Local actor James Corden talks to Lindi Bilgorri about his role in the TV series Fat Freinds.

THEY say opposites attract. In James Corden's case, the opposite has sent the young actor on a magnetic course to fame and recognition.

For four years James has been playing a leading role in the hit series Fat Friends, but although his character's name, Jamie, is a derivative of his own, the personalities are diametrically opposite.

In the fourth series of Fat Friends, Jamie has grown up. He has left school and is now working as a chef in a restaurant and he has girlfriend, Claire, who has daughter.

James, who grew up in Hazelmere, explains that the main difference between him and his TV character is confidence.

"Jamie hasn't got a lot of confidence and I have been blessed with bucket loads. I think that comes from family. He had a really rough family upbringing, and I couldn't have had a better one.

"The confidence I have got all comes from my parents. Me and my sisters grew up in a cocoon which was filled with love. I could go to school and if I got bullied, or in a fight, or picked on, or lost all my mates, of course it is not nice, but ultimately it didn't really matter because I would go home to my parents who would just accept me and love me for whatever, and encourage me. They said to me whatever you want to do you should go for it. When you have an upbringing like that and you have parents who say whatever you do, we will love you, you can't help but have bucket loads of confidence.

"Jamie didn't have that."

Jamie's parents divorced and his mother tried to kill herself. In this series she leaves Jamie and goes back to Ireland.

"He was like the parent and she was like the child, that is why he is really shy and lonely for a lot of the time."

James still can't quite believe his luck in landing the role on a top TV drama. He was just 20 years old when he walked onto the set of Fat Friends.

"If you are 20, overweight and someone says we are going to give you an hour of telly on your own in which you will be the lead, it is like a stroke of luck. I was in the right place at the right time. I will always be incredibly thankful for the programme in what it has done for me, in giving me the challenge of carrying an hour on my own. The challenge of being a lead in a recurring series and also other work has opened up for me."

He feels he has grown up and matured on the set of Fat Friends.

"It has been a huge part of my life. I have grown up over the four years. Because of this programme I have been able to buy a house and a car and have a wonderful life as well, and that is just a huge cherry on a great cake which is playing this great part and working with these great people."

After attending Jackie Palmer Stage School as a young boy, James didn't go to drama school, instead he honed his acting talent on the sets of Hollyoaks, Teachers, TwentyFourSeven and Boys Unlimited. He has worked with Mike Leigh on All or Nothing and appeared in films including Whatever Happened to Harold Smith and Heartlands.

All last year, when James wasn't filming Fat Friends, he was treading the boards at the Royal National Theatre in Alan Bennett's award-winning play The History Boys which he is still performing in.

"I am just incredibly lucky working with people like Alison Steadman, Richard Griffiths, Alan Bennett and Mike Leigh. These people are culture icons. They are not just people who are good at their job, they are people who have achieved everything, so you can do nothing but learn. To work with these people between the ages of 19 and 26 people like Bob Hoskins and Mike Leigh. I find it ridiculous that I am in the same company as them. I find it incredibly flattering and absolutely ridiculous."

But James insists his feet are firmly on the ground. He does, however, find his life is now so different to the lives of the boys he went to school with.

"I live in a different world to my mates who I grew up with. I don't know where I am going to be in five months time, I don't know what I will be doing or what is going to happen to me. If you have a regular job you go to work and see the same people all the time. Whereas I feel I am very lucky, I do enjoy who I meet. I am meeting new people all the time and that for me is one of the great things about working as an actor."

James keeps in touch with his old schoolmates from Holmer Green Upper but says they weren't really impressed with the parts he had been in until a few months ago when he appeared in an episode of Little Britain.

"My mates from school couldn't care less that I was in The History Boys or Fat Friends, as far as they are concerned I was in Little Britain and that is what they care about. Only then had I really made it in their eyes. Forget taking a film to Cannes or winning awards it is about being in Little Britain."

So what is next for James?

"I don't know. I am in The History Boys until April. Then I will see what happens. That is the greatest thing and the worst thing about this job. The worst thing is that you don't know what is happening and what is going on, and the best thing is that it could be anything."

Fat Friends is on ITV 1 on Thursday, 9pm