Getting to know Whitstable’s Simon Paisley Day

You may have seen Simon Paisley Day on screen, on stage or maybe even on a dog walk at Whitstable beach.


With a magnificent resume of 11 films, 24 on-stage theatre performances and 27 television roles, CommunityAd had the pleasure of speaking with actor and local resident Simon Paisley Day.


Simon’s work has seen him perform all over the world with a number of screen roles in films and TV series such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Sherlock, Being Human, Doctor Who, Midsomer Murders and The Crown.


Simon’s well-established theatrical performances include The Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night and Hamlet and here Simon speaks in depth about his career and love of Whitstable…


Growing up, who were your influences in acting and who would you say has helped you the most through your career?  

I watched a fairly normal amount of telly for a child growing up in the 70s and early 80s and we went to see Stanley Baxter in panto at the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh every Christmas, but we weren’t an artistic family and I didn’t really have heroes.

Maybe Starsky And Hutch?

My dad’s job moved us around a lot and I was always having to make a new start in a new school, which can be (and was) unsettling but it also teaches you resilience and helps you learn to improvise and adapt. I certainly developed a good ear for accents through constantly having to fit in to new settings.

I made early forays into acting at Skinners’ Grammar School in Tunbridge Wells but it was at boarding school in Dorset that I properly immersed myself in drama.

By the time I’d graduated from UEA and the Bristol Old Vic, I was a little less scared of the world and a little more sure of why I wanted to be an actor but I still retain that feeling of having fallen into it rather than chasing it doggedly.

Two great practitioners – Sir Alan Ayckbourn and Sir Trevor Nunn – gave me breaks early on in my career. More recently, Michael Winterbottom cast me as Dominic Cummings in his upcoming 5-part Sky TV drama This Sceptred Isle.


What first attracted you to acting and do you remember the moment when you realised you had the talent to pursue a career in acting?

I recall playing a randy vicar in a comedy at Skinners’ and suddenly realising I could make the audience laugh. But more generally, for a teenager who was uncomfortable in his own skin it felt good to pretend to be someone else for an hour or two. It still does, actually. It wasn’t until I got my place at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School that I believed a career in acting was, if not a firm option, then at least a possibility, but the real truth was that there really weren’t any other options. And that helps a lot. Otherwise, I would almost certainly have taken them!


If you had to pick a top 3 moments from your career, what would they be and why?

Singing the unaccompanied chorale Make Your Garden Grow at the end of Candide by Bernstein at the National Theatre in 2001. The power and beauty of the music and the message. Spine-tingling. Especially as Susy had just got back from studying bears in the Bolivian Andes and the chorale seemed to call to us both to recognise a good thing when we saw it and make our own garden grow – which we soon did, here in Whitstable.

Attending rehearsals of my own play Raving, directed by Ed Hall, at Hampstead Theatre in 2013. Seeing actors brilliantly bringing to life what had previously resided only in my head.

Playing the Onceler in Dr Seuss’s The Lorax at the Old Vic. In David Greig’s version the tree-chopping entrepreneur is given a back-story that in some way explains his craving for success. It was a terrifically satisfying journey to undergo as an actor. Thousands of children came to see the show. Thousands of children went away determined to carry on with the Lorax’s work and save our beautiful trees.


You have acted on screen both for TV and films as well as being on stage, if you had to pick a favourite, though, what would it be?

Beauty, a short film by Nicola Abbatangelo, shot in a film studio in Rome four years ago. For three weeks I got to act, dine and go jogging among the antiquities with my good old pal (and resident of Whitstable) Richard Henders. It doesn’t get any better.


Is there anything you would have changed about your career and would there be any advice now that you would give to a 20-year-old Simon Paisley Day?  

The gradient of my career has been much more Crab and Winkle than Borstal Hill. I wonder whether I would be so appreciative of the successes I have had if huge things had come my way earlier. I certainly wouldn’t have had the time to enjoy being a husband, father and dog-owner. I am pretty happy with the way things have turned out.


What first attracted you to the town of Whitstable and how does living here differ to other places you have lived?

We came here twenty-some years ago when Susy was doing her PhD at The Durrell Institute at Kent University. We thought it seemed like a perfect place to raise a family. A small and friendly town with a good traditional housing stock; great pubs and shops within walking distance; a thriving art and music scene; Blean Woods, the sea, its proximity to France. And – when it’s working well – a shortish train journey to London! What else could we ask for?


Are there any favourite spots you enjoy in the town?

We have never really looked beyond the Sportsman for celebration meals. It delivers extraordinary cuisine every single time. And we love sitting in the conservatory where you can look across the salt marshes. Wheelers also maintains phenomenal standards. For a bit more of a normal, cheaper (though no less delicious on its own terms) evening out we would go to Café Des Amis in Canterbury for a slice of Mexican heaven or to Wild Goose at the Goodshed for post-dogwalk breakfasts.


What are you most looking forward to in 2022 and is there anything you are currently working on that local residents can keep an eye out for?

Frankly, nothing would thrill me more than to see Boris Johnson leave number 10 and do something he’s more suited to, like taking the rent-a-clown spot on Strictly Come Dancing. Or disappear altogether, taking his nasty pals with him and letting some grown-ups in to govern.

But I know this isn’t a forum for political opinion. I’d like a year in which our children don’t have to hear words like Brexit, pandemic, online trolling or climate catastrophe. Dream on!

I’d like to see less hatred in the world. And I’d like The Black Dog to reopen.

I just did a Death In Paradise (episode 8 of the next series) – twelve days in Guadeloupe!! – and Winterbottom’s This Sceptred Isle will be out on Sky next Autumn.


Keep your eyes peeled for Simon Paisley Day’s face gracing your TV screens – some exciting projects are heading for the schedule this year!

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