Most of the time you wake up, look in the mirror and want to give up. It isn't awful, it's just the way I feel." Aged 16, he fell in love with Geraldine Feakins, a 30-year-old maths teacher at his private school.

They had an affair; she split up with her husband, and by the age of 18, Andrews was living with her.

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"We're really close friends – she's 10 minutes down the road from where I live in Santa Monica.

It was the longest relationship of my life," he says.

When they split up briefly in 2005, Andrews fathered a second son, Joshua, now six, with the actress Elena Eustache.

Naveen Andrews is about to loom large on our screens as a baddie. I have the clear impression he would similarly pursue anyone who threatened either of them. Now 43, Andrews was born in London, growing up in Wandsworth in the 1970s, though 14 years in Los Angeles have diluted his south London tones.

The sentiment seems heartfelt, perhaps unsurprisingly: the role he is proudest of is that of being father of two sons, one a 20-year-old at university in Manchester and the other, aged six, who lives with him in Los Angeles.

He has been deprived of his son, which one might regard as a legitimate grievance to pursue somebody and kill them," he says of the role of Lord Akbari, arch-nemesis of Sinbad, in a fantasy family drama about to debut on Sky 1.

Parenthood, he says is "wonderful, a privilege", revealing that "it's turned out to be good for me in a way I could never have predicted". His family was one of the earliest non-white families to settle in an area now richly multiracial. "It didn't seem exceptional, from when you're very small till later, when it becomes violent." From his LA perspective he believes Britain has improved, racially speaking, but is aware there are still problems.

Andrews, best known for his role as Kip the bomb disposal man in The English Patient and Sayid in the cult US TV drama Lost, will also start filming for Caught in Flight this month. It wasn't simply on the streets that he faced abuse. "The older I get, the more I look at how hard it was for them to come here from India in 1965, three years before Enoch Powell's infamous 'rivers of blood' speech," he says.

He plays Dr Hasnat Khan, former lover of Princess Diana. "They dealt with unimaginable stuff I still can't fully comprehend.

"When I read the script it seemed a very intimate love story. The relationship is always going to be impossible; it's not going to work. I've got a lot of sympathy – that comes with getting older." Both his parents are dead. "I hope, wherever they are, they're finding peace, because they didn't have it when they were alive.

There is a certain grandeur about a love that both people recognise doesn't have a hope in hell." However many roles he takes on as an actor, they will be overshadowed by those he has played in real life. They didn't get to be parents in the way I've got to be a parent, and that's very sad." While he might not agonise over his past, it has left marks. "If you've grown up feeling unattractive, I don't think you ever lose that. I'm never going to wake up and look in the mirror and think, 'Yes, I'll go out and meet people'.