Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

June 08, 2009

Stephen Fry - can we have too much of him?

Yes, says Stephen himself - here's an interesting article from the Sunday People.

Kingdom star sheds 6st after health scare
Jon Wise
We're going to be seeing a lot less of Stephen Fry - and the man himself couldn't be more delighted.
The star, back in a new series of ITV's hit legal drama Kingdom tonight, has shed 6st since the turn of the year after becoming dangerously overweight.
Stephen, who stands a shade under 6ft 5ins, said: "I am tall and I am naturally quite a big man, but I realised that being more than 21st was simply too much.
"My worry was that I didn't think I would be able to diet away the excess - and I certainly didn't think I would be able to get on with a gym.
"I hated the very idea of keep fit and used to make jokes about people who treated their bodies like temples while simultaneously pulling every muscle known to man and possibly breaking a few bones along the way too.
"But, incredibly, I now love my visits to the gym and the diet I've gone on has actually worked.
"It's hardly revolutionary, just the gradual elimination of foods like bread and sugar which were making me fat.
"I enjoy what I still eat - I continue to tuck into puddings when I choose to - I just don't eat as much or eat the same things that I used to."
Stephen now weighs around 15st but plans to carry on shedding the pounds.
He winces when he sees footage of his heavier self in the new series of Kingdom, filmed on location in Norfolk last summer.
But Stephen, 51, can hardly stop beaming when he looks in the mirror these days. He said: "Of course it's a boost to the ego to lose weight - we all want to look our best. But I am also delighted to find I am in good health too, that carrying the extra weight for as long as I did hasn't done any long-term damage.
"I recently underwent a medical before filming the new series of the BBC panel game QI and was delighted to find I have the blood pressure of a teenager.
"But I certainly don't look in the mirror in the hope of seeing some wonderfully tanned Adonis, even if I have lost weight."
The ever-busy Stephen is, though, looking nicely bronzed after travelling the globe filming Last Chance To See - a BBC series about animals on the brink of extinction.
"Losing weight has been out of fear for my well-being, rather than vanity," he added. "Beauty, I don't think, is all that it is cracked up to be.
"I long ago realised that looking fantastic can be as much a curse as it can be a blessing.
"When I was growing up, I thought that looking cute, or looking beautiful, was the most wonderful thing you could possibly imagine - the goal to aim for.
"And now I realise it isn't. There's nothing sadder than seeing people growing away from their beauty, especially if they are left with all the vanities which beauty gave them in the first place.
"If they still have this expectation of being obeyed and admired simply for being beautiful - and they no longer are beautiful - it is almost tragic."
Tragic was a word applied to Stephen back in the 1990s. Despite big success in telly shows such as A Little Bit Of Fry And Laurie, Jeeves And Wooster and classic sitcom Blackadder Goes Forth - in which he played the booming General Melchett. The poshly-spoken former public schoolboy had a mental illness and more than once tried to commit suicide.
His manic depression - now known as bi-polar - reached a crisis in 1995 when he fled Britain by cross-channel ferry just six days after opening in the West End play Cell Mates with comedy pal Rik Mayall.
Eventually, however, he came back to London and started to get his life back on track after a proper diagnosis of his condition. In hindsight, he wishes he could have sorted out his health problems earlier.
Stephen said: "Being told precisely what my condition was helped enormously.
"I am encouraged to think the stigma of mental health is lifting and that more and more people are not only seeking medical help, but being given proper care and diagnoses when they do so.
"Since I went public with my own problems, and made a couple of TV documentaries about bi-polar for the BBC, I've lost count of the number of people who have come up to me and told me their own heartbreaking stories - of suicide attempts and terrible grief over the loss of loved ones."
"All I can do is point them in the direction of the medical experts and hope they get better."
Stephen sounds as caring as his TV character Peter Kingdom, the Market Shipborough lawyer who often puts the health and welfare of his clients above his own financial interests.
"Although don't be fooled into thinking we are one and the same person," laughs Stephen, who has been with partner Daniel Cohen for more than a decade and divides his time between his homes in West Hampstead and Norfolk.
"Peter Kingdom is much nicer than I am - seriously he is! I'm afraid I can get quite impatient, with myself and with other people, and Peter is so incredibly patient and understanding.
"Basically, when I play Peter Kingdom, I have to find the kindest, most considerate and least egotistical bits of me and leave the rest of me - the grumpiness, the anger, the impatience and all the other negative parts of my personality - under lock and key at home.
"And, sadly, there is quite a lot in life that makes me angry, whether it's Norwich City being relegated from the Championship or trite, arse-paralysing self-help books that make your nose bleed. And I can get a bit testy when I am asked the same old questions time and time again, or when I get interrupted when I am walking along the street with my iPod on.
"I certainly used to get annoyed with cabbies who were forever asking me if there was going to be another series of Blackadder.
"It got to the point where I would hold up a placard, before the driver could ask me the same old question, which stated 'No there's not going to be another Blackadder'. It saved me getting impatient with them!"
Despite admitting he's no saint, more than 7,000 voters in a MySpace poll chose him for Patron Saint of England.
"My problem would be my sexuality," said Stephen, who has been openly gay for many years. "I think The Pope would look into my bedroom manners and find much to dislike with my choice of gender partner."
It's never been clear whether Peter Kingdom is gay or straight. During the first two series, and the one that starts tonight, he's never had a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Stephen said: "I think he's a lonely, single guy who is very good at his job but finds it hard to connect with people.
"But I wouldn't rule out a relationship, in his life, if we do another series. Watch this space."
For Stephen, one of the joys of filming Kingdom in Norfolk is having his family around him.
"My mum and dad, my sister, my brother and my nephews are all around me and it really does feel like being at home, when we are filming the series," he said.
"Which, actually, it is! We film only a few miles from where I live so I've no excuse for being late for work in the morning - and, so far, I haven't been."


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