How Ben Bailey Smith spends ANYDAY
The interview series that discovers how stars really live. This time: Ben Bailey Smith – AKA Doc Brown – star of Netflix’s glossy Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion
What are the first three things you do when you wake up?
Because I’m old, the first thing I do in the morning is stretch. I cycle a lot and I’ll pull something if I don’t, so I’ll do six or seven minutes of yoga stretching and then if it’s cold I’ll have a cup of tea – or a grapefruit juice if it’s hot.
Don’t pretend you don’t check your phone. What’s your most used emoji? Who did you last WhatsApp and what did you say?
I can’t start my day without Wordle – my last streak was 87, not out. But then I got up so early for work the other day that I forgot to do it, so I lost my streak and I was very upset. My most used emoji is undoubtedly the shrug. It’s nice and non-committal: ‘I’m not in, I’m not out, I don’t really have an opinion’.
And my last WhatsApp message was to the six boys I went to uni with. We’ve not been together in the same country for two decades and we’ve hired a villa for next week and we’re bringing the WAGs and kids, but my wife’s just lost her passport so I had to send a message to the boys to say she will not be joining us. That was pretty painful.
Describe the style of your home in five words
Still unpacking, three years later. We moved in 2019, but it still feels we haven’t got it together. It’s a blank canvas. My wife has saved up a load of vouchers and at some point she’s going to hit John Lewis hard. She bought some Sabatier knives, but we need some lights… well, we need everything really.
What does an average day at home look like for you?
If I’ve got the day off at home I turn into a 1950s housewife. I plug in a podcast and just go for it with a mass tidy: cobwebs, dusting, hoovering, stairs, dishwasher. I’ll put a couple of clothes washes on because when you live with three women, like I do, there’s a lot. I really celebrate that moment when the washing baskets are emptied, then I turn around and they’re full again. I don’t know how it happens.
If the girls are all out I try and make it nice for when they get home. I’ll get a Gusto and start prepping that at 4.30pm, so I’ll have a really tasty dinner ready by the time everybody’s home. Then as soon as it hits cocktail hour I’ll make myself a negroni or an elderflower Collins and relax.
What’s most likely to be for lunch?
My metabolism is so slow since I hit 40, so I’ll just have a bowl of cereal for lunch. I do love eating and I love booze, so later I’ll have a massive dinner and share a bottle of wine with the missus.
What’s the weirdest thing we’d find in your kitchen?
If you’ve got teenagers, there’s always going to be something odd lying around. Right now, there’s a Valentine’s card prominently displayed. Also a head torch on an elastic band – I can’t tell you why that’s there.
“Our bed is a classic example of the state of mind of both of us. My wife’s side is covered in mess and mine is tidy”
Can we wear shoes in your house?
No. It’s very difficult when the kids bring their friends round. One of them brought – I’m not joking – 40 teenagers in the other day and it was quite hard to marshal the shoe situation. We live in London and the streets are absolutely disgusting. You wouldn’t sit on the pavement, so why would you walk that into the house? It’s a constant battle.
What would you save if your house was on fire?
The boring answer is my laptop, because I have so many ideas on there that I couldn’t get back, but the more romantic answer is a photo of me and my dad. I lost him 16 years ago now, but the longer it goes the more people become a memory.
Do you have pictures of yourself in your house?
No. Our walls are completely blank, which annoys me because it’s not homely. I would definitely love a 50-foot poster of me. Actually, it would be nice to have photos of the kids when they were little. My mum has that classic thing that everybody had in the 1980s with lots of photos in a frame. I love those! I’ve got a gigantic drawer under the bed with 20 years of photos, but I don’t know when I’ll ever have the time to go through them all. It’s looking like a retirement job now.
Got any subscriptions?
I’ve got loads – all the usual ones like Netflix, Prime. I subscribe to The Week and my wife also has Freddie’s Flowers, which seems a little luxurious. I can’t impress her with flowers any more, so I have to stick to chocolates.
Where’s your happy place?
There’s a little sun spot at the end of the garden and when it hits cocktail hour I get my little chair and the dog, who’s an insane Patterdale Terrier, comes and curls up with me. The sun’s on my face and that’s my happy place.
Can you keep a plant alive?
No. I’m not a gardener. I don’t know anything about plants and flowers so I just do what my wife tells me to do. ‘Dig it up’, ‘Pull that out’, ‘Go and pick this up from the garden centre’. I’m the brawn, not the brains.
What’s on your bed? And on your bedside table?
On my bed right now is loads of my wife’s stuff. She just leaves everything there and I shift it over to her side. Our bed is a classic example of the state of mind of both of us. Her side is covered in mess and mine is tidy.
I do have eight books on my bedside table – I’ve just read Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett needs to be read. Right now I’m halfway through A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which is great. I can read three at a time if it’s fiction, non-fiction and a graphic novel.
Ben Bailey Smith can be seen in Persuasion, now on Netflix, and will be in Star Wars: Andor on Disney + in August
Photos: Kenneth Lam