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20 Questions With...Joe McGann

Actor Joe McGann - currently starring alongside two of his brothers in Ray Cooney’s Tom, Dick & Harry - talks about family ties, globe-trotting, Angelina Jolie’s bra & how to rehearse farce.

By • West End


As one of the McGann clan of acting brothers, Joe McGann has enjoyed numerous successes in the world of theatre, television, film, and pop music. However, Ray Cooney’s Tom, Dick and Harry marks the second time the brothers have appeared on stage together, as Joe stars alongside his brothers Mark and Stephen.

The four-strong McGann clan of actor-brothers, which also includes Paul McGann, have previously recorded an album together and appeared on the West End stage in the 1983 musical revue Yakety Yak. In 1995, they acted together in the TV drama The Hanging Gale, which was written by Stephen McGann.

On stage, Joe McGann has appeared in Of Mice and Men at the Old Vic, taking over from Matthew Kelly as the slow-minded but kind-hearted Lennie in Jonathan Church’s production, Wonderful Tennessee at the Nottingham Playhouse directed by Giles Croft, Earth and Sky at Southampton’s Nuffield Theatre directed by Patrick Sandford, and a one-man show, One Fine Day, in the 1995 Bill Kenwright production, directed by Bob Thompson. Abroad, McGann has starred in An Immaculate Misconception at the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

On television, Joe McGann’s credits include the role of Alex Wells in Night and Day, a role he played for two years; Gerry Hayes in Merseybeat, Paul in the BBC adaptation of Madame Bovary, Dave Franklin in Dangerfield, Charlie in Upper Hand, and Sean Phelan in The Hanging Gale, in which he co-starred with his brothers. He also had guest appearances in Casualty and Merseybeat.

McGann’s film appearances include roles in The Brylcreem Boys, Food of Love, Puckoon, and the forthcoming Splinter and Limescale.

In Tom, Dick and Harry, he plays Tom, a good natured man who is trying to adopt a baby with his wife; but his chances are in danger of being scuppered by the antics of his hell-raising brothers.


Date & place of birth
Born 24 July 1958 in Liverpool.

Lives now in…
Wiltshire. I’ve been there a couple of years now. I live on my own.

What made you decide to become an actor?
It was more by default than anything else as I never trained. It was just something I enjoyed doing, something I really liked doing. I had a record deal and I gave that a shot and then went back into acting.

First big break
On TV it would be Rockliffe's Babies for BBC 1, a series in 1987/88. Stage-wise, Blood Brothers. I also did a lot of time at Sheffield Crucible and Leicester Haymarket working with people like Stephen Daldry.

Career highlights to date
I like the breaks in between working more than everything else. I enjoy my job, I always do, but I travel around the world, and I love that. I was in South America for a few months, and China. I’ve been a frequent visitor to the Far East and the Caribbean, as well as the US and Russia. I like to travel.

Favourite co-stars
Julie Graham is one, she’s a great actress. Honor Blackman and Diana Weston, they would have to be the tops; and then Dicky Attenborough, he was fun to work with.

Favourite directors
Bob Thompson who’s directed me on stage and television - he’s fabulous. He’s down to earth and works with you rather than against you and he helps you get where you want to get to in terms of character development and things.

Favourite playwrights
I love Tennesse Williams and I’m a huge fan of Brian Friel.

Favourite after-show haunts
I go home; I’m not a party man, I don’t do that any more. I don’t mind going somewhere quiet for a meal and a chat that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – but everywhere is so expensive so generally I’d rather just go home.

Favourite books
I recently read A Million Little Pieces by James Frey, memoirs of a guy who’s recovering from drug addiction. It is an amazing, mind-blowing book.

Favourite holiday destinations
I’d like to go back to Peru, it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was last there four years ago and it was wonderful.

Favourite websites
I do use the internet but I’m not that much of a geek. I use Google. I’m more of a researcher than a surfer – although I do like www.subserviantchicken.com. Check it out.

What roles would you most like to play still?
Bond. James Bond. That’s about it really. Although I suppose I wouldn’t mind playing Angelina Jolie’s bra - that would be nice.

What do you think you would have done professionally if you hadn't become an actor?
I’d have probably become a teacher. Maybe I’d teach English. Actually no, I’d like to teach teenagers and teach them a bit of everything.

If you could swap places with one person (living or dead) for a day, who would it be?
Michael Palin. I’d love to have his job, travel writing and presenting is my dream job. I always keep a journal when I go abroad, and I have got into presenting, or am trying to get more into presenting, so I think that would be great.

What shows have you seen recently that made an impact on you? What was the first show you remember seeing?
As You Like It with Helen McCrory is fantastic. And Telstar is brilliant. The first play I remember seeing was Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley at the Liverpool Playhouse. It was the first time I thought “I’d like to be an actor”, and the next week I joined the youth theatre. That was when I was 11 or 12.

What made you want to accept your role in Tom, Dick and Harry?
Ray had been asking me to do it for about a year and he’s very persuasive! I had never done farce before, and I was available and it’s paid work, so I took it. That’s what I like best about it really, the fact I get paid!

What are the challenges of performing farce?
It’s one of the most technical things I’ve ever done. Farce is very difficult. It’s different from straight comedy because there is so much technical stuff going on with all the doors opening and closing etc. Ray is very painstaking, which is a good thing. He’s a master. It is really difficult to rehearse farce without an audience, because you can only judge if you’re funny enough with an audience reaction. It’s all down to movement and eyebrows and facial expressions.

Are your real-life brothers as troublesome as they are in the play? What’s it like working with them?
They are both very funny people, they make me laugh a lot. It’s great to be on stage and look into the eye of your brother. It doesn’t require any effort, really, it is great fun and that’s probably why I am enjoying the show so much.

What are your future plans?
I would like to develop more presenting work, doing news and entertainment and sport presenting. I’ve also got into radio a bit, and basically I just want to keep working and earn more money to go travelling.

- Joe McGann was talking to Caroline Ansdell


Tom, Dick and Harry is at the West End's Duke of York's Theatre.


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