Lee Mack on playing a middle-aged 'perennial loser' - moustache and all - longing for a quiet life in suburbia in crazy sitcom Semi-Detached…
Even in these strange times, we know we can still rely on Lee Mack to make us smile.
And The Not Going Out star and panel show favourite is back on our screens soon in sitcom Semi-Detached, which returns to BBC2 for a six-part series following a successful pilot last year.
Each episode plays out in real time as we follow Lee as mobile DJ Stuart, a ‘perennial loser’ who lives anything but a quiet life in a suburban cul-de-sac.
Picking up four months on, Stuart is battling to save his relationship with his much younger partner April (The Other One’s Ellie White), while also looking out for his jailbird brother Charlie (Benidorm’s Neil Fitzmaurice) and his promiscuous, drug-taking dad Willie (Game Of Thrones’ Clive Russell).
Adding to Stuart’s problems are ex-wife Kate (Samantha Spiro, Grandma’s House), who lives across the cul-de-sac with their teenage daughter Madonna, and Kate’s competitive husband Ted (Marcella’s Patrick Baladi).
Here Lee Mack, 51, reveals why he’s so at home making this crazy show…
You must be thrilled Semi-Detached has been given a full series?
“The pilot set the bar high in terms of craziness and my character Stuart’s life is crazier than ever. Each episode follows 30 minutes of real time; there’s a lot of physical comedy and I’m in every scene, so I’m knackered! But I don’t mind chucking myself around for cheap laughs. I had to grow a moustache for this series – it was felt I’d look more like a man having a midlife crisis.”
What’s happening in Stuart’s life as the sitcom returns?
“It’s four months on and Stuart and his much younger girlfriend April now have a baby daughter, Bertha. There’s tension between them as April’s not happy and Stuart’s scared of messing up another relationship – Stuart’s ex-wife Kate, who lives across the road, is never happy with him either. Stuart’s around a lot of toxic people but he feels responsible for them, so he tends to say just yes to them all the time because he’s too scared to say no. His life is one of endless stress!”
What can we expect from the other characters in Stuart’s life?
“Later in the series, Stuart gets into a very stressful situation with some ‘associates’ of his brother, Charlie, Francis Barber (Doctor Who) joins this series as Kate’s mother and we also meet Stuart’s next door neighbour Barry’s wife, Sandy, played by Cecilia Noble (Danny and the Human Zoo). All these characters are there for a reason – to make Stuart’s life worse!”
Are there any similarities between Stuart’s life and your own?
“Well, I don’t know if the writers knew this or if it’s just a coincidence but, like Stuart, I was a mobile DJ in real life before I was a stand-up comedian. Also, I had a fairly unconventional upbringing – my dad wasn’t as bad as Stuart’s dad Willie but he was quite the party animal. So, my dad was basically like Willie but without Clive’s Scottish accent! Fortunately, though, my own life isn’t as chaotic as Stuart’s – I wouldn’t tolerate it.”
How does filming Semi-Detached compare to Not Going Out?
“With Not Going Out we rehearse for the week, then it all comes down to one three-hour recording in front of a live studio audience on the Friday night. This show is much more intense in terms of hours spent actually filming. And, not having an audience, means we have to leave ‘gaps’ for where the laughs are supposed to be. As a stand-up comic, I’m more experienced in telling gags than I am in acting so Not Going Out is easier in a way plus I write that as well. But I find coming up with ideas is the hardest part, so it’s been lovely not having to worry about that on this show.”
Do you enjoy the variety of your job – doing stand-up comedy, sitcoms and panel shows like Would I Lie to You?
“Panel shows are the easiest job because you just turn up and have a laugh! Not Going Out is the thing I’m proudest of as I’ve spent the last 13 years working on it and, for me, Semi-Detached is more like proper acting. The only straight TV drama I’ve done is National Treasure, with Robbie Coltrane. My ambition was always to be in Doctor Who and I got a big part in that, so I’m happy [Lee played Dan Cooper in 2018 episode Kerblam!]. I enjoyed doing Horrible Histories: The Movie last year but it’s not like a burning ambition of mine to be in films. I’m 51, I don’t have burning ambitions anymore!”
Semi-Detached starts on Thursday August 6 at 10pm on BBC2.