Mark Gatiss: I based Mycroft Holmes on Peter Mandelson

The Sherlock co-creator drew inspiration from the New Labour spin doctor for the Baker Street detective's conniving brother

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Mark Gatiss is currently playing Peter Mandelson in a Channel 4 drama about the birth of the coalition – and it’s likely Sherlock fans will notice a striking resemblance between his Mandelson and his performance as Holmes’s conniving brother Mycroft.

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“It’s wonderful,” he tells RadioTimes.com. “I’m having a ball. I’ve always wanted to play him. I owe him an awful lot because I auditioned to play him in the Mo Mowlam film. At exactly the same time [Steven Moffat and I] were talking about how Mandelson-ian Mycroft Holmes is – we wanted him to be a sort of Mandelson figure.”

Although Gatiss’ audition for the 2010 Mo biopic was unsuccessful – he lost out to Steven Mackintosh – his Mandelsonian Mycroft convinced Channel 4 to cast him as the New Labour spin doctor this time round. Due out next year, the drama charts the rise of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. At that time Mandelson was dubbed the “Prince of Darkness” by his detractors because of his Machiavellian political manoeuvres.

Gatiss is a busy chap at the moment because he’s also commuting to Scarborough every second day for the big screen version of BBC2’s much-loved sitcom Dad’s Army. There was speculation he had been cast as the vicar but he tells us he is in fact playing Mainwaring’s colonel-in-chief.

“I was genuinely sceptical – as I think many people will be – but the script really loves the original. It’s charming and quite moving at times. People love the original and want to honour it but it has to be its own thing as well. So far I’m having a great time.”

He’ll next appear on our screens at Christmas in another remake for BBC1: Mapp and Lucia. Based on EF Benson’s books, it was last seen on television in the 80s and this time round has been adapted by Gatiss’ old friend and League of Gentleman cohort Steve Pemberton, with Miranda Richardson and Anna Chancellor taking the title roles. 

Gatiss plays another army man: whisky-supping, bridge-obsessed Major Benjamin Flint. “It’s so fantastic to play an entirely one dimensional character. It’s something I intend to do more of!”

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Mapp and Lucia will be on BBC1 at Christmas