James Corden is starring in the hit drama The History Boys at the the Royal National Theatre. He talks to Lindi Bilgorri about his success on the big and small screen and now the stage.

IT'S hard to believe and it most probably doesn't happen very often if at all. That is, the very first time an actor performs on stage it is at the Royal National Theatre, and in one of the most acclaimed plays of the year The History Boys by Alan Bennett.

But that is how James Corden landed his first theatre break.

"It's fantastic. I have never done a play before. The first play I do is in Alan Bennett's new play directed by Nicholas Hytner which is just a real honour. I am so lucky to do it," enthuses James.

We are sitting in the foyer of the Royal National Theatre after a weekday matinee performance which was filled to the rafters.

"I was just aching to do a play, but the right play. I have been doing television and film for the last five years, and I was desperate to do a play. It is such a joy to do."

James, 25, who grew up in Hazlemere, is best known for his role in the TV drama Fat Friends where he plays Jamie. He has also appeared on the small screen in Teachers, Boyz Unlimited and Hollyoaks. His film roles are equally impressive including Mike Leigh's All or Nothing, Cruise of the Gods, Twentfourseven, Jack and the Beanstalk - the Real Story and Whatever Happened to Harold Smith.

In The History Boys, James play Timms who is in a class with unruly sixth form boys all in pursuit of sex, sport and a place at either Oxford or Cambridge University.

Timms is a bit of a joker and does not take life or school too seriously, rather like James.

"This character is the closest character I have ever played to myself. His attitude at school is very similar to what mine was like - which was it's a laugh. He thinks that school should be a laugh first and everything else secondary to that really, which is very similar to how I was at school.

"I read this character and I thought this guy is what I was like at school. He is always cracking jokes, always pushing it as far as he can and constantly pushing the barriers of teachers."

However, the school depicted in the play - a high flying academic school was not like James's old school at all.

"I went to Holmer Green Upper," laughs James. "It's not similar in the slightest. I couldn't really harp back to what it was like for me at school. The boys in the play are probably what I associate with boys from the Royal Grammar School or John Hampden.

"Also any teacher of mine, whom you speak to, will tell you that me playing an Oxford candidate is completely ridiculous and unbelievable."

James was not very academic at school.

"I wasn't a very good pupil at school. I started my A levels but dropped out to do a show. I have two GCSEs above C. I just wasn't academic. I don't think I did badly at school, I just didn't care. The subjects I was good in were English and drama. I just wasn't bothered. I didn't see how knowing anything about European studies was going to help me become an actor. All I cared about at school was becoming an actor."

From very young James wanted to tread the boards.

"I loved being the centre of attention. I never wanted to be an actor, I was going to be an actor. I didn't have any notion of how hard it was going to be or how many brilliant people there are. I didn't really care how long it was going to take me. It was just what I wanted to do."

James attended drama classes at Jackie Palmer Stage School but when all the other children were getting parts on TV series and commercials, James was never chosen.

"I got nothing until I was about 16. My mum and dad used to drive me to auditions here, there and everywhere when I was 12 and 13, and they must have known I wouldn't get it. I never got a single job. I auditioned throughout school and never got a single job. I was always down to the last two."

But since he landed his first role in the musical Martin Guerre he hasn't looked back.

"I have never had an uncomfortable period out of work. I hope it carries on."

At the moment, James is dividing his time between Royal National Theatre and the TV studio in Leeds where he is filming the fourth series of Fat Friends for which he was nominated best newcomer in the Royal Television Awards in the first series.

"I am doing a week here and then I drive up to Leeds in the night to get picked up at 6.30am to start filming Fat Friends for a few days. Then I come back to do this."

In Fat Friends James shares the screen Alison Steadman and Lisa Riley. A group of people from different walks of life who meet up through a slimming club.

Unlike Timms, his character in Fat Friends is not like James at all.

"He has had quite a hard life with his parents. He has always been quite alone and lonely, so I can't really associate with that. I feel for him more than any other character I have played. He never complains and that is what I love about him. He is hard done by and he just accepts what he's got, he is a lovely character in that respect."

Working in two different places hundreds of miles apart has meant that he hasn't spent a lot of time with girlfriend Shelley whom he has been going out with for six years and now shares a flat in Beaconsfield.

"I haven't really seen Shelley and I haven't seen my mum and dad and sisters for a long time. I am working long hours and when I am not here at the theatre, I am in Leeds. It is quite hard at the moment. I feel like I have a foot in each world but I am not immersed in either."

After James has finished filming Fat Friends he is has a part in the TV comedy Little Britain. James really doesn't seem to stop working, but he is not sitting back taking everything for granted.

"If someone had told me five years ago I would be in this great play and filming the fourth series of a TV series and doing films, I would have thought I would have made it, but honestly I don't think you ever have. Whenever you think you have achieved something you look beyond that. The goal posts change all the time. So I hope all my high points are still to come."

James is in The History Boys until December 18 then he hopes to have a well earned rest. So what will he do?

"I will be able to play a little bit of golf with my dad and chill out, but right now it is a bit manic."

The History Boys is at the Royal National Theatre, Fat Friends is on ITV and Little Britain is on BBC in the autumn.