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Interview: Larry Lamb on why he finally feels like a good father

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: December 14, 2013

LarryLamb

LarryLamb

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Larry Lamb won nationwide recognition playing the evil Archie Mitchell in Eastenders and the infinitely more genial Mick Shipman in Gavin and Stacey. Off-screen, the actor reveals why he finally feels like a good father, what he thinks about tattoos, and why he embraces getting older.

Larry Lamb is reflecting that, at the grand old age of sixty-six, he finally feels like a grown-up.

"Most men takes ages to become mature and some of them, I don't think, ever do. They're years behind women in that," says the actor wryly.

"For that reason, I don't actually think blokes should be allowed to get married until they're at least 40."

And with this bold statement, it's immediately clear that Lamb, a household name thanks to his roles as scheming Archie Mitchell in Eastenders and benevolent Mick Shipman, Gavin's father, in hit comedy Gavin and Stacey, is as opinionated as he is charming.

The nation is currently getting the benefit of these views with Lamb's role as an interviewer for BBC's The One Show, his Sunday breakfast show on LBC radio, as well as an upcoming pilot online show with his son, TV presenter, George, 33.

"I'm loving every minute of it. Now I don't have to be a frustrated punter simply sitting at home ranting at the telly when something drives me mad. I can vent my spleen about the government of the day and talk about issues which touch all of us," he enthuses.

There's certainly no stopping him giving forth on some of these issues now.

For example, the world, according to Lamb, needs to abandon its craving for fame, "an empty dream for the majority of the population, condemning a society to wishing their lives away in pursuit of something valueless".

And don't get him started on older men having tattoos, highlighted by broadcaster, David Dimbleby recently having a scorpion tattooed on his shoulder.

"A tattoo for me? Please, I'd rather be poked in the eye with a stick."

Then of course, it's back to that view on what age a man should, or shouldn't, get married...

"Most [men] at 50 should be out of the nappy stage, but if they're still running around worrying whether people fancy them, and how many birds they've had at that age, they need to get a grip!"

He's honest enough to admit that his rather brutal view on the immaturity of males stems from his own experience. For years, Lamb struggled with commitment - he's been divorced three times - until he found "the love of my life", singer and actress, Clare Burt, nearly 20 years his junior. The couple have been together for 17 years and they have two daughters, Eloise Alexandra, 14, and Eva-Mathilde, 10.

He credits her love, and therapy sessions, for helping him overcome problems caused by his traumatic childhood, which he detailed in his 2011 autobiography, Mummy's Boy. He faced the pain of his parents' marriage failing when he was nine, his mother then leaving home, and he and his brother being brought up by his often bullying, troubled father.

"For years I was looking for a mother because mine had been forced to leave me. I put a tough shell around me that I thought would protect me from getting hurt," he says with his typical frankness.

"After two sets of therapy though, I was able to analyse everything. Thankfully, I lost that argumentative, angry, destructive side of myself. I credit the wonderful, strong women with whom I've shared my life for helping me to finally grow up and gain emotional stability.

"My second wife, George's mother, started the process of turning me into a responsible adult and father, and my daughters and their mother are a long way on the road towards rounding off the process. I've worked over the years on improving myself as a person and a father and I think I'm not too bad a one now.

"I'm a bit of a softie with my girls. I suppose I want them to have everything I didn't have emotionally. I was cast adrift basically as a child."

Ironically, he believes his difficult personal experiences may have benefited his acting.

"Certainly, I drew on my relationship with my father to help me portray the complex character that was Archie in Eastenders," he says.

"The opportunity to play both him and Gavin's dad in Gavin and Stacey was extraordinary. Suddenly I'm playing the nicest bloke on TV and the nastiest bloke on TV virtually back to back. I've been very lucky."

While these two roles are among his television highlights, London-born Lamb's illustrious 37-year acting career also involved films and stage with a range of stellar names, from Maggie Smith on Broadway to Vanessa Redgrave in the West End.

It's therefore fitting that he recently hosted the Older People in the Media Awards ceremony, organised by the charity Independent Age and Barchester Healthcare, to commend media for positive portrayals of older people and the issues they face.

For Lamb, luckily, age has brought only happiness - "I'm at peace with myself and I certainly don't yearn to be young" - but he does admit he's aware he needs to take more care of himself as the years pass.

"I'm conscientious about my health because as an older father, I want to make sure my daughters have me around for as long as possible. I don't drink or smoke and I exercise every day."

Ultimately though, what view would that ever, endearingly opinionated Lamb really want to give on making the most of life?

"I've learnt through my experiences that everything takes time and you have to be patient and things will work out the way they were meant to," he nods.

"Hard work, fate and luck all play a part in life, and you have to accept that."

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