Mark Gatiss: “I based Mycroft Holmes on Peter Mandelson”

The Sherlock actor says the Labour politician was his inspiration when it came to playing Benedict Cumberbatch's on-screen brother

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Mark Gatiss is best known to many for playing Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft in the BBC1 series, but it turns out he drew inspiration from a politician he would go on to play in new Channel 4 drama Coalition

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“I based Mycroft on Peter Mandelson,” he tells this week’s issue of Radio Times. 

“It was explicit even before I was going to play him. Steven Moffat and I talked about how Mandelsonian Mycroft was… Conan Doyle says Mycroft is the British government. He’s the power behind the throne. Both Mandelson and Mycroft are the sort of people who, I think, would sit out a world war. There’s a longer game to be played…”

Coalition – which also stars Mark Dexter, Bertie Carvel and Ian Grieve – sees Mandelson trying to pull off something that had seemed impossible in the days before the 2010 general election – putting together a minority Labour government.

Comparing Channel 4’s one-off with Apollo 13, Gatiss notes, “We know what happens, but it’s full of unexpected twists and turns.”

But while he populates some of our favourite dramas (he can also be seen playing Tycho Nestoris in Game of Thrones), the Sherlock co-creator yearns for more biting satire on our telly screens.

“There is a massive satire gap at the moment. John Cleese said satire is only possible under a really horrible Conservative government, which is what we have. There should be some very young people doing blistering satire – especially when you have people like Nigel Farage, who you could easily portray as Zippy, or Mr Toad.” 

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The new issue of Radio Times is on sale from Tuesday 17th March