PASADENA, Calif. -- For most of his life, British actor Martin Freeman didn't want to draw attention to himself. Although he became famous, it wasn't part of his plan. But with roles like Bilbo Baggins in the "Hobbit" trilogy, Dr. Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch's "Sherlock" and the quietly murderous Lester Nygaard in "Fargo," he simply couldn't help himself.
"Some days I'm more clever with fame than others," he says. "I'm a reasonably private person. My nature is very private, and, of course, you only find out how private you are when people want to know more about you. You find out what kind of man you are when you become a dad."
He is the father of an 11-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, which suits him perfectly for his latest role as the harassed dad in FX's comedy "Breeders," premiering next Monday.
Freeman, 48, thinks sometimes he's a success at parenting and sometimes a failure. "Fortunately my ex and I are very amicable, so we split (time with) them and the lines of communication are very open. We're lucky with that," he says.
His ex is his longtime partner, actress Amanda Abbington, with whom he split four years ago.
His own childhood was happy.
"I grew up in the situation where a lot of times there was not much money around -- not crying Dickensian poverty, but it wasn't lots of money. But I always knew I was loved. For me, that was everything. It's nice not to be poor. But if you know people who've got your back and truly love you, it's really important. So I think me and my ex try, and our kids definitely know they're adored."
The youngest of five, Freeman was only 10 when his father died. "The full weight of that didn't hit me until several years later," he says.
"I remember being in a theater and some credits came down and the name Geoffrey Freeman, my dad spelled it with a G. I was about 18 and was with my first girlfriend and I started welling up. And I hadn't really felt that when my dad died. I was playing football and bouncing back. When you're 10 you have other s ---- to worry about besides grieving. But when it hits you later on, that's a pretty big deal."
His parents had divorced when he was young, and he lived part time with his dad. "I was really small. I was quite a sickly kid with hip problems and asthma. I was in and out of the hospital. I didn't want another reason for people to feel sorry for me," he says.