Nathaniel Parker appears to have turned over a sinister new leaf. After his seven-year tenure on the right-side of good and evil as DI Thomas Lynley in The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, he's now exploring his dark side, playing treacherous Agravaine in BBC's Merlin. "I wouldn't say I'm evil" he smiles, "but my hair has been darkened, I wear a black cloak and I ride a black horse. So if youhaven't realized I'm a baddie yet, you need your eyes checked".
Nathaniel has rarely been happier at the prospect of getting his hands dirty: "I've been doing all my own stunt-riding on Merlin, which is great fun. I don't have a horsey background, but I am hugely passionate about riding."
So interested is he in horses that he is currently planning a documentary on the history of thoroughbred racing, for when his stint on Merlin comes to an end. I assume this means he enjoys a flutter himself. "Don't you know me?" he laughs. "It's my second income".
It's the kind of tongue-in-cheek response you come to expect from Nathaniel He is on tremendous form when we meet over breakfast in a cafe off London's Fullham Road, especially given that it's the "morning after" for him. The night before, he hosted a charity ball in which he launched into some involuntary stand-up.
"I loved it" he beams. "I just took the microphone and was off. I'm not sure I want to do stand-up, but I would absolutely love to do a sitcom".
Handy then, that Nathaniel whose only foray into comedy has been in an episode of BBC1"s My Family, has a BBC sitcom in development. "Fingers crossed", he says. "I'm desperate to do comedy".
Playing a baddy and trying his hand at the giggle game aren't the only landmarks in Nathaniel's life. Next year, he reveals, both he and his wife, Rome actress Anna Patrick, turn 50. "We are also celibrating our 25th year of being together and our 20th wedding anniversary, so we're going to have a cross between Knebworth in our house and Woodstock on ourfields as a celibration.
Is Nathaniel a romantic? "I claim to be a romantic but I am not sure if I am", he muses. "If saying to Anna, "Come to the races and here is a fiver, treat yourself,' means I am then, yes I am...".
The couple's teenage daugthers, Angelica and Raphaella, are intent on celibrating their parents' big year in style - if they are not too busy following in their parents' footsteps, that is.
"One is in dramaschool in Cheltenham and the other is about to take a dram scolarship," Nathaniel reveals.
He's not worried about their prospects in such a fickle business. "I wish they'd hurry up with it. We need to put some money in the farm," he laughs.
I suggest that, with Anna's acting pedigree and his daughters' ambitions for the stage, they could soon be the Cotswolds' answer to the family Von Trapp.
"I can see it now," says Nathaniel. "The hills are alive"! Perhaps we'll do that number at the party next year." If I were a betting man, I'd lay my money on it.