Geezer Of The Month

Paul McGann has played some of the most iconic characters of the last 15 years - the lead character in The Monocled Mutineer, I in Withnail and I and as the eighth doctor in Dr Who. Now UK Drama is devoting a season to some of his more recent TV accomplishment. Elise Harris talked to him, and tried not to get too gushy.

Paul McGann is a bit of a chameleon. His career has been constantly surprising, and fairly consistently successful, but as he says himself, his roles are never the same.

Im March, 2001 UK Drama showed Paul's lawyer series Fish, along with Nice Town and Nature Boy.

"I'm geezer of the month or something, that s a bit swanky isn t it? " He says he enjoyed making Nice Town, the tale of a couple's struggle with infertility, and their novel approach to dealing with it.

"Nice Town, that's a good one. That's a funny old one. It's a strange old thing, but it's great. I remember well that we had a laugh because it was so bizarre. It s got a really good writer, a fella called Guy Hibbert. He writes very off-the-wall stuff, but quietly off-the-wall - it's very English. You have to see it twice, then you're hang on a minute - this is really spooky and weird . It's very clever. "

He's managed to make a mark in both film and TV, but Paul thinks there is something special about the small screen.

"Telly's powerful, telly can be great - it can be the best medium of all. I think in England we should look to it because we re really good at it."

There won t be another series of Fish, " They turned it down, disappointingly. Apparently the appeal wasn't strong enough to convince them that it was worth having another go. It's a shame. I fancied having another crack at it."

He says the same thing happened with Doctor Who: "It was in North America - not enough people watched, and the Americans are brutal in their business dealings. I think Fox and Universal were slightly frustrated at the time because they knew for a fact there were millions of die-hard fans out there who would have watched it anyway, but America's America and if you come second then that's it. "

Of course to some people he will always be one of the Doctors.

"Once you accept the mantle that's it - that's it forever. It's like being a pope - you re just there you re in the dynasty. It is amusing sometimes. And sometimes it isn't."

The Monocled Mutineer, the series that launched his career, is one of his favourites, but The Hanging Gale which Paul and his brothers co-produced and starred in is very high on the list. "When we did The Hanging Gale, working together was a joy - it was easy - there s no professional rivalry. It would be silly because we re not even doing the same thing.

He's got a few things coming out soon. Most notably as David Talbot in the sequel to Interview With The Vampire - the 1994 Tom Cruise blockbuster.

" It's called Queen of the Damned. I play a fella called Talbot. In the book he s some 60 year old. America being America they couldn t handle some old git - because old gits aren't in - so they got some slightly younger git - me."

In the last few months he's also worked on a modern day reworking of King Lear with Richard Harris.

" I've got loads of stuff in the pipeline. I did one of those Hornblower things - that was such a laugh, I enjoyed that."

Perhaps most surprisingly he plays Andrew Morton (a writer still closely associated with his books about Princess Diana) in a film called The Biographer. He acknowledges he is a strange choice for the role.

"I don't look anything like Andrew Morton. It's terrible casting! We met on the set and I looked at him and he s like about a foot taller than me, he's got these glasses on and I'm thinking how did I get to play you".

"I tend not to stuff which is for one reason or the other very samey. Never playing the same thing twice - I don t know how I keep getting away with it."

Nature Boy, Fish, Our Mutual Friend and Nice Town were shown on UK Drama throughout February and March 2001. (interview conducted in December 2000)

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