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Nick Frost: ‘There Was a Time I Could Have Given Up. But I Just F***ing Didn’t. I’m Really Proud of That’

“My life became a million times better,” says the iconic comedy actor Nick Frost, as he describes finding new strength and purpose in recent years through his family and art.

Words by John Pearson
Portraits by Gavin Bond

Nick Frost is something of a legend in the far-out zombie horror sci-fi universe, as well as to millions of us mortals with our feet firmly on earth. A true outsider with a penchant for all things creative, he’s probably best known for his comedic acting performances, working with longtime mates and collaborators, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, most notably in ’Shaun of the Dead’, ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘The World’s End’. These three British cult movies became known collectively as the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy, which in itself gives some insight into the irreverent talent behind the films, and managed to capture the zeitgeist and garner global commercial success.

One string to Nick’s bow is having the knack to perfectly embody the underdog, the unlikely hero, who somehow saves the day. His characters are honest and real, often touched with an uplifting eccentricity, whilst nuanced with humility and humor which makes us love them, and him, even more. His career has flourished from his beloved early role as Mike Watt, lollypop man and wannabe army hero in TV hit ‘Spaced’, to working with the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman in ‘Pirate Radio’, Steven Spielberg on ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, and most recently playing charismatic and brutal criminal overlord Declan Orrun in HBO’s new series ‘The Nevers’. He’s now a bona fide international screen star, but has not lost a drop of his down-to-earth charm.

Nick’s also a screenwriter, a producer, and author, and for these past two years has been focussing his talents on his new passion, putting oils on canvas as a painter, selling his work to clients in the States, and currently participating in a brand new show at The Linden Hall Studio in Kent, UK. When discussing one of his favorite painters, the late Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nick also offers some insight into his own creative style. “I love the outsider artist,” he says. “I never trained as an actor, so I’ve always considered myself an outsider. So I like the fact that he’s not part of that world, and he’s just doing his own shit. I levitate towards his honesty.” And in addition to all this, he’s working on a children’s book and is making his 571,000 Instagram followers salivate, laugh, and salivate some more as he presents the bounty of his seriously impressive culinary skills.

A devoted dad to three, Nick has been frank and honest regarding his battles with depression, the darker side of life many of us are prone to, and his later in life diagnosis of ADHD. As the latest subject of our ‘Who the F*** Are You?’ profile, answering the 20 questions that get to the heart of who we are, Nick speaks candidly to Mr Feelgood about life, loss, laughter, family, and, most importantly, not giving up.

Nick Frost // 📸: Gavin Bond


Who the f*** are you?

I’m Nick Frost, and I’m a human man, and a father, and a gentle lover, sometimes, apparently. Yeah, I mean, I act a bit, that’s my job, but I don’t think it’s who I am. Other than that, I don’t know, that’s what we’ll find out…

How are you feeling right now?

Right now, I’m a little bit anxious to do this interview. Not because it’s you, but just it’s an interview, I guess. But I am feeling excited. I made a moussaka earlier this morning, and that’s just gone in the oven. So in about 40 minutes it will be ready, and we’ll all be eating.

I guess my three year old is a bit of an a-hole right now. So I see, in the next couple of hours, there being some kind of f***ery about food, or bath, or bed, or shitting, or all of those things, that will have to be dealt with. We just got a brand new one too, so the three year old, he’s a lovely little fella, but there’s boundary testing going on, and he’s now not top of the pecking order.

Simon Pegg (L) and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz


Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

I grew up in a place called Dagenham, in East London. I remember there was a lot of mayhem involved, but good mayhem. The whole street would hang out, and play cricket and football in the street. It was 1977, the Queen had a Silver Jubilee, and there were street parties. We knew our neighbors and we were always hanging out with them.

There was always a weird smell. The woman next door always seemed to be boiling offal, so the house just f***ing stank. And it was brown, I remember the inside of the house was brown.

My brother was part of a rugby team, and they’d always come back at 3am on a Sunday morning, and my mum would cook for them all. There was that kind of vibe. But there was also a lot of alcohol, and alcoholism, and violence, and that’s where I had my first cigarette when I was frigging eight, on Christmas Day, 1980.

What excites you?

What a f***ing question! I drive fast, sometimes, in my car. I like that. I love driving, that excites me. I’ve taught myself how to make focaccia, so trying to work that out is, kind of, exciting. I get like a little pang of excitement in the mornings when my kids are all off to school, or whatever they’re doing. It’s just like, ‘It’s my day now.’ I have a studio, so I go and I paint for the day. That excites me. The thought that, potentially, I could be doing something other than acting, which I love, obviously, but I’ve been doing it for 20-odd years now. So it’s like, maybe I’d like to do this [painting] for a bit. Maybe I could be good enough. It has only been almost two years that I’ve been painting, it’s going pretty good.

Nick Frost // 📸: Gavin Bond


What scares you?

Spiders, obviously. Heights. A fear of actually jumping, you know what I mean? I think that’s what fear of heights is, it’s not a fear of heights, it’s a fear of not being able to stop yourself from jumping.

