Bristol-born actor Tom Hollander, 53, began his career in theatre. His film credits include Gosford Park, Pride & Prejudice, In the Loop and Bohemian Rhapsody. He played the inner-city vicar in award-winning sitcom Rev, which he co-created with James Wood, and won a Bafta for his turn as Major Lance “Corky” Corkoran in The Night Manager. Hollander now stars in David Nicholls’s TV adaptation of his novel Us, which starts at 9pm on 20 Sept on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.
Zadie Smith is a marvel – her soulfulness, her sensitivity, her ability to write beautiful sentences. This is a collection of her thoughts in lockdown. She doesn’t try to make grand statements but just leaves you with the sense that you’re in the company of someone who can help you feel things deeply. I’ve also been enjoying Primo Levi’s superb short stories in The Periodic Table. I picked it up because it was one of those books you’re supposed to have read, but I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful they are. Both books are undauntingly short. Which might be the title of my autobiography.
Mid90s (dir: Jonah Hill)
Jonah Hill’s directorial debut about a young kid in LA escaping his broken family life by throwing his lot in with a skateboarding gang was out a couple of years ago but I only just saw it. The acting, photography, music and storytelling are all brilliant. It’s a hymn to adolescence and to friendship on the threshold of adulthood – but more delicate and sensitive than I can do justice to. I read it described somewhere as “a devastating depiction of toxic masculinity”, which seems harsh. But it’s definitely about young men working out how to make it through.
This underrated American comedy series is so funny, fresh and incredibly perceptive about the world. As showrunner and creator, Ramy Youssef is clearly clever and hilarious but he’s also unusually generous to all his characters. It’s centred on a Muslim family living in a politically divided New Jersey neighbourhood. It’s wonderful on faith and failure. If someone ever says “Come back Woody Allen, all is forgiven”, he might well reply: “No, my time is gone, please watch Ramy instead.”
If anyone’s allowed to travel ever again, this is a medieval citadel set atop a volcanic islet attached to Ischia by a causeway. You can see it in the background of stills from The Talented Mr Ripley and My Brilliant Friend. The island’s entire population used to live on it to escape pirates. It’s one of Ischia’s famous sights. What’s less well known is that there’s a small hotel hidden up there, serviced by a lift bored deep inside the rock. The hotel’s understated, elegant and doesn’t need to try that hard because of its extraordinary setting. Secluded up there on the terrace with a negroni, there seems little reason to leave.
Louis Theroux draws out his subjects like a snake-charmer in this interview series, which is on BBC Sounds. Well, not that someone like actor Miriam Margolyes needs any encouragement whatsoever. If you’ve ever wanted to clarify the meaning of “strong personality”, then give her episode a whirl at least. She’s magnificent. For spoken word stuff on demand, I’d also recommend the Audm app. For a small monthly charge, you get to listen to long-form articles from publications such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the New Yorker, the Atlantic and the London Review of Books – read sometimes by the authors, sometimes by actors.
Maramia – pronounced like an Abba song – is a family-run Palestinian restaurant on Golborne Road in Notting Hill. I adore it for its deliciousness and its kindness. They serve fresh, simple, home-style food. I usually start with the Gaza salad, grilled halloumi and fattoush, followed by grilled herby chicken. It’s Levantine, tahini-saturated joy. It’s a neighbourhood restaurant serving the local community. I really hope I don’t ruin their lives by including them here but they deserve to be overwhelmed.