Tell us something that would surprise us.
I’ve always played kings, lords and poets, but I’m the son of an Irish immigrant and was brought up on a council estate, in north London. My mum was a char and my father was a bit of a drunk.
Oldest piece of clothing you own?
A Levi Strauss denim jacket, bought in 1958. It’s on loan to my daughter Rebecca.
Temptation you can’t resist?
More fun playing a rogue or a gent?
A rogue, definitely. You can go off like a firework in lots of different directions. A gentleman can be rather boring to play, as he has to adhere to a set of rules about his conduct.
Glass half full or half empty?
Oh half full. Absolutely.
Reaction to wearing a kilt in Downton?
When I found out it gave me the horrors. But in fact it looked very good. Strangely enough, you feel more manly in a kilt.
Moment you felt you were finally adult?
When I turned 50. Until then, I was still making lifestyle choices. At 50, I accepted who I was, which was central to growing-up. I could see the path I wanted to follow and understood what I really wanted out of life.
I left school aged 15 and the one thing I was good at was drawing and painting. I think I would have been a painter.
Object kept from childhood?
Only that denim jacket. To pay for it, I did a paper round and I was a delivery boy for a laundry and an off licence.
A Mini Clubman, which I purchased when I was 23-years-old.
Car of your dreams?
I own it, a hybrid Lexus. It’s wonderfully comfortable, with great back support.
Twitter. Yes or no?
I tweet about a lot of animal welfare charities. I’m involved with Animals Asia, to save moon bears and several others.
Last send a text?
Half an hour ago.
Last public protest you made?
I tweeted a complaint to Nick Clegg, about his support of halal slaughter.
What do you wear around the house?
Casual trousers and sweatshirts.
Home or away?
Home. I love my home.
What do you collect?
Eco Vegan shoes because I’ve got rid of all my leather goods. I want to lead a less cruel life, so I also stopped eating meat two years ago and I’ve stopped buying leather.
With Shane Connaughton, whom I met at an amateur dramatics group in west London. We became friends very quickly and he encouraged me to read. He became a writer and went on to write the screenplay of My Left Foot. We’ve known each other for more than 50 years.
Still remember the lyrics of the first record you bought?
House of the Rising Sun, by The Animals, which begins, “There is, a house, in New Orleans.”
Favourite song in the charts at the moment?
I don’t listen to chart music I prefer classical arias and a bit of Frank Sinatra.
Fitness freak or couch potato?
I walk a huge amount because I have several dogs. Though I have osteoarthritis in my right knee and will need an operation for a new knee, when I finish working on Downton Abbey.
Last drunk too much?
I honestly can’t remember. I don’t drink wine to excess and I haven’t drunk spirits for 15 years.
What makes you really grumpy?
Intolerance and a lack of compassion.
Didn’t have one.
That I didn’t learn to sing. I can hold a tune but have never had confidence in my ability, so I always turned down the chance to be in musicals. I would love to have learned properly and trained as a tenor.
Who would you like to say sorry to?
I’m pretty good at saying sorry as soon as I’ve wronged someone.
Bad habit you can’t break?
I like chocolate quite a lot. I have a rather sweet tooth.
First kiss and who with?
Probably some poor girl at school.
Two people from the past you'd like to sit next to at dinner?
Dickens because I love his work and Oliver Cromwell, to discuss his place in British history.
My headmaster, Mr Curran, told me off a lot. He was a strict disciplinarian and I was a very lazy student. He told me I’d end up in prison.
If you could unsay one remark what would it be?
‘I don’t care’ - because I do.
Two lessons life has taught you?
Compassion, which you learn as you get older, and that you should never stop learning and gathering information.
How old do you feel?
I certainly don’t feel my age. I don’t feel at all old.
Midlife crisis or what midlife crisis?
It happened in my forties. I felt my career hadn’t developed as I’d wished and that I didn’t have as much energy as I’d have liked. At that point, I made a conscious decision not to endorse the decaying process, take the reins and control my destiny as best I could.
Most dangerous thing you’ve done?
While working in India, I was driven from Delhi to Agra, in a taxi. I thought I was going to die a million times. We were overtaking camels and being met by lorries travelling in the wrong direction.
Medicine or alternative medicine?
I lean towards alternative medicine. I like using acupuncture.
It’s to raise the profile of the charity Animals Asia to it’s highest possible level.
Verdict: Och aye, Peter, you’ve certainly shown us you’re man enough to wear a kilt in Downton Abbey. Call us shallow, but for that reason alone we’re going to put you at a fine-figure-of-a-man 57.
Follow Peter on his official website
This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of Saga Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition or download the digital edition for this and more great articles delivered direct to you every month