BORN in Cardiff, Griff Rhys Jones, 65, first came to national attention on the BBC’s groundbreaking Not The Nine O’Clock News alongside Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson and Mel Smith who he went on to develop a famous comedy partnership with.

But it as an actor that Griff will appear in Manchester this Christmas when he stars as Old Max alongside X-Factor winner Matt Terry as Young Max and Edward Baker-Duly as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical. The show broke box office records for two consecutive years on Broadway. Since then, more than 2 million people across America have been thrilled by this heart-warming musical which arrives for some seasonal musical merriment in Salford for a special Christmas season at The Lowry, starting from Tuesday, December 10, 2019 and running through until Sunday, January 5, 2020.

“The truth is I’ve never played a dog before,” admitted Griff, who will take on the the role of the Grinch’s faithful pet. “I did write a sketch once about how difficult it would be for humans if they had tails - the idea was that dogs can’t hide their emotions because their tails would wag whereas humans are quite good at lying.”

While he’s probably best known for his comedy work, has always been a much sought after actor and presenter. He hosted three series of the BBC2 show Restoration and has authored recent documentaries on John Betjeman, Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Kenneth Grahame. In 2009, he returned to the theatre and had a massively successful run in the West End revival of Oliver! playing Fagin.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a frustrated actor because I’ve always liked acting,” he said. “Many years ago when I was at university I was a director, but when I was doing a charity show at the Lyric I was asked to appear in Charley’s Aunt - it was the biggest success I’ve ever had in my life.”

Griff was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1984 for his performance and then won again ten years later for Best Comedy Performance for his performance in An Absolute Turkey. But despite these successes his public persona remains one rooted in comedy.

“It was 1983 and I thought this was my road to the big time, but it was never as good again,” he laughed. “But I’ve worked with all the best directors and had leading parts and I did that right through the 90s. Then I became a man who points at things and says how beautiful they are and that became a cut off point from the theatre because I just couldn’t do both. If you’re doing things where you are sitting waiting for someone from the TV to make up their mind about whether you can make something you can’t easily say yes to theatre.

“I’ve always loved being in the theatre but never felt like a proper actor because I’m not although I do have two Olivier Awards. I sometimes say to my agent ‘Come on! Why am I not in Game of Thrones?’

Throw in the likes of Three Men In A Boat, It’ll Be Alright On the Night and any number of geographical documentaries, including Griff ’s Great Britain and Slow Train Through Africa with Griff Rhys Jones and you have what should be an enviable career, but he admits the self doubts remain.

“I get more frightened by theatre work than TV,” he said. “But I am always excited about everything - if I had been sensible and concentrated I probably would have had a proper career but I’ve just got excited and said yes to anything when people ask me.”

A former heavy drinker, Griff is now teetotal and in 2008, he presented two programmes called Losing It for the BBC in which he discussed his own problems with anger management. It’s safe to say he has a bit of a reputation when it comes to moodiness. You could even call him a bit of a Grinch?

“Doing that programme cured me actually,” he said. “I got an anger management course at the expense of the BBC which made it all worth it but in years gone by I was probably the ideal fellow to play the Grinch.

“Mel and I were a double act and we’d play big theatres where you have to rehearse although Mel never did - he just left it all up to me to work out. He never wanted to have any confrontation so I was always the one who had to go and talk to producers and shout ‘what is going on?’

Mention of his famous comic partner is unavoidable of course and Griff remains in debt to the man he described as “a gentleman and a scholar, a gambler and a wit” after he died of a heart attack aged 60 in 2013.

“I do miss Mel,” he added. “He used to come and laugh at me whenever I did theatre and he would say ‘why I on earth do you wan to do all that?’

“Suddenly he went off and was in Hairspray and I had exactly the same reaction - it’s so frightening when you’re in the audience to even conceive of doing that but doing something like Oliver was just a fantastic experience for me.

“It’s scary doing live theatre like this and also so very exciting, to be part of each and every theatre-goers Christmas is a real honour.”

Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical is at The Lowry, Salford from Tuesday, December 10 to Sunday, January 5.

Box Office: 0843 208 6000