DO­MES­TIC BLISS

Do­minic West is known for his dark, sexy char­ac­ters, but in real life is hap­pi­est at home, writes Chrissy Iley

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Profile - Find­ing Dory The Af­fair

There is some­thing about Do­minic West that is so purely, ridicu­lously male. Women, es­pe­cially, love him in The Af­fair, the dark and grip­ping drama se­ries for which he earned a Golden Globe nom­i­na­tion. There’s lots of sex in it too, so it’s quite odd to be go­ing to meet some­body you last saw on screen in just their box­ers.

I ar­rive at his house in Shep­herd’s Bush, west Lon­don, to find only his wife, Catherine FitzGer­ald, and youngest daugh­ter, Christa­bel, 2, at home. He hasn’t told Catherine about the in­ter­view. She gets on with mak­ing Christa­bel’s break­fast, un­fazed by the stranger in her kitchen. She seems un­flap­pable and you can tell in­stantly that she suf­fers no fools. As well as look­ing af­ter their four chil­dren — Dora, 9, sons Se­nan, 7, and Fran­cis, 6, plus Christa­bel — she also has a gar­den land­scap­ing busi­ness to run.

It’s not long be­fore West ar­rives back from drop­ping off the other three chil­dren on the school run. He’s in­stantly at­ten­tive and makes me a cof­fee. While the gar­den is re­mark­able, the house inside looks like any other busy, lived-in fam­ily home. It’s West’s work rather than his do­mes­tic set-up that’s been ex­tra­or­di­nary.

His Richard Bur­ton in Bur­ton and Tay­lor was mag­netic. As the al­co­holic de­tec­tive Jimmy McNulty in The Wire he was sen­sa­tional. In his lat­est film, Find­ing Dory — the an­i­mated sequel to Dis­ney Pixar’s Find­ing Nemo — he’s re­united with his The Wire col­league Idris Elba. They play lazy, bad-boy sea lions with English ac­cents and get all the fun­ni­est scenes.

“The two sea lions Idris and I play like to sit on a rock and carp on about things. We live in the Ma­rine Life In­sti­tute and get fed sprats ev­ery day. It was great be­ing fed sprats and be­ing with Idris. It was very nice we got to re­unite,” he says, smil­ing, and for a minute looks like his smug, lazy sea lion char­ac­ter.

He’s whiskery today, a dark beard etch­ing out his trade­mark wicked grin. He is of­ten sum­moned to play dark char­ac­ters. He played se­rial killer Fred West in Ap­pro­pri­ate Adult, where even the real Fred West’s daugh­ter thought the like­ness un­canny. His wife was re­volted by it. His sis­ters freaked out that peo­ple would think they were re­lated to Fred be­cause they shared the same sur­name. More re­cently he was the creepy Walt Camby, the greedy banker in Money Mon­ster with Ge­orge Clooney and Ju­lia Roberts. How is it that he does evil so well?

“Er­rrr, don’t know — just got an evil face,” he smiles sweetly. He’s charm­ing, that’s for sure, but he’s not in the least bit flir­ta­tious. I thought he loved all women and flirted with the lot of them. In a re­cent in­ter­view he said: “I think women should be more in­dul­gent of af­fairs, I re­ally do. It’s daft to kick some­one out over a fling. Isn’t it? Ev­ery­one should turn a blind eye to men’s be­hav­iour be­tween the ages of 40 and 50. Let it all blow over.” It was un­clear whether he was jok­ing. He doesn’t want to elab­o­rate today. He looks a lit­tle em­bar­rassed, maybe be­cause we’re in the fam­ily home. Maybe that’s why we’re here — so he can guard his own mouth.

He was born 46 years ago in Sh­effield, the sixth of seven chil­dren. His Ir­ish fa­ther owned a plas­tics fac­tory that did rather well. He has five sis­ters and thinks this, and the fact he is now sur­rounded by so many fe­males, makes him some­thing of a fem­i­nist. As well as his four chil­dren with Catherine, he has a daugh­ter, Martha, now 17, from a previous re­la­tion­ship with Polly As­tor (the aris­to­cratic grand­daugh­ter of Nancy).

Much has been made of the fact he went to Eton. Did he feel that he was a bit of an out­sider as ev­ery­one else was so posh? “No, it wasn’t like that at all — it’s such a big school. And a great school, ac­tu­ally. It helps you find what you’re good at, and once you’ve found it, life be­comes eas­ier. I found act­ing al­most im­me­di­ately.”

He wasn’t homesick? “Yes, very much so for the first year, but act­ing saved me. I be­came known for it and re­spected for it. It’s not a bul­ly­ing school or a par­tic­u­larly tough school. It’s a place that re­spects peo­ple’s dif­fer­ences.”

