WHEN Andy Nyman was 13 he went to see the film Jaws at the cinema. It was a visit that was to prove something of a lightbulb moment for it planted the seed in his mind that he too could be an actor.
"I looked at the screen and saw Richard Dreyfus, a short curly haired jewish man wrestle with this shark and I sat there as a 13-year-old short, curly haired Jewish boy and was blown away," he tells me.
"I realised I didn't have to look like Robert Redford to make it as an actor. I didn't have to be unbelievably perfect. And that was it really."
In the years that followed Andy has pursued his love of acting enjoying a successful and varied career on stage and screen.
He has also found a level of fame thanks to his love of magic and his work with acclaimed magician Derren Brown.
However, he's keen to stress from the outset that it's acting, not magic, that is his job.
"I love the magic but as a hobby," he says. "I wrote the Derren Brown shows and directed a series and I love doing it.
"It's great fun, and I'm really interested in it, but it is absolutely not my job and I keep it very much in the background.
"Acting is what I do."
And what a career it's been so far. His versatility as an actor has seen him star in a range of roles from the play Ghost Stories to BBC Four's supernatural drama series Crooked House and the BBC 2 series Peaky Blinders to the film Kick Ass 2 as well as voicing several roles in the CBeebies series Sarah & Duck.
But it's theatre which he says gives him a real buzz.
"I don't do so much TV - although I've just done Peaky Blinders but the last thing I did before that was a few years ago," he says. "I am very picky about what TV I do!
"However I do love film and have been lucky to be in some great movies, but theatre is amazing and you get a real buzz from the audience that obviously you don't get with film."
It is the stage that he is currently to be found on thanks to a role in the Stephen Sondheim musical Assasins which is due to open at the Menier Chocolate Factory on Friday.
The show is a sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing examination of the people throughout history who have tried, and sometimes succeeded, in assassinating the President of the United States.
First seen in London at the Donmar Warehouse more than 20 years ago, Assassins shows these murderers and would-be murderers, who are generally dismissed as maniacs and misfits with little in common with each other, and nothing in common with the rest of us, and what happens when they are thrown together.
The show marks a welcome return to the Menier stage for Andy. Indeed he says he's "really excited" to be back at the theatre which he says is one he loves.
"I didn't hesitate," he laughs. "Theatre you don't do for the money, it's not what I'd call a pay day job but I turned down one that was because I wanted to do this so much.
"I think [artistic director] David Babani is amazing and the organisation as a whole is one that takes risks and they constantly do brave work. There is a real magic to this place so I'm delighted to be back here."
Speaking to me in a snatched break midway through rehearsals Andy says Assassins is a show he has wanted to be part of ever since he saw it at the Donmar.
"I saw the original production with my wife 22 years ago and was blown away by it," he enthuses. "It's truly an incredible piece of writing and something really special.
"It's a musical by Stephen Sondheim and is really about why the American dream is a bit of a myth. I think one of the things that's so extraordinary about it is it has a sort of empathy for those people.
"It thinks they are all mad but it says there is a madness in all of us. It's really challenging and a hugely entertaining piece of theatre."
Andy plays Charles Guiteau who assassinated the republican President Garfield in 1881.
"Guiteau was from an American family of French dissent but American through and through," he says.
"By all accounts, he had a bit of a sad life but turned himself around. He was a positive thinker but decided to shoot the president, after having written a speech endorsing him for president. He felt he had been largely responsible for Garfield's victory but he felt he wasn't given the gratitude he thought he should have been given.
"It was a very different time back then. You didn't have the security in those days that you do now so there was much more accessibility to these politicians.
"Guiteau was hanged in 1882 and he danced to the gallows," he adds. "He wrote a long poem of positivity, I'm Going To The Lordy, which he recited as he danced and waved to people on his way to the gallows."
And although Andy says the audience will get a glimpse of the back stories of these people he stresses it's not a history lesson.
"It is a fiction in the sense that while they were real people, you get a notion of them as they are thrown together in one room.
"It's a really interesting and fascinating piece and features snapshots of these peoples' lives. It's interesting to see everyone's story.
"As an actor you always think about the parts you'd like to play and when I saw the Donmar version, I knew I really wanted to play Guiteau.
"However, as you get older you realise you perhaps can't do some things because you are too old or whatever but then the call came out of the blue from the director Jamie Lloyd, someone I have wanted to work with for a long time and I thought, holy cow, it's something special!
"It's one of those rare ones when everything feels incredibly exciting. And also when you'd drop anything to do it."
And he says being part of the show is "every bit as amazing" as he had hoped it would be.
"The script is brilliant and we have an amazing cast," he says. "I feel very lucky to be part of it."
Assassins is on at the Menier Chocolate Factory, Southwark Street from November 21 until March 7. Tickets from £30. Visit ww.menierchocolatefactory.com or call the box office on 020 7378 1713.