BY his own admission Elliot Barnes Worrell wasn't interested in Shakespeare much when he was at school.
However, the 23-year-old's view of the Bard changed when he saw a production at the Ovalhouse theatre "with two black guys doing Hamlet".
"I really got it," he says. "The poetry was beautiful. I was a rapper at the time and realised Shakespeare was better than me!
"He was talking about raw emotions, strife, fighting, love and loss - everything that is still relevant to what's going on today. So he's for everyone."
The visit changed his life. For not only did he discover a love for Shakespeare's poetry but it encouraged him to become an actor.
And now, nearly 10 years later, Elliot has realised his dream and can be found on stage after having bagged the roles of Prince John and Francis in the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) production of Henry IV Parts I and II.
The show which started out at the RSC's Stratford theatre earlier this year has just finished a small nationwide tour and is now at the Barbican.
And the Forest Hill actor says he is loving every minute.
"It's been an amazing journey," he says. "As a kid growing up in Peckham I didn't really connect with Shakespeare.
"My granny had travelled all over the world when she was younger and used to tell us stories about her adventures in all these different countries. My mum used to read books to us instead of letting us watch TV so it gave us a taste of story telling and performing.
"However, I went to a comprehensive with metal detectors and where fighting was a way to survive.
"My teachers didn't have much passion for Shakespeare either."
However after the Ovalhouse experience Elliot went to see as much theatre as he could and became a regular visitor to venues such as the Southwark Playhouse.
He also realised he really wanted to perform so one of his teachers encouraged him to apply to the Brit School. Happily it was a good move.
"I was very lucky," he says. "At my comprehensive you were valued by who you could beat up. When I went to the Brit School in Selhurst it was a case of being valued for diversity and how hard you worked.
"For the first time it was OK to be who you are."
A place at Central School of Speech and Drama followed and since finishing drama school he has written poetry and has appeared in Doctor Who, the last ever Poirot starring David Suchet as well as the RSC's production of Richard II last year, alongside David Tennant.
He also won a special commendation in last year's Ian Charlson Award for actors under 30 - something he said was a "real surprise".
But it's the stage which is his passion and he attributes his success to one thing - "hard work".
"Working on Doctor Who was great but I always wanted to be a classical actor and when I got the RSC contract I wasn't going to miss it!" he laughs.
"However, everything that has happened to me is a down to good fortune and more especially hard work," he adds.
"I have grasped every opportunity - I wrote loads of letters to the RSC because I wanted to work there and it paid off in the end. You can't sit back as nothing will come to you if you do."
And he says he's enjoying being part of the RSC team and bringing the shows to life in London.
"The roles I play are both very different - Francis is young and innocent whereas Prince John is machiavellian, sly and reptilian - and it's amazing to be able to play them both," he says.
"It's a great cast, I'm still in awe at being able to work with its director Greg Doran, and it's a fabulous production - really exciting and full of drama.
Henry IV Parts I and II are on at the Barbican Theatre, Silk Street until January 24. Tickets from £10. Visit www.barbican.org.uk/ or call the box office on 020 7638 8891.