- A descendant of Thomas Whately, a leading merchant and writer who became director of the Bank of England, and Major Robert Thompson, a pioneer tobacco plantation owner in Virginia.
- Was an amateur actor at the People's Theatre in Newcastle, England, in the 1970's, before turning professional. In 2011, he returned to celebrate the theatre's centenary.
- Earned a living as a folk singer when he was young.
- Presented with the honorary Doctor of Arts award by the University of Bedfordshire in 2013, for his outstanding achievements in acting.
- Almost turned down the opportunity to reprise his signature role as Robbie Lewis from Inspector Morse in the spin-off crime series, Inspector Lewis.