Big ones, I guess, in all honesty, would be having to tell my 10-year-old that I am dying of a terrible, terminal illness. Listen, I lost my dad about 12 years ago, and what struck me after that really quickly was, you love these kids, yet, through just living, you will bestow on them, at some point, the worst pain imaginable. And it just struck me as really f***ing cruel, and horrible. I’m on a bit of a health kick right now, I have been for the last eight months. And so far, I’ve lost like 40 pounds. And all of it’s trying to get to a point where I would be all right with dying. Imagine my oldest is 30, and I’m 75, part of me would think, ‘Yes! I did it!’ I know this seems very bleak, but I never thought about any of this, until I got to a point where I’m like, ‘F***! I’m almost 50!” 50 years of my life have gone. How much longer have I got? I try not to let it just f*** me, but my mindset is such that, sometimes, I’m just like, ‘Jesus, I have to live for another 10 years. Please let me just not leave them now.’

For me, as well, there’s also the thing that I went through… there were a lot of deaths in my family. I kind of lost my whole family by the time I was 40, essentially. My mum, my dad, two brothers, and two sisters. I’ve a sister left, Sarah, in New Zealand, who is a lovely, lovely lady. She’s older than me. And I now have kids, so that’s my family now. That took me a while to get through. So I’ve always, especially with my 10-year-old, whenever there’s a conversation about death, or someone dying, it’s always earmarked with me saying, “That’s how it is. That is what life is.” I don’t want me dying to come as a massive shock to them. And I remember reading somewhere about an apache chief saying something like, “Your job as a father, is to prepare your children for your own death.” I thought “Ah! I kind of get that. I kind of understand.” But I’ve reached a point now with my eldest son, he’s almost 11, that if, god forbid, I went tomorrow, he would never doubt how much I love them all. And in that, there is some relief.

 

Nick Frost in Shaun of the Dead


What is your proudest achievement?

This is going to sound weird, and heavy, but I’m going to say, not giving up. I think there was a time, a few years ago, when I could have given up living as a human. But, I just f***ing didn’t. And at that point, my life became a million times better. And yeah, I just think the 15 years I had from 30 until 45, in terms of loss, and depression, and sadness, and loneliness and, I think, f***ing ADHD… I only got diagnosed when I was 47 and I was like, ‘Oh, f***! Yeah, of course.’ But just keeping going. I’m really proud of that, really.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Having to hold my dad while he died in my arms was, again, heavy shit, but I even kept doing that thing. I kept sneaking out of the room to have a cigarette, hoping that he would just f***ing die, and I didn’t have to see it. But in the end, it was kind of amazing.

 

Nick Frost // 📸: Gavin Bond


Who was your greatest mentor, and what did they teach you?

When you’re the child of someone who has alcoholism, you tend to look after yourself a lot. So, I’m going to say, television. Watching TV as an eight year old, thinking, ‘Jesus! That’s amazing!’ Or, watching a documentary about a f***ing anaconda, and then finding out where Guatemala was. That was my schooling, really. And then, later in my life, getting into television and film, there was a weird kind of cycle there. What I do when I’m at work, and I’ve always done it, ever since day one, is I just sit near the camera crew, and I listen to their conversation, and I watch what they do, and I ask questions. When I got into TV, being with 150 people on set, and they’re all f***ing passionate, and they’re all clever, and they all have a genuine curiosity, and drive about what they do, I was f***ing hooked.

Nick Frost (L) and Simon Pegg in Paul


Who are your fictional and real-life heroes? 

My dad is a definite real-life hero of mine. My kids are heroes. They’re amazing. My current partner is incredible. And also, I’d have to say, my ex-wife. We all bring up our kids together, so for the lot of us to get through that shit, and come out the other side… They’re f***ing heroic women to have to deal with me, first and foremost. So I’m in awe of those guys every day.

Fictionally, f***, I don’t know. My brain doesn’t work like that. I’m going to say Indiana Jones. It was close between him and James Bond, but it has to be Dr Jones.

What is your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?

I’ve got to say, I f***ing hate clothes, lockdown has suited me. But, I know you wouldn’t believe it to look at me, I am a big fan of women’s couture clothing. I think it’s incredible. I was watching some stuff from Chanel and Balenciaga the other day, and I noticed most of the stuff on the catwalk was based around stuff that we’ve worn during lockdown.

There is a pair of yellow Crocs I’ve been wearing for about two years. I get up, I put them on, I paint in them, I f***ing drive in them, I go to work in them. So I’m just going to say these shitty yellow Crocs.

 

Nick Frost // 📸: Gavin Bond


What music did you love age 13, and do you still love it now?

I was a massive Jimi Hendrix fan as a kid, and he continues to be an icon of mine. I’ve got a big tattoo of Jimi Hendrix on my stomach. I also was into Iron Maiden as a kid. But then, my parents always had on a K-Tel Disco album or Bill Haley and the Comets. Mum and dad jived a lot. I’d see them jiving to rock ‘n roll, so I heard that a lot. But then, they were also into disco, and The Stylistics, and the Commodores and Lionel Ritchie, so that was always around the house.

