Life & Culture

What super-busy actor Andy Nyman did next

Hot on the heels of writing a hit novel, the super-busy actor is heading to the West End for a musical role – starring opposite Imelda Staunton


Screen hit: Nyman as James Marcham in TV series Wanderlust

Ninety per cent of actors are out of work 90 per cent of the time. A fact confirmed by a recent study by Queen Mary University of London that surveyed more than two million actors. They found only 2 per cent make a living. Note the “make a living” part, we’re not even talking about becoming the next Bradley Cooper or Margot Robbie. So, this makes Andy Nyman a member of a very elite group of people. Trust me, I’ve never met a busier actor.

Whether it’s working with Renée Zellweger in the biopic Judy, starring on Broadway in Hangmen, writing (with Jeremy Dyson) the play and film Ghost Stories, featuring in major TV series such as Unforgotten and Wanderlust or, again with Dyson, writing a bestselling novel, The Warlock Effect, just out in paperback, which ignited a seven-way bidding war for TV rights, he’s an in-demand actor. Nyman is also a member of the Magic Circle and is responsible for co-creating and writing many of Derren Brown’s stage and TV shows. Now he’s stepping out in the West End at the London Palladium as Horace Vandergelder, the curmudgeonly half millionaire in Hello, Dolly! with the indomitable Imelda Staunton as Dolly, the matchmaker looking to make a match for herself.

“It is the biggest cast I’ve ever been in, I think there’s 40 cast members. Plus, it’s going to be the biggest orchestra in the West End, I think it’s 26-piece. The design is breathtaking as well, it’s going to be absolutely remarkable,” Nyman tells me when we meet at rehearsals.

“Because of the film with Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, people seem to think it’s a Jewish story. It’s not. It’s about people who are lonely. Streisand and Matthau are giants, but I have no preconceptions other than looking at the script, and looking at the Thornton Wilder play, The Merchant of Yonkers, that it’s based on. I haven’t seen the film since I was a kid. I did take my mum to see Bette Midler in it in New York in 2018 and that was special.”

Hello Dolly! isn’t Nyman’s first foray into musicals. In 2018 he played Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof in the West End for which he was nominated for Olivier and Evening Standard best actor awards. “It was interesting. When I did that, I’d done a DNA test and mine came back 99.9 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish. I thought, ‘Those people on that stage every night are my great grandparents.’ They left Poland on my mother’s side and Lithuania on my father’s side.”

He was able to immerse himself in his heritage when filming the 2015 TV drama The Eichmann Show, in which he starred, in Lithuania. “I was in Vilnius and it was amazing to think in the old town my great grandparents had walked round there. I went to Kovna, too, and walked around there. I’m very proud and intrigued by my heritage.”

Nyman grew up in Leicester, where his late father, Ivan, was a dentist. He lost Ivan in 2007 but his mother Phyllis still lives in the Midlands city and Nyman describes her as “amazing, an incredible inspiring woman”. As a child, although he always wanted to act, his heroes were impressionists of the day Mike Yarwood and Joe Longthorne. “I like the notion of mimicry,” he says.

A chance meeting at a Chai summer camp between a teenage Nyman and Jeremy Dyson from Leeds was the founding of a lifelong creative partnership. “We were in the same dorm together and within minutes realised we were both obsessed with horror films. We both have a similar sense of humour and mischief and love magic.”

He adds: “There was this incredible amazing coincidence that has been the greatest gift of all, having been able to spend hours and hours and hours with my dearest, bestest friend sharing these incredible life experiences. Totally unadulterated joy.”

Their play Ghost Stories ran for 1,000 performances and toured internationally before being made into a very successful film in 2017. Its main protagonist, Professor Goodman, is a Jewish man with a strict Orthodox father. When Nyman and I last met, we discussed a lack of British Jewry representation in TV and film. Perhaps as a consequence of this, he and Dyson address unexplored themes in Ghost Stories. For example, they include a bar mitzvah. “The film opens with what is ostensibly a recreation of mine and Jeremy’s bar mitzvahs. So in that opening sequence, most of the extras are family and friends; both of our mothers are in there, many of the people who were actually at my bar mitzvah are there. We filmed it at The Allerton in Leeds where I actually had my own bar mitzvah.”

Nyman and Dyson have also recently collaborated on a “minisode” of Sky hit Good Omens and are now adapting their novel for television.

While Nyman is happy to discuss his Jewish heritage, he is not so keen to discuss the current rising antisemitism in the UK and the Israel-Hamas war, simply concluding: “Nobody could be unaffected by it and the news is terrible.”

He and I have met several times and whether it’s a Northern or Jewish thing, he’s always warm and engaging. Despite his glittering career, he never takes it for granted. You always get the impression he’s always asking “What? Me?” This view is confirmed when he tells me about working on Broadway. “That was a dream come true. I would come out of my apartment on 54th Street and walk down through Times Square. I would listen to George Benson’s On Broadway in my headphones. I had this fantastic half-hour walk and you just pinch yourself, just can’t believe it. I feel like that all the time.”

He continues: “We had the read-through yesterday of Hello Dolly!. We did some singing first of one of the numbers, Put On Your Sunday Clothes, I think it was.

“And then we did the read-through. And I sat there, and I thought, ‘Oh, hell. I am starring opposite Imelda Staunton in Hello Dolly! at the Palladium!’ I never, ever, ever take it for granted.”

His role of gay Judy Garland devotee Dan in the film Judy, in which Zellweger played the title role, was beautifully etched. Garland joins him and his partner for a late-night snack at their flat. As Dan plays the piano, Garland sings Get Happy in a scene filled with poignancy. “Judy’s relationship with the two men is based on reality. There are stories of her doing that with fans, out of her loneliness really, which is so sad. My character is a sort of amalgam of all those stories.”

“Renée was delightful and brilliant, I absolutely loved working with her. It was a joy to be able to do that. I felt very, very honoured. She was so brilliant. Well, she won the Oscar!”

Nyman is married to the actress Sophie Abbott, who has converted to Judaism, and the couple have two grown-up children, Preston and Macy, who are both actors. Recently both Preston and his father were in the same production, A Small Light, currently on Disney + and UKTV Play. It’s about Miep Gies, who hid the Frank family during the wa

“We had nothing to do with each other. We weren’t even in Prague, where a lot was filmed, at the same time. We always missed each other, which was frustrating.

“But we’d worked together before because I directed him in the last stage version of Ghost Stories when it was in the West End. Preston has just opened in a play at the Bath Theatre Royal, Terence Rattigan’s play. Macy was recently in a wonderful play at Chichester and is now doing what all actors do, auditioning, paying the rent. The fact they are both actors is wonderful and exciting. But [they are] anxious as well because of the struggle. I don’t think of it in terms of struggle for myself. It’s just the life I chose. I’m watching my kids go through an actually insane lifestyle. But that’s what they grew up with.”

Sophie and Nyman had a glorious wedding all thanks to… Weetabix. “Around the time I was about to get married I did a Weetabix commercial, which, virtually to the penny, covered the cost of our wedding. We got married at the West London shul, Hugo Gryn avashalom officiated. It was wonderful.”

We will see him on screen later this year in the much-anticipated film of Wicked, in which he plays Governor Thropp.

What’s next for the industrious Mr Nyman? He laughs. “So Dolly finishes in September and then I’ve got two things coming up that I’m not allowed to talk about. One is a film and then the other is another thing….”

Busy busy busy!

Hello, Dolly! is at the London Palladium from July 6. For tickets, go to

The Warlock Effect is available in hardback and paperback and read by Nyman on Audible

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