Stephen Mangan reveals he got far more emotional than he anticipated, when he filmed his role as a pregnant man for one-off drama ‘Birthday’, which appears as part of Sky Arts’ launch this evening.
Stephen, who originally appeared in the play at London’s Royal Court before bringing it to screen, tells HuffPostUK:
“I got strangely emotional doing it. What it feels like is that you are the centre of attention, you’re expected to do something, and at the same time you have no control over anything.
“All this focus is on you, and they’re all wondering, can you manage to do it properly? You’re at the mercy of this process, you’re being taken over, is how it feels to me. But I don’t know if that’s accurate at all.”
The drama is set in the near-future, at a time when it is possible for men to bear children. Nowhere near the comic sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the horrors of stretch marks and child-bearing pain, 'Birthday' offers instead a refreshing insight on what happens to the relationship between a couple, one in the bed, one beside it, in the 24 hours leading up to a birth, and the chaotic days afterwards. Swopping the genders around raises all sorts of questions about what is required of people that Stephen thinks we don’t actually question that often…
“When is this period ever looked into in plays or films? It’s one of the most extraordinary periods in anyone’s life – that 24 hours leading up to the birth of a child and the days afterwards is monumental. Why is it never written about?
“I'm not sure whether people don’t want to write about it, or they don’t want to hear about it.”
Meanwhile, Stephen, who has two children with his wife, who is also a producer on this film, was equally overwhelmed with the weight of his prosthetic bump.
“You feel so heavy, so cumbersome, so vulnerable – the idea of getting on a crowded tube train or walking down Oxford Street terrified me.”
He pauses and adds as an afterthought. “There are a lot of men out there walking round with bellies that big, mind you.”
Seriously then, fresh respect if any were needed for the child bearing ordeals of his wife and millions of other women?
“Anyone who has watched anyone go through pregnancy and a birth needs to have respect,” he nods.
“How could you not? It’s terrifying, and awe-inspiring. And it doesn’t seem the best designed system in the world, either.”
Is there anything like a male equivalent? The nearest Stephen can offer, and he admits it’s not accurate enough, is “running a marathon”…
“You train for months and months, you have this day fixed in your mind, and you can’t get off. And, at the end of it, you’re so relieved it’s over and just proud of yourself that you managed it. But I hasten to add for women out there, I realise this is not an accurate comparison.”
Stephen Mangan and Anna Maxwell-Martin star in 'Birthday' at 9pm. part of Sky Arts Launch tonight on Sky Arts - more info here.