing guy called Matt Marks who sadly passed away a couple of years back. He became known as the accordion man of Forest Fields.


What are some of your favourite memories from your time here?
We had a rooftop walk that we’d all do on our way home from the Garage nightclub in Hockley at 3am. It was so dangerous. We’d jump from building to building, slide down roofs and walk along walls that were four stories up. You could pretty much get all the way to Canning Circus that way. 

One night we climbed up some scaffolding outside the huge Co-Op store and found an open window right at the top. We all climbed in and had a three-floor department store to ourselves for the night. It was carnage. Like an idiot I went back there the following morning to look for my jacket and got myself nicked. I ended up being locked in a cell with Mr Scary who pissed in my lunch. He then told me he was going to have a little sleep and that when he got up he was going to kill me. That was the worst few hours of my life but I was released before he woke up. 

What did you think of Nottingham’s music scene?
Back when I lived there I can’t really remember there being one to speak of. We used to go and see a guy called Clint Bestwood and there was a local band called The Dinosaurs. I saw The Vibrators and Spizzenergi down the Union bar. But it's all about Sleaford Mods now! Culturally, I think they’re the most important band for decades. The sheer power of Jason Williamson. Astonishing. He’s like a Lydon, a Dury and a Cooper-Clark all rolled into one.

We had a rooftop walk that we’d all do on our way home from the Garage nightclub in Hockley at 3am. It was so dangerous

Since leaving the city you’ve had a fantastic career, and one of your most high-profile roles was Thoros of Myr in Game of Thrones. What was that like?
Working in real locations was one of the best things about the job. Nothing prepares you for the wonders of Iceland - that place was out of this world. It felt like we were on Jupiter. We spent three days just walking across a glacier, it was such an amazing adventure. I got very close to Rory McCann, who played the Hound, and Richard Dormer, who played Beric Dondarrion. We’d always have our guitars with us wherever we went and would jam the night away. 

You have also recently starred in other TV hits like The Stranger and After Life. How was your experience on those?
I really enjoyed The Stranger. I signed up to it when there were only a couple of scripts written, but my storyline just got better and better as the new episodes came in. And After Life was a blast. I hadn’t worked with Ricky Gervais since the late nineties, pre-Office. He’s such a clever guy and just doesn’t care what people think, which is so rare these days. I kept reading that people were fast-forwarding through my bits which I got quite a perverse thrill out of.


You’re an accomplished theatre actor too. Do you enjoy performing live? 
The highlight of my working life was playing Mr Wormwood in the RSC’s Matilda The Musical. I did over five hundred shows in Stratford and the West End and I loved every single one of them. Maybe because I studied Theatre and played in bands for so many years, I’m always happiest when I’m on stage.

What are your plans going forward?
I lost my Dad to COVID last year and then worked non-stop for twelve months, so I’m going to take a bit of time off and deal with stuff. I’ve also been trying to write something for ages, but a job always turns up which drags me away from it. I’m going to dedicate myself to that or it will never get done.

Will you be returning to the city any time soon?
I never went to my graduation ceremony in 1987, but recently NTU invited me to come up in December and pick up an honorary degree, which was very unexpected and very nice of them. My Dad was annoyed that I never picked up my original one, so I’m going to go and get this one for him.

Watch Paul Kaye in series two of HBO's Beforeigners later this year 

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