Best known as cheeky Gaz in Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, Will Mellor shocked us all by turning up in Broadchurch - and now he’s in new Channel 4 series Dates. Sophie Herdman discovers a sensitive side to the comedic actor
Some fans will be aware that Will Mellor, 37, is a talented singer.
Back in 1998 he released two singles and, in 2003, he won Comic Relief Does Fame Academy. These days, he often sings at Manchester United corporate events.
“I love it, it’s nerve-racking but it makes you feel alive,” he says. “I’ve done Les Miserables, The Phantom Of The Opera, and lots of classic tracks.”
Mellor writes a lot of his own music in his spare time at home. He likes songs with soul and meaning: “It’s got to move me, otherwise there’s no point,” he says.
But sadly, Mellor’s melodies are unlikely to be heard by a wider audience. “If I release music, people will think I’m not an actor any more, and if the music doesn’t work, I’ll be left with nothing. It’s too much of a gamble,” he explains.
Acting, of course, is Mellor’s number one passion. He started as a teenager with a role in Children’s Ward, and then in 1995, he joined the cast of Hollyoaks as James ‘Jambo’ Bolton.
He’s since enjoyed a steady career, but has become somewhat pigeonholed as a comedy actor.
It’s no surprise really, considering he’s best known for playing daft lad Gaz in Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps (alongside Sheridan Smith), and Ollie in White Van Man.
Earlier this year, though, Mellor was really rather excellent at playing a telephone engineer boasting psychic powers in Broadchurch.
It’s not the first time he’s had a serious role. He’s had parts in dramas like The Street, Sorted, Waterloo Road, Casualty and Eastenders.
Perhaps, with the success of Broadchurch, people will realise there’s more to Mellor than easy laughs?
“I enjoy creating emotion, whether that’s playing a vulnerable person or making people laugh,” he says.
In his latest show, Dates, Mellor has the chance to show his sensitive side. The drama follows a group of people grappling with the world of 21st century dating. Sheridan Smith, who since Two Pints has gone on to become a big star of stage and screen, also makes an appearance. Sadly, she and Mellor didn’t have any scenes together.
“I’m dying to work with her again,” he says. “I adore her.”
Mellor plays David, a father and widower who has never been on a date. Prompted by his sister, he agrees to meet someone, but it doesn’t exactly go swimmingly.
“It’s like a mini-play - just two characters on a date, but it’s enthralling to watch,” he says.
Mellor himself has been out of the single scene for a while, having been with dancer Michelle McSween for 15 years. The couple, now married, have two children, Jayden Will, eight, and four-year-old Renee.
The secret to a happy marriage, he says, is not be like Gaz: “I don’t think I’d have a wife if I did the things he does.
“You can’t be smelling your fingers before dinner, it’s disgusting,” he says, wrinkling his nose. Avoiding routine is also key.
That philosophy also applies to Mellor’s professional life. “That’s why I’m an actor,” he says. “I couldn’t go to work every day in an office - routine makes me brain-dead.
“Life is for living. I enjoy every bit. I love seeing my friends, going on holiday, putting the kids to bed...”
And, of course, he was known as a bit of a party boy back in his Hollyoaks and Casualty days.
“I do party, but I need to have a few days off afterwards. I have three-day hangovers now!” he says.
Despite being a confident sort, Mellor admits he worries about work. “I care too much about what people think to get it wrong. You’re only as good as your last performance,” he says.
Perhaps this is why he feels so bitter about perceived prejudices against shows like Two Pints.
“Two Pints catered to an audience, but the powers-that-be couldn’t understand why the viewing figures were so massive,” says Mellor.
“It wasn’t allowed to be nominated for awards and that’s why it never seemed to do well.”