The Doctor Who and Sherlock star shares his memories of ghastly school dinners, preserved sausages and what he eats when the nights draw in...
After studying drama at Bretton Hall in Wakefield, Mark Gatiss, 51, created dark radio and TV series The League of Gentleman with Reece Shearsmith, Jeremy Dyson and Steve Pemberton. With Steven Moffat, he created the hugely successful and award-winning series Sherlock, in which he plays Mycroft Holmes. Mark has also appeared in Doctor Who, Wolf Hall and Game of Thrones.
In 2017, Mark curated and directed Queers – a series of eight monologues for BBC Four to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, which saw the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality. He lives in London with his husband, actor Ian Hallard.
I have a vivid memory of being given a cake on my third birthday.
It would’ve been a fruit cake, because that’s what I like. I used to love being allowed to scrape out the bowl after Mum made a cake. I'm the youngest and had to fight my brother, Phillip, and sister, Jill, for it. We always used to ask, ‘Why can’t we just have a big bowl of this – it’s much nicer than cake!’
At school, puddings like jam roly-poly, lemon meringue pie and bread and butter pudding were so ghastly they would bring me out in a rash.
Many years later I discovered that they can all be lovely if properly made, particularly bread and butter pudding.
At school I was a geek – even before the word was invented.
I remember someone asking, ‘Are you going to be a professor when you grow up?’ That’s how I looked – my hair was all over the place, I had big glasses and I was obsessed with dinosaurs, astronomy and Dr Who. Dr Who and Sherlock Holmes have always been part of my life. To have made a career from things I love has been amazing.
I grew up in the north east, where there was no concept of eating out.
I didn’t eat at a restaurant until I was in my teens. Eating out was getting fish and chips. We made pasta pictures at school, and I had to buy pasta specially – canned spaghetti was the only pasta I knew. At home, we ate simple food. My favourite was corned beef hash, which I'm still very fond of. As the nights draw in, my craving for it increases.
The first foreign holiday we had was Spain in 1979, and I remember being a little afraid of the experience.
In the hotel we had preserved sausage for breakfast. I couldn’t get my head around the concept of these great pieces of mouldering flesh. All we ever had for breakfast were cornflakes and boiled eggs, so it was a real shock to the system.
When I went to Europe on my gap year, my abiding memory is of constipation.
I went with my first and only girlfriend, Sally, and several friends from school. We planned the trip for months but then all fell out within 24 hours and went our separate ways. Sally and I were so poor and had eaten so little that, when we got to Vienna, we had to go to a pharmacy to get laxatives. I am sure there must have been marvellous European epicurean delights, but I don’t remember them.
When I was a student, Pizza Hut was a great friend to me.
My first forays into eating out were in Wakefield. There weren’t any Michelin-starred restaurants, but I remember going for a proper Thai meal there for the first time. When I was at Bretton Hall, I met Steve and Reece, and Jeremy, who was at the University of Leeds. We collaborated and formed the League of Gentleman; an opportunity arose to put on a five-night sketch show and it all went from there.
My Sherlock co-creator, Steven Moffat, told me about this place in Los Angeles called Katsuya, which he and his wife love so much they actually dream about it.
You’re always wary of the hype around such things, but Ian and I went recently and it was genuinely one of the best meals I’ve ever had. They do a spicy tuna starter that tastes so good you don’t really want to swallow. We ended up saying, ‘Forget the main course, let’s just have more tuna.’
Early in our relationship, Ian roasted a chicken.
It was my first Sunday roast in 15 years. When we met, I was vegetarian.