You can tell he’s the sort of man who likes a solid base. He met his wife at Trin­ity Col­lege Dublin and they were to­gether un­til he went to drama school, then it ended. “It was ge­ographi- cal; it was just that I was mov­ing away. We al­ways kept in touch, then we found we were both liv­ing in Lon­don and things had moved on ... Mean­ing that I wasn’t with the mother of my daugh­ter any more and she wasn’t with her hus­band. So we hooked up.”

They mar­ried in 2010 at Glin Cas­tle, her fam­ily es­tate in west Lim­er­ick. He wore a sham­rock-coloured waist­coat and their chil­dren were bap­tised the next day. Glin Cas­tle has been in the FitzGer­ald fam­ily for 700 years, but is now on the mar­ket. Catherine is the daugh­ter of Des­mond FitzGer­ald, the 29th and last Knight of Glin, who died in 2011 with no male heir.

West was raised Catholic. Is he still? “Cul­tur­ally more than any­thing else. We were brought up go­ing to mass ev­ery week. I don’t do that any more, but I en­joy the li­turgy, the mu­sic, the cul­ture.” He rel­ished a pe­riod of close­ness with his fa­ther when his par­ents sep­a­rated and he moved back to Ire­land. “When they split up, it turned out to be a great op­por­tu­nity for me to spend the last 10 years of my fa­ther’s life get­ting to know him very well.” There are quite a few pauses where you feel West reel­ing him­self in. He’s wary with the in­ter­view process.

When I first met him at a jazz night a few years ago, he spent the whole evening talk­ing about how he had been fil­leted like a kip­per by an in­ter­viewer and how it had given him sleep­less nights wor­ry­ing about the other peo­ple who had been em­broiled.

In the past he said it was he who ini­ti­ated the break-up with As­tor be­cause he wasn’t ready to set­tle down. He doesn’t want to ex­pand on that, but he is very proud of their daugh­ter. When she was younger, Martha played Charles Dar­win’s daugh­ter in the film Cre­ation, but he’s pleased she’s tak­ing her stud­ies se­ri­ously, too.

Soon he’ll be go­ing to up­state New York for an­other se­ries of The Af­fair. For some­one who loves home so much, he spends a long time away: “It’s the most im­por­tant fac­tor in my de­ci­sion about work. This year I’ll do The Af­fair and my fam­ily will come out for the sum­mer and au­tumn half-term, then I’ll be at home for the rest of the year. It’s all very care­fully thought out be­cause they are at an age now where I don’t want to miss any of it. It’s the most im­por­tant thing in my life at the mo­ment.”

I heard re­cently that his wife had never watched The Af­fair. Is that be­cause she didn’t want to see him naked and shag­ging? Catherine, who has been waft­ing in and out, cor­rects me. She has now man­aged to catch an episode — on a plane — and says the sex doesn’t bother her be­cause it’s just his job. “And that’s my at­ti­tude, too,” says West. “If you’ve got 30 peo­ple stand­ing around stick­ing mi­cro­phones in your face, it’s not an erotic ex­pe­ri­ence at all.”

He pulls a face and goes on to tell me how much he doesn’t like be­ing on top. “If you’re on the bot­tom, you don’t have to take your clothes off.” He doesn’t think women should take their clothes off for sex scenes ei­ther. “Of course there are cir­cum­stances where [the part re­quires it], but of­ten it’s just not true and that’s why, from the age of 45 to 50, it’s dif­fi­cult for women — Hol­ly­wood is no longer in­ter­ested.”

A few years ago he trekked to the South Pole for the char­ity Walk­ing with the Wounded. Prince Harry, whom he de­scribes as hi­lar­i­ous, was on the ex­pe­di­tion. West re­mem­bers him drink­ing cham­pagne from a pros­thetic leg. Next West plans a pil­grim­age along the Western Front. “My grand­fa­ther was blown up there in 1916,” he says, the mo­ment of sad­ness punc­tu­ated by his lit­tle girl gur­gling and laugh­ing.

“What amazes me is how my par­ents man­aged with seven of us. My mum al­ways said once you have three they look af­ter them­selves, which I’m yet to wit­ness, be­cause at the mo­ment they are all just try­ing to kill each other. My par­ents gave us a very, very happy child­hood and I’m hop­ing to do that with mine.”

I’d imag­ined West to be a lot darker. Do­mes­tic is the last thing I would have imag­ined him to be. Be­fore I leave, I watch him play­ing again with his daugh­ter. It only adds to his al­lure. is out now; screen­ing on Presto. sea­son two is

Do­minic West; with Ruth Wilson, be­low left, in The Af­fair; Find­ing Dory, be­low

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