Stephen Mangan: ‘Whenever I considered writing, I thought: “What right do you have?”’

Stephen Mangan: ‘Whenever I considered writing, I thought: “What right do you have?”’June 5, 2021

The Green Wing and Episodes star talks about making the leap from acting to writing a children’s book about bereavement, and grieving for Helen McCrory and Paul Ritter

“It’s hard to say this without sounding like a dick,” begins the actor Stephen Mangan taking a sip of his black coffee, steeling himself. “But if you’re sensitive – OK, already I sound like a dick, but go with me – and you have trouble revealing that day to day, acting is a great way to deal with it. And if you find people interesting but don’t always know how to deal with them, writing is a great way to explore them from a sniper’s range.”

Mangan, 52, and I are sitting outside a cafe, and the endearing wide-eyed goofiness for which he’s known on screen and stage is replaced, in person, by much gentler self-deprecation. We are just around the corner from his house in Primrose Hill, north London, where he lives with his wife, the actor Louise Delamere, and their three young sons. He has lived in the area for more than 30 years and seems to know pretty much everyone – the waiter, passing pedestrians – but despite being surrounded by all that is familiar, there is a palpable nervousness. As an actor, he has given hundreds of interviews, promoting, among many other things, the peerless sitcom Green Wing, the megahit Episodes, co-starring Tamsin Greig and Matt LeBlanc, and – my personal favourite – Hang Ups, the short-lived sitcom he wrote and starred in about a therapist who talks to everyone over Skype (“I did think [during lockdown] that we were really ahead of the game with that one,” he says). But this is one of his first interviews as an author, because Mangan has written a book for primary-age children called Escape the Rooms, illustrated by his sister, Anita Mangan.

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