Hugh Quarshie is an actor you will most likely recognise from Star Wars and childhood viewing of Doctor Who. He has also featured in Holby City and worked for RSC.

What piece of advice would you give to students?

I think it’s the same advice I would give to anyone wanting to be an actor and that is to say; don’t make the mistake that I did and, the mistake of complacency. Things don’t happen automatically. Not unless you’ve been to Eton! If you want a career then make it happen go for it. Start something up. The world has changed so much since I was a student, then you thought it was sufficient to be able to quote Shakespeare and it ain’t! Just do it, make something happen. Have a go. Risk failing, you’ve got time, try again.

Who inspires you?

The obvious people for me would include, Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela, I’m still awed by the idea that someone can spend 27 years imprisoned by racists and come out preaching reconciliation. A, I couldn’t have lasted two weeks on Robben island, B, I think I would have come out after 27 years wanting to kill somebody. So, what an incredible example.

Similarly, Muhammad Ali standing up to an entire US establishment when he had the nerve to say, no I won’t fight in Vietnam. I think, damn, that takes some balls. On a more personal level, I’m always quite intrigued, as well as inspired, by people who choose public service who simply put that ethos above profit maximisation. Who choose to work for the UN, rather than Goldman Sachs, when you know that you’re perfectly qualified. I guess to that end I know Kofi Annan slightly he’s an inspiration and some members of my family went into teaching or medicine when they could easily have gone into business and made a pile of money.

So, apart from those headline figures, I have a brother who’s gone into teaching and I have a younger brother who is an adulation of my older brother, his name is Richard and he was a teacher, now retired.

What memories do you have of your own graduation?

Well, that’s a bit problematic because I never took my degree. I’m not sure that I should’ve gone to the college I went to. It was one of the richest colleges and at the time was trying to morph from being considered a sort of finishing school for the cream of British society. Cream as in rich and thick!

It was called Christchurch by the way and looking at my matriculation photograph there are only two black faces on it. Mine and a Rhodes scholar [very prestigious Oxford scholarship] both from Ghana by the way.

But we were both placed right in the centre of the photograph, I was in the front row, seated, he was in the third row right above me, for reasons of symmetry you understand. There has been a bit of fuss about the Tory politician using a racist phrase that was common parlance back in my day, and “I worked like an absolute black!” so, you know, there was a kind of insouciance about it which wasn’t particularly offensive, I could deal with that easily enough. It’s the sense that things that are really quite regional and local passed off as universal values, as noble traditions. And I think that’s reactive against that.


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