A self-confessed show-off from a young age, Stephen Mangan knew he was destined for a career in the ‘biz when he decided to become an altar boy.
“I thought, if you’re going to be made to go to church, then you may as well be on the stage – that was literally my thinking,” says the 41-year-old, laughing.
“That just shines a little light on my personality. Why sit in the congregation when you could be the guy with the incense? I had a costume, robes, I rang the bell. To me, it was a better way of passing the tedium of being in church.”
He’s since established himself as one of the country’s most versatile actors, successfully alternating between drama and comedy on screen and stage – and next up can be heard voicing one of childhood’s most familiar figures in Postman Pat: The Movie.
“It’s nice, because most of the stuff I’ve done is unwatchable by anyone under the age of 18,” says the actor, who lives in north London with his actress wife Louise Delamere and two sons, Harry, six and three-year-old Frank.
“I’ve watched a lot of Postman Pat with my children. He’s got to be the sweetest character, there’s not a bad side to him, but over 90 minutes, you want Postman Pat to go on some sort of emotional journey,” he quips.
And so in the big screen version of the animated classic, the affable postie ends up being seduced by the glamour of showbiz after entering a talent show.
“Like Susan Boyle, jaws drop to the floor when he starts singing a love song to his wife at the audition in front of Simon Cowbell.”
While Mangan voices the titular character, Boyzone’s Ronan Keating steps in for the singing. “I understand it helps to get another star name in there,” Mangan reasons.
Actually, he reveals, the producers did ask him if he wanted to do it.
“I can sing but I’m not sure that I have a jaw-droppingly amazing voice,” he says. “If people think that it’s my voice, then all the better. I’m not going to be putting them straight.
“Making an animated film is a solitary process, and ‘unlike every other thing you do’.
“Usually you meet the other actors and together you build something, whereas with this, I went into a basement in Soho, recorded my half of all the conversations on my own and then two years later, there’s a film.”
It’s a world away from the ensemble comedy Episodes, which is currently back on television screens for a third series.
Mangan stars as Sean, whose marriage to Beverley, played by Tamsin Greig, has fallen apart since the pair moved to Los Angeles to script the US version of their television show and she slept with lead actor Matt LeBlanc (the Friends star plays a heightened version of himself).
“I think there’s a lot of optimism initially, but these things never just melt away, and well-adjusted couples aren’t that interesting on television,” says Mangan, on whether the couple can overcome Beverley’s indiscretion.
He describes playing the on-screen husband of Greig, who he’s known for years now, as “a joy”.
“We make each other laugh and we wind each other up, so it’s great. And she’s a fantastic actress, brilliant at comedy and can make you cry. What more do you want in an acting partner?”
Postman Pat: The Movie is released in cinemas tomorrow.
Episodes continues on BBC Two on Wednesday nights.