FROM COMEDIAN TO CAD
Stephen Mangan’s switch from funny man to philanderer has made him hot property
When I first catch sight of Stephen Mangan, he looks like a broken man. In fact, I worry that he’s been run over by a car on his way to lunch at the BAFTA cafe in Piccadilly, and that the interview won’t take place because he needs an ambulance. I saw him last week at the party for the Women’s Book Prize, and he was on sparkling form. But since then, he’s been on holiday with his three boys, aged 11, eight and two. ‘Don’t come near me,’ he smiles, backing away graciously.
Within moments, it transpires that he’s extremely ill, having caught the flu while away, and probably shouldn’t have come here today. But he’s ill in his own particular way, which is to say that once he sits down, it’s barely noticeable. Mangan has a mega-watt charisma that could light up Blackpool Tower. It’s something between boyish charm and a sort of bumbling British version of the George Clooney magic, all ruffled hair, brown eyes and crinkly smile. I think he’s a person who could be about to die and still be able to host an awards ceremony. This is clearly his innate manner (he grew up in a supportive, nurturing family – more on that later). But the fact he’s on a major career high must also play a role. After the successes of Green Wing (in which he played the ridiculously arrogant anaesthetist Guy Secretan) and Alan Partridge (‘Dan!’), the fifth and final series of Episodes (where he stars alongside Matt Leblanc and Tamsin Greig) has just aired and BBC1’S The Split (in which he plays philandering husband Nathan) has been recommissioned for a second series. As if that weren’t enough, he recently finished a run of
The Birthday Party at The Harold Pinter Theatre, for which he received rave reviews.
The real reason he’s come today, though, in spite of being sick as a dog, is because of Channel 4’s new series Hang Ups, which he co-wrote and sees as his baby. It’s about a psychotherapist, adapted from Lisa Kudrow’s show Web Therapy, and is ‘a farcical, dark and perceptive comedy about a man trying to help other people keep their shit together while his own life inexorably falls apart’. It’s hysterically funny and blisteringly original. Dr Richard Pitt (Mangan’s therapist character) deals with his clients over Skype and constantly receives Facetime messages from his children and his wife. It’s a brilliant recreation of how we’re all surgically attached to these devices.
Hang Ups was filmed during a five-week break from The Split and is almost entirely improvised. ‘It’s so different from other stuff. We set out to make it different – and it is different. But then you panic, because it’s different,’ Mangan admits.
The cast is stellar: David Tennant, Sarah
Hadland, Katherine Parkinson and Jessica Hynes, with Celia Imrie and Charles Dance playing
Pitt’s parents. Richard E Grant is the therapist’s therapist and features in every episode. Mangan’s character is a ‘decent therapist’ – but has his own problems. ‘I don’t have a personal relationship with therapy, although I’m sure
I need a massive amount,’ he grins. ‘Half the reason I got into acting is that it’s a way of examining emotions at a safe distance. Whenever you play a part, you’re bringing a bit of yourself, but you get to examine those bits of you that you don’t declare to the world as part of your ordinary persona. It’s a chance to do all of the stuff you wouldn’t do in real life, like the cocky, arrogant character I was in Green Wing.’
I think you’d have to be pretty grounded to take on a series where your brother-in-law (Robert Delamere) is your director and co-writer and your wife (Louise Delamere, an actress you’d recognise from Holby City and No Angels) is the producer. He met her at a Film Four party (of course) where – he smiles ironically at the memory – Busted were playing. They’ve been married for 11 years and live in London. Although he plans his working life around his family, Mangan also wants to keep doing theatre – his first love – at least once a year, but finds the schedule tricky. ‘You’re not at home from 5pm to midnight and that’s bedtime. It’s a tough thing to ask of my wife. It also requires five clear months…’ This isn’t easy when he’s in such demand. ‘I like to be busy. I don’t say yes to
‘I’M SURE I NEED A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF THERAPY’