THEY say you should never work with children or animals but actor Matt Barber has ignored this advice and is currently sharing a stage with a rather beautiful cat.
The 33-year-old is starring as Fred in a stage production of Truman Capote’s classic novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which has just opened for an 11-week run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the West End.
And while many will undoubtedly be going to see Matt and his leading lady Pixie Lott, he says it’s Bob the cat who is the star of the show.
"He's unpredictable at the best of times," laughs Matt. "He’s a real performer though and likes to feel the limelight and generally upstages everyone.
"But he’s well behaved, sits on stage, doesn’t give a shit and is just interested in the fact he will get chicken when he gets off stage. He does his own thing. It’s all about him!"
Animals aside it is a welcome return to the stage for Matt who was last seen gracing our TV screens as the perfectly dashing Atticus Aldridge in ITV's Downton Abbey.
Indeed he tells me playing Fred is a dream role, though he describes it as demanding not least because he’s on stage “pretty much all the time”.
"It’s an amazing part and a wonderful story," he says warmly. "I don't leave the stage - apart from 20 seconds in the second half - so it's challenging but so exciting.
"In the show Fred is essentially two characters - one where he’s a young man, meeting Holly, this massively sparkly, colourful and exciting woman who explodes in his life, and the other is when he's 15 years older and telling the story of it all. By the end of the piece he's changed quite a bit.
"It's beautifully written and the way it steps in and out of these roles is fascinating - Fred is the linchpin around which it all happens.
"It's a dream role and I love being part of it. And it's fantastic to be at such a beautiful theatre - it's stunning."
Set in New York in 1943 Breakfast At Tiffany's sees Fred, a young writer from Louisiana, meet Holly Golightly, a charming, vivacious and utterly elusive good-time girl.
Everyone falls in love with Holly – including Fred. However Fred is poor, and Holly’s other suitors include a playboy millionaire and the future president of Brazil so what chance does he have?
However, as war rages on in Europe, Holly begins to fall in love with Fred – just as her past catches up with her.
A version of the story was made into the iconic film that starred Audrey Hepburn. However, Matt says anyone thinking the play will be like the film should think again.
"It is based on Truman Capote's book which is quite different to the film," he says. "So if people come to the theatre wanting to see the film version, they will be disappointed. And it's not a musical either - it's a play with songs and music.
“However, the production we have got is wonderful. It is very respectful to the text and the style of the piece.
"It’s also very visually engaging, the sets are stunning and the music is just fantastic - we are all really proud of it."
And he says that although it is set in America in the 40s it's a story that will resonate with those who come and see it.
"It's essentially an unconventional love story featuring these amazing characters," he says. “But it has many other themes that people will recognise.
"The whole thing is a real expose of life in New York in the 1940s - people were finding themselves at a time when the world was in a state of flux and some things were not OK - much like today with the EU referendum and living in a world that is full of uncertainty.
"It is a fascinating piece and we are all having a great time being part of it."
And indeed Matt says he loves being back on stage again though he is coy about the possibility of a Downton Abbey film.
"Downton was a dream," he says warmly. "When I got the phone call, and then to be part of that whole family, it was astonishing and amazing. There are lots of rumours about there being a film but what they would do for the story I don't know. But it would be awesome though as it was so popular.
"But I do love the variety of my job. It's wonderful because I get to do so many different things. The best bits of acting are the work you do when you spend time in the rehearsal room where you pull around the text and delve in the the psychology of the characters, thrashing out who they are.
"There is something magical about messing around with people who are equally enthusiastic and talented.
"And then you get to bring what you have been working on to the stage and hopefully wow the audiences. It’s awesome."
Matt Barber stars in Breakfast At Tiffany's at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until September 17. Tickets from £15. Visit http://www.breakfastattiffanys.co.uk/ or call the box office on 020 7930 8800.