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A popular comic actor on television in his native England, Stephen Mangan played callous young men with highly inflated egos on such popular television series as "Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years" (BBC, 2001), "Green Wing" (Channel 4, 2004-07) and "Episodes" (Showtime/BBC Two, 2011- ). Mangan's dry, witty delivery, always tinged with a palpable element of anxiety, earned numerous fans among TV viewers and critics, and led to a sporadic film career as well as celebrated turns on English and American stages, most notably in a Tony-nominated turn in a 2009 revival of Alan Ayckbourn's "The Norman Conquests." In 2010, his improvised comedy feature "Beyond the Pole" (2009), about a well-meaning environmentalist's failed attempt to reach the North Pole, swept international film festivals, and preceded his first American success with "Episodes," a smart, raunchy comedy with Matt LeBlanc spoofing his own image while ruining a sitcom by two British TV writers. The exposure afforded by "Episodes" pointed to a possible stateside career for Mangan's unique talents.
The only son of Irish working class parents, Stephen Mangan was born in the North London district of Winchmore Hill, England to James, a builder, and Mary, who worked at a pub. His parents were industrious enough to send their son to the well-regarded public school Haileybury and Imperial Service College when he was 11. There, he developed a love for acting, which he later indulged at Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge, appearing in 23 plays while half-heartedly pursuing a degree in law. However, his mother's prolonged illness and eventual death at 45 from colon cancer spurred him to take up acting as his fulltime profession, and he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art within 10 days of her death. Mangan graduated in 1994 and worked almost exclusively in theater, first in regional productions and later in award-winning performances with the Royal Shakespeare Company and Cheek by Jowl. In the late 1990s and early 21st century, he was a familiar face on London's West End stages in productions of Noel Coward's "Hay Fever" and "Noises Off."
Mangan had appeared on screen in various films and television projects since 1998, usually in minor roles like Dr. Crane, the ballet medico in "Billy Elliot" (2000). His breakout role came in 2001 with "Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years" (BBC), an adaptation of Sue Townsend's fifth book in a series about a deeply self-impressed young man failing to navigate his way through life. Mangan played Mole as he stumbled through adulthood and fatherhood, and the success of the series led to more work on television, including a brief stint on the award-winning cult favorite "I'm Alan Partridge" (BBC, 1997, 2007) as a smug kitchen supplier. In 2004, he was cast as Dr. Guy Secretan, the obnoxious, womanizing anesthesiologist on the popular "Green Wing." Secretan was a more confident and aggressive version of Mangan's turn as Adrian Mole, but also more childish and oblivious to his more offensive behavior, thanks to an absurdly traumatic childhood. One of the most popular personages on the show, Secretan placed 34th on a list of the world's greatest comedy characters as compiled by the U.K.'s Channel 4.
"Green Wing" gave Mangan's career a boost, which translated into larger roles on television and in features. He earned a BAFTA nomination as a spiteful comic in "Festival" (2005), a comedy about the participants at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and top-billed "Someone Else" (2006), an independent film about a man torn between his sensible girlfriend and a more uninhibited woman. On the small screen, he starred in the short-lived dark comedy "Never Better" (BBC Two, 2008) as a recovering alcoholic whose life seemed constantly on the brink of collapse. Mangan soon moved on to "Free Agents" (Channel 4, 2007, 2009) as a talent agent contending with a troublesome divorce and an arrogant boss (Anthony Head). During this period, Mangan was also a popular panelist on various game shows, including "Never Mind the Buzzcocks" (BBC 2, 1996- ).
That same year, Mangan captured the theater world's attention in a 2008 revival of Alan Ayckbourn's "Norman Conquests," a trilogy of small-scale plays built around a pathological assistant librarian and would-be womanizer who arranged a weekend in the country with several couples in the hopes of seducing the women. Mangan earned rave reviews as Norman, and followed the play to New York City for its successful Broadway run. There, the production swept the theater awards, earning Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Circle Awards, with Mangan receiving a Tony nomination as well as a shared special citation with the rest of the cast from the New York Drama Critics Circle.
Back in the U.K., Mangan resumed his busy television schedule with "Dirk Gently" (BBC 4, 2009), a pilot for a series based on Douglas Adams' popular science fiction novels, with Mangan as the title character, a detective with a metaphysical approach to crime. He quickly moved on to "Beyond the Pole" (2010), a mockumentary based on a BBC radio series about two environmentally minded if hapless friends who launched a disastrous expedition to the North Pole. Co-starring Alexander Skarsgard as the leader of a gay Olympic team competing with Mangan to reach the pole, the film was a hit on the international festival circuit.
Mangan later made the leap to American television with "Episodes" (2011), a comedy created by David Crane of "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004) fame and Jeffrey Klarik of "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99) fame for Showtime and BBC Two. Mangan was reunited with his "Green Wing" co-star Tamsin Grieg as married television writers who traveled to the United States to remake their BAFTA-winning series for American television. There, they are saddled with actor Matt LeBlanc, who plays an exaggerated and morally corrupt version of himself as their star, who quickly destroys their series and marriage. "Episodes" was well received on both sides of the Atlantic, and was quickly renewed for a second season.
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