Actor Robson Green on West Clandon life, pubs, walks and fishing spots

Chart-topping singles have come and gone, but popular heart-throb ROBSON GREEN remains ever-present on our TV screens. Here, the West Clandon resident tells Stephen Milton why, in spite of a now international career, he will never trade Surrey for the States...

Robson Green was standing at the precipice of the Cahora Bassa dam in Mozambique when his agent called about his latest acting gig. “It’s a little surreal when you’re right on the edge of this almighty drop in sub-Saharan Africa, with mist and spray and the roar of the water beneath virtually deafening, and all I can hear is my agent saying, ‘Have you ever heard about a show called Mount Pleasant?’ The fact that I had phone reception in the first place is a miracle, but then I’m chatting away about a show based in a Mancunian cul-de-sac while I’m about to jump on a boat heading down the Zambezi river. It’s moments like that you think to yourself, ‘How the hell did I get here?’”


Life in leafy Surrey

It’s certainly a long way from leafy Surrey, the place Robson has affectionately taken to his heart over the past decade, even if there’s something slightly unusual about a former shipyard draughtsman from the north-east – whose father spent a life down the mines – reclining in the gentle surrounds of West Clandon and, when the opportunity arises, the modern gastro pub elegance of The Onslow Arms.

“It is a bit of a departure from the spit ‘n’ sawdust of what life used to be like in the north-east, that’s for sure,” says the 47-year-old. “Showbusiness has a habit of taking you to places you never dreamed you’d visit, so I’m very lucky to have landed here in Surrey. I wonder how differently things might have turned out had I not decided to try out the local drama centre in my home village of Dudley. I guess, for me, that was one of life’s crossroads, wasn’t it?”

Of course, as a passionate Geordie, Robson could never turn his back on his roots, and the actor splits his time in the UK between his Surrey base and a cottage in the Northumbrian countryside.

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“It’s the best of both worlds really,” he continues. “I don’t think I could ever choose one over the other. Obviously I’m a northerner and that’s where my roots are, but Surrey is where my son lives and where so many of my friends are.

“I think a lot of people from the north think Surrey is a busy, if slightly more salubrious, overspill from London, but really it’s a very safe, rural, stylish place. I love being down here, I really do – the countryside, the bracing wind across the North Downs, the riversides beside the Tillingbourne and Wey, the fantastic pub culture. You can’t beat it.”

After splitting with his wife – former model Vanya Seager – last year, Green moved to a separate property not far from his ex and 12-year-old son Taylor, who the star delightedly admits is already exhibiting a passion for fishing.

“We go fishing in the lakes near Clandon and I was so proud when he caught a 10.5lb rainbow trout at nine years old. I was only teaching him at that stage and he’s practically outdone me ever since!

“When he gets older, I’d love him to come with me on trips overseas, especially if I’m still filming Extreme Fishing, although he’ll probably put me to shame with his skills!”

The aforementioned Channel 5 series has been a huge success for Robson, and he’s currently mid-shoot on a sixth series. It’s a move away from the high-yielding TV dramas for which he has become known, with leading roles in the likes of Reckless, Wire in the Blood, Rocket Man, Touching Evil and, of course, breakthrough show Soldier, Soldier.

Alongside Jerome Flynn, and masterminded by a young Simon Cowell, the spin-off soldier pop duo Robson & Jerome shifted 1.9million copies of their cover of Unchained Melody, spending seven weeks at the top of the charts. Now almost 20 years on, Robson sees it as a career move that allowed him the security and freedom to explore and diversify his career, not that he always looks back on the time with absolute fondness.

“I like to refer to that time in my life as my personal Vietnam,” he laughs, brandishing a wicked set of handsome laughter lines. “I call it that because it’s something I can’t escape. It’ll always stay with me and Mr Flynn.

“But, the one thing I’ll always say is that it gave me financial security beyond my wildest dreams, and offered me the freedom to pursue what I’ve dreamed of. Doing something like fishing off the edge of a dam in the middle of Mozambique might sound terrifying, but it’s one of life’s experiences and that’s all thanks to what went before. Next we’re off to Ecuador, Nepal and Oman, so it’s mind-blowing stuff, really.”

And Robson hasn’t completely left behind his bread and butter, given an upcoming starring role in the second series of Sky’s sleeper sitcom hit Mount Pleasant, playing a mysterious newcomer who holds a dark secret. “It’s a fantastic show featuring a gallery of very different characters who live in a cul-de-sac,” he tells. “It’s an out of left field, off-kilter collage of people that you end up caring about. I’ve worked with Pauline [Collins], Bobby [Ball] and Sian {Reeves] before, and have known Sally Lindsay and Angela Griffin for years, so it’s one of those things that has come together perfectly.”


Surrey for the States?

So despite holding such a passion for life in Surrey and the north-east, Robson must have, at some point, been offered the chance to work on projects stateside?

“I have, but it never felt right,” he says. “I had some great offers for some biggish stuff, but I didn’t want to leave my home; the place where I feel alive. America’s fantastic but not everything it is cracked up to be. I was paying my bills pretty well over here with work and I was happy. Sometimes, you have to let happiness guide you instead of ambition.”

Rumours at one point suggested Green turned down the opportunity to work alongside Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in Sam Mendes’ gritty 2002 gangster drama Road to Perdition. Sadly, the actor’s version of events is slightly different.

“I didn’t turn that down,” he says, with an emerging smirk. “I auditioned and some guy called Daniel Craig got it instead!

“I was always getting flown out to the States for movies, but they never worked out, maybe because I didn’t care enough. Though that Perdition casting does make me smile. I was sitting there waiting to be called in for the audition and saw Sean Bean come out of the room, then Rhys Ifans, then Daniel Craig. I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ I felt just a little out of my depth!

“But when I look at the people and places around me here in Surrey, am I disappointed that I’m not holed up in some Hollywood mansion? No, most definitely not!”


My favourite Surrey…

Restaurant: The Anchor in Ripley has long been a favourite of mine, but after a recent refurbishment, The Onslow pub in our village, West Clandon, is a great place to visit too. Between West Clandon and Ripley, there are some great places to eat out.

Shop: Predictably, you’ll often find me venturing into angling shops to pick up the latest bit of kit. There are a couple of good places in Guildford, and also the Camberley Angling Centre.

View: I love going walking at Newlands Corner in the Surrey Hills, and there are some excellent spots towards the North Downs, where we cycle frequently.

Place to chill: I’ve been away a lot recently with TV commitments, so just coming back home and chilling in the house is a relief. Of course, with the fishing lakes at Clandon there’s always an excuse to head out!

Place to visit: Clandon Park is somewhere we love to spend a day exploring. There’s so much to see in fantastic surroundings, and the relaxed atmosphere that you expect of a National Trust property.