And then, shortly after 13, house music was my thing. The beginnings of it, it was 1987, 1988, and that is a love that continues to this day. Much to my 10-year-old’s horror, when I turn up to a football fixture, and I’ve got the f***ing loudest, hardest, acid techno just throbbing out of the car.

I didn’t realize until this ADHD thing, that I seek a chaos in my music, because it makes sense to me. And within that, it will give me what I seek, in terms of stimulation. I understand it. If someone listens to what I listen to in terms of acid techno, it’s just f***ing crazy music that people in Berlin, who live in squats, would listen to. But I f***ing get it. I know where it works. I know how it lives. And I know what comes next. And in that, I find it very soothing.

Nick showcasing his culinary skills on his Instagram


What’s the most inspiring book you have ever read?

Oh, f***. Inspiring book… I just don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a book. I’m not a good reader at all. I can read the same page 50 f***ing times, and not take anything in. I’m into colors. I’ve got a book by the French architect Le Corbusier. He produced his own colors, and he said, “In the houses I design, these are the colors that should be used.” And they’re f***ing amazing. Swatches, I love swatches of colors, and stuff. But, I would say, I’ve also found out, since buying that book that, apparently, Le Corbusier was a bit of a c***.

What is a movie that left a lasting impression on you? 

My answer to this is always ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. It really has affected my whole life. I was 11 when I first saw it, with my aunty, Melanie, who’s a lovely, beautiful woman, she looked like Kate Bush — exotic, and mysterious. She used to live in a town in Wales, and it had an American airbase really close, and she was going out with one of the airmen. So two things happened… One, he got us onto the base, and we were allowed to go to their on-base restaurant, which was a pizzeria, and I had New York-style pizza for the first time. That was my first ever pizza. And the second thing was, one afternoon, he came in, and he bought a VHS cassette of Close Encounters, and he shut the heavy net curtains, and she put it on. And they all smoked, cheap cigarettes which are like a meter long, so the whole f**ing room was full of smoke, and we sat, and we watched Close Encounters. And I just remember thinking, “F***! Wow!” When I was 16, I’d go looking in second-hand stores for first edition books. And I found the first edition novelization of ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’, which is pretty rare. When I got to be in ‘Tintin’ with Steven Spielberg, I bought him that book that I found when I was 16, and he signed it. And then we made ‘Paul’, which is a homage to Close Encounters. I went to Devil’s Tower as a result of that. I just love it. This is what I love about cinema. Obviously, we can’t travel through time, but when I watch it I feel now the same as I felt when I was that kid.

Nick in his studio // 📸: Gavin Bond


What is your favorite word, or saying? 

I’d say it’s, “You know what I mean?” Or, I also use the c-word a lot.

What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

Well, I’ve got to say, that’s changed. I think now, I’d just like, “He was a f***ing good cook, and he was a good dad, and he was funny.” To be known as someone who was funny, I think, that’s a blessing.

And, “Wow! He was a f***ing stallion in the sack! Like a sexual Tyrannosaur.” Yeah!

What it’s changed from, I think, was there was that weird thing in me, where I wanted to be seen as some kind of tortured artist, even before I did art. And so, as a result of that, I would have thought, I wanted people to think I was complex, and anguished, and in pain. But then when you kind of are those things for years, and years, now it’s like, “F*** that. I do not want that to be my legacy for people who knew me most of my life.” Because I don’t want to be defined by depression, and fear, and loneliness.

Nick Frost (L) and Simon Pegg in The World’s End


Finally, a quickfire five favorites…

Car?

If money no object, I’d like to buy like an Audi R6, the estate version. F***ing love it.

Sports team?

West Ham United Football Club, my heart.

Meal?

There’s a restaurant in town called Dinner, it’s Heston Blumenthal’s place, and he does this appetizer called a Meat Fruit, which, essentially, is like a chicken liver parfait, but they bring it out, and it looks exactly like a tangerine. And whenever — I mean, it’s not often — but when I ever get a chance to eat a Meat Fruit, I’m like, “Oh, my God!” In my autobiography, I even thanked Meat Fruit at the end.

Grooming product?

I f***ing love Tom Ford aftershave. So I’m always having a little spray before I do anything.

Clothing label?

I don’t have a favorite clothing label, really. I wear a lot of Champion. I like that symbol. That logo has been with me since I was a kid, thinking, “Wow! That’s f***ing cool!” I was casual when I was 13, or 14, so I like the Lyle & Scott logo, I like Fila. If I wasn’t so f***ing big, I’d wear Lacoste tracksuits all the time.

Nick Frost // 📸: Gavin Bond


Learn more about Nick’s adventures in his autobiography

John is a world-renowned male model who has been the face of countless leading fashion houses. During his 36-year modeling career he has also moonlighted as an actor, writer, restauranteur, editor, and producer. He co-founded Mr Feelgood to provide a safe space for candid discussion and sharing ideas.

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