Stephen Man­gan’s switch from funny man to phi­lan­derer has made him hot prop­erty

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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


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