Bill Nighy in ‘The Girl in the Cafe’

Actor in the mix

Many actors have a motto, or at least something to strive for. For Bill Nighy, it’s trying not to make films that are “cynical, irresponsible or a waste of anybody’s time.”

Nighy readily admits, “It’s been tough, and I’ve done my fair share of things that aren’t particularly memorable, especially when the money runs out,” but his turn as the bumbling, introverted Lawrence on HBO’s socially minded “The Girl in the Cafe” just may make the cut.

Set against an Icelandic G-8 Summit, Nighy’s character finds love and confidence while attesting to the horrors of world poverty.

His challenge was delivering gruesome statistics — like 30,000 children are dying every single day because they live in extreme poverty — while maintaining a character who is “almost disabled by a sense of inadequacy or a sort of innate timidity.”

Lawrence does eventually declare himself. It’s a liberating moment for the character, but for Nighy, it was “the bit you fear the most. Where you feel, ‘Oh please God, oh God, please let me get that bit right. Don’t let me interfere with the news, let me deliver this as cleanly as possible.’ ”

But the role did have its pleasures, too. “The bit where you stand at a chain link fence and watch an airplane disappear into the Icelandic sky and then you curse from the bottom of your boots that your heart is now in exile,” Nighy proclaims, is “as near as I’ll get to ‘Casablanca.'”

Nighy may not quite be Rick Blaine, but he’s a bit of a romantic himself. Or at least he was when he became an actor on the haphazard suggestion by his first love.

“I was very taken by with this girl, and she could have said astronaut and I would have joined up,” Nighy says with a laugh.

The girl may be long gone, but the career proved a keeper.

It’s been almost a year since the pic aired on HBO but “I have been approached more at airports and dinner parties than anything else I’ve done in a long time. I think ‘The Girl in the Cafe’ tend to linger in people’s minds,” Nighy says.

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