Luton-born actor Neil Jackson – whose debut single Holding a Candle will be released next week – claims he was always full of energy as a child.
“That’s what my parents would say anyway,” he smiles.
“But it was creative energy – I was always making up games and creating rules as I went along.”
Best known as hunky chauffeur Harry in Upstairs Downstairs and Mr Slate in Quantum of Solace, he admits he was a “rambunctious kid.” The second of four brothers, Neil invented an energetic playground pastime known as Squares which was taken up enthusiastically by all his fellow pupils at Arnold Middle School.
In retrospect, he believes this may have been the precursor of the artistic talent that came to the fore at Harlington Upper.
“I was always being thrown out of French class,” he confesses. “I used to hang around the drama studio and eventually they let me in.
“It seemed like a lot more fun. I started taking part in school plays and joined the local and national youth theatre. I really enjoyed every aspect – writing, acting, directing – but I never expected to make a career out of it.”
When he was 17, he applied to be a Royal Marine but was told he was too young so set for Cardiff to study sports science.
“I played rugby and basketball but I was best at boxing,” he recalls. “I fought for Wales and did fairly well as an amateur.” In fact he won gold at light-middle weight and successfully defended his title two years later at middle weight.
At the grand old age of 22, he decided he wanted to be an actor and enrolled on a two-year course in London.
His first major film role was as Perdiccas in Oliver Stone’s epic Alexander with Colin Firth and Angela Jolie.
Neil and Colin became close buddies both on and off set and he describes Ms Jolie as “a lovely lady, an absolute sweetie with a wicked sense of humour.”
He’s built up a formidable body of work both behind and in front of the camera. The Passage, which he wrote and starred in, won an award at the Durango Film Festival.
“I’ve always loved doing everything and I’ve never had a long term plan,” he says.
“At New Year I was playing my guitar and singing with a friend and decided the time was right to put an album together.” Neil has written all the songs and his old Barton friend Nick Mailing has produced The Little Things, due for release in February.
“It’s all very personal,” he explains. “Each one is a feeling, a mood, a moment or event in my life.”
Now based in Los Angeles, he’ll be doing a series of gigs when the album is launched and hopes to include his home town on the itinerary.
“I’ve got happy memories of spending lots of time in the Arndale Centre and sledging down Warden Hills,” he says. “I’ve always been a big fan of Luton and still have lots of friends there.”
> Download Neil’s single from his website www.neiljackson.me