Lennie James: The love of my life? Tottenham. And my wife

The actor on a first kiss in the rehearsal room, not becoming a footballer, and all he learned from his mother

Lennie James: The love of my life? Tottenham. And my wife

Born in Nottingham, James, 53, was raised in care after the death of his mother. Having studied at Londons Guildhall School of Music and Drama, he wrote and appeared in the drama Storm Damage, which won a Royal Television Society award in 2001. He was in the first series of Line Of Duty and his movies include Snatch and Blade Runner 2049. In 2010, he was cast as Morgan Jones in The Walking Dead and now stars in Fear The Walking Dead; season five airs on Mondays at 9pm on AMC (BT TV). James is married with three daughters, and lives in Los Angeles.

What is your earliest memory?
Following my big brother Kester around. I have a clear memory of the back of his head as I followed him, seeing what he was doing and wanting to do the same.

Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Barack Obama. I think he changed America in a way that America hasnt quite realised yet.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
I can be a bit fatalistic.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Deliberate ignorance.

What was your most embarrassing moment?
As a 13-year-old, I drank too much and ran to the toilet because I was feeling sick. I opened the door and my girlfriends sister was on the toilet. I puked in her lap.

What is your most treasured possession?
My mums Bible. I was 10 when she died.

What makes you unhappy?
If somethings up with my kids, somethings up with me.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A footballer. I didnt want to be an actor until I was doing it.

What is the worst thing anyones said to you?
A teacher at drama school said about my career: They will probably give you a go once, but theyll find you out very quickly.

What do you owe your parents?
I dont owe my dad a single thing I dont know the fella. But I owe my mum everything: my sense of right and wrong, my sense of loyalty. Any time Ive ever been brave, its because of my mum.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
My wife said that I am allowed to say Tottenham and her, in that order.

What was the best kiss of your life?
I met my wife in youth theatre when we were 18, which meant that our first kiss was in the rehearsal room. Ive never been more frightened to kiss somebody and Ive never been so happy once I was doing it.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
That I didnt become a footballer or play rugby.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?
I would spend more time with my mum. And I would go back to the motel balcony with Martin Luther King and move him two feet to the right.

What has been your closest brush with the law?
London during the 70s and 80s felt like it was open season for the police against young black boys. The warning that our parents would give when we were leaving on a Saturday night was: Have fun, be safe, be careful of the police.

What song would you like played at your funeral?
Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

Tell us a secret
I can do the Rubiks Cube in under a minute.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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