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Paul McGann is an English actor who made his name on the BBC serial The Monocled Mutineer, in which he played the lead role. He is also known for his role in Withnail and I, and for portraying the Eighth Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who TV film and subsequent tie-in media.

Alien franchise credit[]


Other credits[]

  • Withnail and I (1987) - Marwood / "... and I"
  • Empire of the Sun (1987) - Lt. Price
  • Tree of Hands (1989) - Barry
  • The Rainbow (1989) - Anton Skrebensky
  • Dealers (1989) - Daniel Pascoe
  • The Monk (1990) - Father Lorenzo Rojas
  • Paper Mask (1990) - Matthew Harris
  • Afraid of the Dark (1991) - Tony Dalton
  • Alien 3 (1992) - Golic
  • The Three Musketeers (1993) - Gira
  • The Importance of Being Earnest (1986) - John Worthing
  • The Monocled Mutineer (1986) - Percy Toplis
  • Doctor Who (1996) - The Doctor
  • Our Mutual Friend (1998) - Eugene Wrayburn
  • Forgotten (1999) - Ben Turner
  • Agatha Christie's Poirot (2003) - Dr. Peter Lord
  • Lie with Me (2004) - Gerry Henson
  • Kidnapped (2005) - Colonel MacNab
  • Luther (2010–present) - Mark North
  • Waking the Dead (2011) - ACC Tony Nicholson
  • Britain's Greatest Codebreaker (2011) - Narrator

Biographical information[]

Early life[]

McGann was born in Kensington, Liverpool, Lancashire in 1959 into a Roman Catholic family. His mother, Claire, was a teacher, and his father was a metallurgist. His parents encouraged him and his siblings to develop their talents from an early age. McGann's talents were further developed when he attended Cardinal Allen Grammar school in West Derby, Liverpool. One of McGann's teachers advised him to enter the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and to pursue a career as an actor. Acting on his teacher's advice, McGann enrolled at the Royal Academy and went on to enjoy a successful acting career spanning over two decades.

McGann is the third of six children in the McGann family. His mother had twin boys, Joseph and John, who were born in 1958, but John died shortly after birth. McGann has three younger siblings: Mark (born in 1961), Stephen (born in 1963) and Clare McGann (born in 1965). All three of his brothers are also actors and the four of them starred together (as four brothers) in the 1995 television TV serial The Hanging Gale about the Irish Famine. The same year he played the role as Grigori Potemkin in TV film Catherine the Great, with Mark and Stephen too. These brothers also formed the pop quartet the McGanns, releasing the single "Shame About the Boy". McGann's sister, Clare, is a programme finance manager for Channel 5.


McGann's first major dramatic role was the infamous British deserter and criminal Percy Toplis in the 1986 BBC serial The Monocled Mutineer. The film was based on the 1978 book of the same name, which was written by William Alison and John Fairley. Although McGann received praises for his dramatic performance, the drama was never re-broadcast on the BBC. This is because the BBC came under fire from the Conservative Government due to the sensitivity of the subject matter of the Étaples Mutiny in 1919 at the "Bull Ring", a harsh British Army training ground in Étaples, France. The events that transpired at the Bull Ring remain debated, and documents concerning the occurrences there will remain sealed until 2017. They claimed that the film was inaccurate and displayed a "Left-wing bias". Toplis was a mysterious figure and the film, as well as the book, depicted him as an active participant of the Etaples Mutiny, before he was tracked down and killed some years after the end of World War I. As a result, a minor political crisis in Britain was launched which prompted the BBC to remove all planned repeat screenings of the film. Despite the banning controversy, The Monocled Mutineer was released by the BBC on video in the early 1990s, and on DVD in 2007.

Following on from that part of Percy Toplis, McGann sought a less controversial and more comedic role for his next project. In 1986, he was cast as the eponymous "I" in Bruce Robinson's cult film comedy, Withnail and I. He also starred as Anton Skrebensky in Ken Russell's 1989 adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow. McGann's other early film appearances include The Monk, Dealers, Tree of Hands and the epic war film Empire of the Sun. McGann and other young British actors who were becoming established film actors such as Tim Roth, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Bruce Payne were dubbed the 'Brit Pack'. Since 1989, McGann has concentrated primarily on television work, including Nice Town and Nature Boy for the BBC, and The One That Got Away and the second series of Hornblower for ITV. However, he has had small roles in a number of high-profile American films like The Three Musketeers and Alien 3. His role in Alien 3 was originally larger, but much of it was edited out of the final print. The cut footage can be seen in the extended version of the film.

In 1993, he was cast as Richard Sharpe, the lead character in the Sharpe series of made-for-TV movies based on Bernard Cornwell's novels, however he injured his knee while playing football just days into filming Sharpe's Rifles in the Ukraine. He was replaced by Sean Bean and the role effectively kick-started Bean's career and is the one that he is most closely identified with.

Paul McGann played the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the Doctor Who 1996 television film. The television film also starred Eric Roberts, Daphne Ashbrook, and the outgoing Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. McGann's brother, Mark McGann, also auditioned for the title role. The Doctor Who television film was a joint venture between the BBC, Universal Studios and the Fox Broadcasting Network. McGann had signed a contract to appear as the Eighth Doctor in a new Doctor Who series, if Fox or Universal exercised their option. Thus, the television film was supposed to be a "back door pilot" in that, if it obtained respectable ratings, the new series would continue to be produced. The film was shown on 14 May 1996 in the US and on 27 May 1996 in the UK. Although it was very successful in the UK, ratings were very low in the United States. As a consequence, Fox did not exercise its option to pick up the series and Universal could not find another network interested in airing a new Doctor Who series. Thus no new series was produced until 2005, after all the contractual rights had returned to the BBC, and the movie became McGann's only televised appearance as the Eighth Doctor.

Although McGann played the Doctor on television only once, he gave permission for his likeness to be used on the covers of the BBC's Eighth Doctor novels and he has reprised the role of the Eighth Doctor in an extensive series of audio plays by Big Finish Productions. Rumours abounded that Paul McGann would reprise the role of the eighth Doctor in a new series of television films, alongside the current television series. McGann has denied these rumours on the grounds of not having been asked back to play the part but if he were to be asked would be interested as long as he "didn't have to wear a wig". McGann has appeared again as the eighth Doctor in the BBC Radio 7 series Doctor Who in 2007 - 2012.

Personal life[]

In 1992, McGann married Annie Milner, with whom he has two sons, Joe McGann (born in 1988) and Jake McGann (born in 1990). He had a relationship with the actress Susannah Harker, beginning in 2006. They parted at the end of 2008.