OK! Freetime section 25-31 August 2001

Holding out for a hero
Interview: Shoba Vazirani
Photograph: Stay Still

Like his brother Colin, Jonathan Firth is a handy man to have in a period drama. But that he is not just copying his sibling

If you met him with your eyes closed, you'd be hard pressed to know exactly whom you were speaking to the dulcet tones are that similar. Jonathan Firth also happens to look somewhat like his older, better-known brother Colin and, the way he's been climbing steadily up the career ladder in recent years, it won't be long before he's equally famous. 

I've been told Jonathan will happily natter for Britain but these days he's a 'little bored' of fielding yet more questions about his famous sibling who stole millions of hearts as dashing Darcy in TV's Pride And Prejudice. It's hardly surprising: the talented actor has got plenty to say about himself -if you don't mind -and is very much a success in his own right. 

freetime met up with the 34- year-old heart-throb days after he'd finished filming his latest project, a major two-part BBC drama which promises to make compulsive Bank Holiday viewing.  Victoria and Albert is the rarely  told story of the late, great queen and her enduring marriage to a reserved German, which proved at to be a passionate love affair. 

It's a plum of a role for any actor and Jonathan is clearly chuffed to have landed it. He's 
II worked hard on his performance as Albert and if his own instinct is to be believed, it will go down well with viewers, royalists or not. 

'I've seen it. I am happy with it,' he states simply. 'I think it's going to be quite interesting because although Victoria's such a large part of our culture, this is an aspect of her few know about. 

I didn't know much about Albert at all before I started making the film. I think probably like most people I had a fairly good idea of what Victoria was like but very little about Albert. I knew he was German but that was the extent of my knowledge. 

'I did quite a lot of research and again what I found there was that most of the books are about Victoria or about the two of them. He's very much overshadowed by her in that respect. 

'But he was a strong character in his own way and that's kind of the whole point of the film, really, that temperamentally Victoria was much more volatile and likely to fly off the handle, while he was someone who was naturally more inclined to be diplomatic. He was much less forthright.' 

With a number of critically acclaimed dramas under his belt, Jonathan must be wondering when that elusive 'big break' to propel him to superstardom is going to come his way. 

After Colin's meteoric rise thanks to a pair of tight britches and a frilly shirt, it was said that his younger brother's role as the sexually-charged Sergeant Troy in Far From The Madding Crowd would do the same for him. 

While the period drama did well in the ratings and made him better known, it failed to have quite the same 'Darcy' effect and consequently Jonathan is wary of pinning all his hopes on anyone part, no matter how high profile. 

'It always raises a smile when anyone says that this could be my "big break" because every job I get someone says it,' he laughs. 

'I don't really believe in it any more. I think you just keep on working and hopefully every job you do will lead to another one. 

'There's no real way of knowing what effect a role will have on your career. If you could then everyone would be doing it all the time. That's something that ten years ago I might have been conscious about but now I just take it in my stride.' 

'What I want is basically to keep working, which doesn't sound like a huge ambition, but most actors don't. 

'I think if you're doing anything whether you're an actor, or an artist or a musician, if you can keep working and make a living out of it and not do anything else, that's really the only criterion of success that you've got. Everything else is relative. And so what I want is to generate the response of, "Oh yeah, liked him, let's give him a job".

'Obviously the better the job, the happier I'll be. That's really my goal, my ambition. I want hopefully to get a variety of jobs and to do things I've not done before and that's what has been happening.' 

As we speak, Jonathan constantly touches wood. He never, he explains, takes anything for granted and despite being in regular work refuses to become complacent for a moment. That said, he's not one of those actors who wait longingly by the phone for news of the next job and says he'd much rather be busy in between projects. 

'If it's in the middle of winter when nothing's happening, I take a holiday and travel. I try and use the time usefully. There's no point sitting around feeling sorry for yourself when it's getting dark and there's no work around. Of course I worry about work but the beauty about going away is that actually you can stop beating yourself up about why the telephone's not ringing. 

'We're all insecure but I actually find it's all less of an issue if I'm out of it. I'm putting all that aside so I can relax. If I'm at home I find I can't do anything constructive.' 

Home is Islington, north London and - good news girls -Jonathan's currently single and living alone. He laughingly insists his bachelor status is not permanent, nor is it intentional, it simply happens to be the way it is at the moment. 

'Someday soon I'd like to have a family,' he says. 'But I think anyone in a freelance position feels there's never a right time. 

'I'd like to meet the right person to settle down with and I'm sure it'll happen but I just don't know when.'