James (left) in The Vicar of Dibley
In his own words
He's rubbed shoulders with Cate Blanchett and Hugh Grant, but you'll probably know him as Hugo in The Vicar Of Dibley.
Ever since I started playing Hugo in 'The Vicar of Dibley' in 1994, I have risked being seen as a fool.
Casting directors tend to see me as a posh idiot. I'm not. I grew up quite poor in Wolverhampton, moving to a small seaside town near Aberdeen at the age of ten with my mum when my dad died. I've spent my life trying to discover who I am. It's tempting to take jobs for the money, even if they do typecast me. But I could turn parts down.
I've played lots of roles, from a spooked-out man in the TV drama 'Sea of Souls' - shown earlier this year, to Tom in 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. I like being able to try out different parts. Costumes allow you to wear things you'd never choose yourself.
I don't follow fashion but I do like to buy clothes that are quite individual. I'm not one for designer shops. Instead, I invade shopping villages where I buy clothes in the sale. I don't regard myself as stingy, but I know I probably won't like something for long and will regret buying it if I've spent a lot of money. I feel bad about spending so much on myself. I do have shopping frenzies. I'll go for ages without buying anything and then go on a shopping spree for no apparent reason where I might spend £350 on a pair of shoes.
When I was at school, I tried to dress like a hippie. I felt too old to be a punk, although it would have suited me better as punks don't have to be good-looking. I made a lot of fashion mistakes. At college in Aberdeen, before I went to drama school, I had this red suede jacket that I wore with purple trousers. People used to ask me why I was still wearing my pyjamas.
I used to be insecure about my appearance. At school, I was the youngest in my class and bad at sport. I thought I was weak. I was very thin and spotty, and didn't have a girlfriend. At discos, I'd ask girls to dance and they'd always refuse. I once played Romeo in a school play. When I came out there was a palpable throb in the atmosphere. I'm sure the audience was thinking: "This must be Tybalt. When's Romeo coming?". In real life I didn't feel sexy at all. When I see myself on telly now I'm amazed at how big I look. I'm 6ft 1in but on screen I look inches taller and much bulkier. I'm most conscious of my wrinkly feet. I badly burnt them as a child and I've been left with terrible scars. When I wear sandals in the summer I sit down and tuck my feet under myself so that no one can see.
James Fleet in Monarch of the Glen
I am, however, a keen biker and love wearing my crash helmet. I live in Oxfordshire and can ride in to London pretending to be anyone; A despatch rider, a heart surgeon or even Prince Harry. I have three leather jackets and revel in the whole pirate look: Tall and dirty with big black boots.
I like myself, but wish I had more gravitas in the world.
I'd like to be a James Bond-type villain but I'm too nice and honest, and try to put people at ease. In another world I'd like to be Johnny Depp or Hugh Grant but neither of them is really me.
Hear my interview with Katie Johnson here:
last updated: 20/05/2008 at 16:36