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Interview: Steve McGann - Why Steve's taking a hike; Emmerdale's Steve McGann is passionate about going the extra mile for children.

Byline: Jenny Eden

If Steve McGann ever needs a reminder that he lives a blessed life, then a return to his home town soon shows him that at least he escaped the hardships some of his childhood friends suffered. Although he may have achieved fame in Emmerdale, his ideals remain firmly in place.

A strong sense of social justice will find him going on a charity hike to Nepal for The Children's Society later this year, raising funds for the UK's most vulnerable children. The Himalayas are, of course, a long way from his humble origins on Merseyside.

"There were kids I was in school with, great kids, bright kids, who did not stand a chance," recalls Steve, who has four-year-old son Dominic with scriptwriter wife Heidi. "I've been back to Liverpool and met some of them now they are adults and they were taking various drugs, including heroin, and robbing to support the habit. They were in school with me, they kicked the same football, they were no different.

"But people look at them now and say, `Scum - car-robbing, stereo-robbing scum'. What they don't see is what happened along the line that made them them like that."

Steve and his famous acting brothers Joe, Mark and Paul grew up with their sister Clare in Toxteth in the 1980s when there was no work, little money and even less hope. Pushed by their parents - dad worked in a factory and mum was a nursery nurse - they won places in the local grammar school. There was little spare cash but Steve insists money is not the important thing when it comes to bringing up children.

"Money can make a difference but the key is love and security, and that's what we had. We were poor but it mattered so little. What mum and dad gave us in opportunity, love and encouragement meant we already had the most precious jewel we could take on. But we saw the amount of kids that grew up in the same streets as us and didn't come from happy families and didn't have the same opportunities."

His experiences growing up have made Steve a passionate campaigner for The Children's Society. He's met the workers who help runaways, child prostitutes and troubled teenagers, inspiring his fundraising.

"I cringe at the champagne glass-clinking end of charity work. I meet the people who help these kids and I get so embarrassed. All I am is a soap luvvie walking in and people say, `Thank you so much for coming', but it's the staff working for so little who deserve the recognition."

When Steve speaks of his boy Dominic he floods with paternal pride. He and Heidi hoped for years to have a baby and they'd almost given up on becoming parents when he came along. Steve is determined to bring up their child well, providing opportunities and the values he's so passionate about.

"Children are not a right, they are a privilege. To parent them is so great and I thank God every day for him. When he was born, I did a movie then took a break for the first two years. But what he really has is us backing him up and making him feel wanted - that's real riches."

Steve and Heidi celebrate their eleventh wedding anniversary this year. They met when he auditioned for a play she wrote but they were both seeing other people and it took them several years to get together.

A year after Dominic was born, Heidi almost died after emergency surgery. Now she's back in good health but Steve admits the horror of almost losing his wife still lingers.

"She was at death's door but recovered. I got my wife back fit and healthy. We like each other and we're very, very good friends. I've known this girl for 15 years yet a few days ago I was on the set of Emmerdale and I talked to her on the phone for two and a half hours about nothing."

Ironically, Steve's Emmerdale role as cheating husband Sean Reynolds has exposed him to the darker side of marriage. His affair with Lady Tara left his on-screen family torn apart. It's a part he loves and one which has raised his star status. He admits he loves the edginess of Sean.

"If you are playing some doe-eyed hero it's cool but it's more fun to play baddies. I'd love to play Hitler or Ian Brady because when those people wake up they have got to live themselves, they don't think they are the evilest person in the world. As an actor, you've got to love the person you are playing no matter who they are.

"When you've been round the block a few times you realise there are few dramas like Emmerdale that hold together peak time viewing. Some people tell you we should all do only the finest quality films or dramas and everything else is for some kind of lower order of actors. What absolute horse poo. This is a lovely job, I'm a very lucky man."

And one who, away from the glamour of TV, does not forget those less fortunate than himself.

For more information on The Children's Society call the hotline on 020 7841 4507.

CAPTION(S):

FAMILY PRIDE: Steve McGann with wife Heidi and son Dominic Picture: TONY WARD/SCOPE; ON SCREEN: With his Emmerdale family
COPYRIGHT 2001 MGN LTD
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 2001
Words:899
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