Derek Robins meets Stephen McGann. From Teletext
Once he was the least known member of the Liverpool acting clan of brothers, but now Stephen McGann can't walk down the street without being recognised.
The reason is that Stephen, sibling of one time Dr Who Paul, Upper Hand and Night And Day actor Joe, and Mark, best known for the C4 soccer series The Manageress, has played Emmerdale love rat Sean Reynolds for the past three years.
Stephen who bows out from the ITV soap on January 4, says: "I can't venture out without someone stopping me every 10 yards and asking me about Emmerdale. I find myself walking into a supermarket looking scruffy and tired and I might be looking through the papers and there are five families all staring at me. It is like The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers! Sometimes I feel as if I'm on CCTV all the time. "The most bizarre occasion was when I was in Peru I was at the bottom of the Peruvian Andes in a hot spring. I felt very faraway from civilisation when out of the darkness a guy waded up to me and said 'Hello, Sean. You don't know me but my cousin runs a shop where you get your papers when you are working on Emmerdale!'"
However, the recognition has nothing to do with Stephen's decision to quit the soap which is watched by up to 11m people five times a week. He says: "I have been in it for three years and it has been great. I am an actor and I have done it and I want to move on.I will miss all my mates but I do not stay still, I get curious to do other things. I have finished filming and I had a great leaving party and now I am busy finishing a film script. It is set in modern day
London and it is about the male menopause - which at 38 I am becoming increasingly familiar with. .But who knows I might come back, I would never say never again but hopefully I have an exciting TV project coming up in 2002 as well but I cannot say anymore."
But his passionate love scenes with Anna - who is leaving the soap herself in the near future - did cause problems.
He explains: "The first time I kissed her and slobbered all over I found she was allergic to me. It was the lousy after shave I was wearing and she came out in angry red lumps on her face and neck. It was a first for me, I have never done that to a woman before!
"Anna had to rush to make-up and cover up the rash and we had to carry on as if nothing had happened.
It was very embarrassing! With all the make-up she had on most of it ended up on me."
The scenes proved a laugh for Stephen's wife Heidi Thomas, a screenwriter, who penned the steamy sex scenes for the BBC's controversial adaptation of Madame Bovary. He laughs: "Because she has written stuff like that she understands about the scenes we had to do." While he is a bed-hopping rogue in the soap, off-screen he is a devoted husband to Heidi and doting dad to their son Dominic, four. The family live in Essex and he continues: " Dominic is going through one of those phases of seeing me on TV so he thinks everyone's Dad is on TV!"
Stephen will be separated from his family for 10 days from December 1 when he embarks on a charity trek in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Along with some 40 others they are raising £100,000 in sponsorship for the Children's Society which helps needy kids, runaways, teenage prostitutes, teenagers in adult prisons, excluded pupils and disabled youngsters. He says: "I back the Children's Society as it is a charity which helps kids that a lot of other charities don't reach. "They are kids who are in danger, children who have set themselves apart or have been torn apart. It helps them and rehabilitates them."
Stephen does not see the trek as grueling even though he will be roughing it at 7,000 feet. He goes on: "Last year I did a charity trek up to 18,000 feet in the Andes in Peru so this will be easier. "I have not been to the gym as much as I would like as I have been busy filming Emmerdale but I do not drink or smoke so I will be OK.
"I do hillwalking so I am pretty fit and I have grown to like camping. It was so different when I was a member of the 17th Toxteth cubs in Liverpool. "I hated it when I was a kid as it was like a cross between the Special Boat Squadron and The Interview With The Vampire. But now camping to me is like being a boy with toys to me."
The Children's Society continuously needs volunteers to take part in fund-raising treks. People interested should contact its hotline 020- 7841-4507.
As for the future Stephen does not envisage working with his three acting brothers again in the near future. Upper Hand star Joe is currently in the new ITV soap Night And Day as randy builder Alex Wells. Mark has just filmed Channel 4's polar drama Shackleton with Kenneth Branagh and Paul has just appeared in the BBC drama Sweet Revenge and is making the movies Queen Of The Damned and My kingdom.The four Liverpudlian brothers starred together on the West end stage in the musical Yakety Yak in 1982 and the 1995 BBC drama The Hanging Gale about the Irish potato famine which Stephen wrote. They also released an album of cover versions in 1998.
Stephen says: "I have passed the soap baton to Joe and I think he is doing a good job in Night And Day.
"I think we have all worked together enough over the years. It took us 10 years to get together for The Hanging Gale and it might take another 10 years before we did something with each other again. "I would not mind working with one of them again but probably not all four. But we all get on and we are constantly in touch."