‘When I was 11 I came downstairs to find Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston having dinner': Inside the head of… Emilia Fox
When Hollywood stars pop in for tea and your parents are always on the box, it’s no wonder the Silent Witness actress is not easily star-struck. So what DOES get her hot under the collar? Health and safety obsessives… and gardener Monty Don
What is your earliest memory?
I remember being given two canaries, Samson and Delilah, on my fourth birthday. Samson used to sing very loudly when the washing machine was on. Delilah used to lay eggs continuously and eventually died from overlaying. After her death, Samson never sang another note. That was my first introduction to true love.
What sort of child were you?
I was extremely quiet and shy. My godmother would always comment on how serious I looked as a baby. I just enjoyed observing other people and that habit intensified into adulthood when I became an actress. I didn’t think of it as an unusual childhood, but with my father [Edward Fox] and mother [Joanna David] both being actors, we’d often have famous people around for dinner. I distinctly remember Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston sitting in my living room when I was 11. Only later did I realise this wasn’t a normal family scenario.
What law would you change?
I’d introduce a law that would stop health and safety obsessives interfering with kids’ sports days. I’m sick of hearing that the egg and spoon race is too dangerous for children. What’s the worst that can happen? A kid might get a bit of eggshell in his eye. Big deal.
Who would your dream dinner date be?
The gardeners Monty Don and Andy Sturgeon. I’m mad about gardening. There are few things in life that make me as excited as growing sweet peas or watching my roses bloom. I could happily talk to these two men all night. My ambition is to be able to name every flower in England.
Which person do you most despise?
The person who burgled my parents’ home a few years ago. They took a lot of sentimental items that wouldn’t have meant much to them but meant the world to my mum and dad.
Who would you like to say sorry to?
Years ago I promised to open a donkey sanctuary in Derby but had to pull out at the last minute. I never even wrote a letter to apologise.
Who or what do you dream about?
My recurring dream involves following the white rabbit in Alice In Wonderland. I end up in a room where I’m looking for a jewel that turns out to be a bug, then I open the curtains where the white rabbit is hiding. At that point the room begins to spin and I run off to save a princess. It happens that way every time.
What’s your worst character trait?
I always insist on paying for everything. It comes from a simple urge to give pleasure to others.
Tell us a secret about yourself.
I’m incredibly superstitious. Seeing a single magpie can throw me into a panic as it is written that one’s for sorrow, two’s for joy. I’m constantly touching wood and trying to avoid walking under ladders. It can get very tiring inside my head.
What would you like to be better at?
I’m a hopeless cook. Until recently I could barely cope with an omelette.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Last Christmas I had to turn on the festive lights at a London hotel. I’d borrowed a beautiful, beaded dress for the occasion. As I was changing into the dress, the zip wouldn’t budge, which meant I could neither get into or out of it. My friend had to stand behind me all night to conceal the fact it was entirely open at the back.
What do you believe in?
In the 2011 film A Thousand Kisses Deep I played an alcoholic mother. My character was told by her doctor to enjoy what she had rather than have what she wants. That’s something to believe in.
Who do you most admire?
I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for my mum for overcoming all the difficulties she’s been through. After being diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, she suffered with anxiety and depression. She climbed a mountain to be in a position where she could return to the stage. She’s the bravest woman I know.
When were you last really happy?
Yesterday I went to a party for friends and family. We all ended up doing the hokey-cokey around the kitchen.
How would you like to be remembered?
If I was remembered as someone who was a good laugh to be around, I’d settle for that.
‘The Secrets’, with Emilia Fox, starts next Sunday at 10.40pm BBC1