My best teacher

31st August 2007 at 01:00
A gruff Yorkshireman, who was intelligent and passionate about Shakespeare, was still the inspiration for the bullying Finchy in The Office

Terry Hardacre took me for English at Pocklington, a grammar school near York. He utterly terrified me when I first met him. He was a big fellow, bombastic, very intelligent and a great disciplinarian e would certainly not suffer fools gladly. But in time we got to see past the bluster.

Most of all he had a passion for language and for literature, especially Shakespeare. He loved the depth and the colours of language and we grew to appreciate how exciting it was to be in his class.

A lot of the character of Finchy (in The Office) always on the front foot, a bit of a know-it-all, a gruff Yorkshireman in the tradition of Geoff Boycott was based on Terry. The difference was that Terry was an intelligent, lovely fellow whereas Finchy is a fool. It wasn't a deliberate steal. In acting you draw on what you know and he was a very powerful character and important figure in my life.

At school I never thought of going into the arts, I was much more into sport. Terry and I shared a love of rugby and he was the referee when I had a trial for the Yorkshire under-16s. My interest in drama developed later but, looking back, much of it was inspired by Terry, who took us on a number of theatre trips to see productions such as Howard Brenton and David Hare's Pravda.

I was in a number of school plays. I had a deep voice and so was quite useful for playing older characters, such as the lead role in Hobson's Choice. I studied drama at Lancaster University and taught drama and sociology at the now defunct York sixth form college. I loved teaching but I was less keen on marking and admin work, so I suppose I was destined to act.

I was doing theatre work when I was cast in the York Mystery Plays and became friendly with Robson Green. This opened the door to TV work such as Coronation Street and The Office. I also do a lot of voiceovers. Last year I was animated by Aardman as a British Gas flame it doesn't get better than that, really.

I still saw Terry and, true to form, he'd be a little sniffy about my TV work. I think he'd have preferred it if I'd done more heavyweight theatre. He died last year, but he was an inspirational figure to me

Ralph Ineson, 37, is best known as the odious Chris Finch from The Office. He was talking to Stephen Manning

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