Will Mellor: From Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps to Mr Bates vs the Post Office

Former Hollyoaks actor Will Mellor is back on tour with Ralf Little and their Two Pints podcast live. He talks to Catherine Scott about his career and the profound effect Mr Bates vs the Post Office had on him.

The day before Will Mellor was asked if he wanted to be in a new ITV series about the Post Office Horizon IT scandal he had been considering giving up acting.

“I just wasn’t being offered the big roles any more and I so I was considering doing more factual presenting,” he said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I thought if my time’s gone I’ve had a great career I need to focus on other things. I’m self-employed I have to provide for my family. I spoke to my wife and said I have to take control of my career.”

Will MellorWill Mellor
Will Mellor

But the next day his agent called and said he was being offered the part of post master Lee Castleton in an ITV series called Mr Bates vs The Post Office about the Horizon IT scandal and the wrongful prosecution of scores of post masters.

“It was unbelievable, sometimes when you stop chasing things it lands in your lap. I had no idea the extent of what these people had been through until I read the script. I thought this is what I’ve been waiting for I can give this everything and make sure I tell the truth in this. But we couldn’t imagine the response. It is probably the biggest thing I have ever done. I’m very proud it.

“It was a huge responsibility – I’d never really played a real person before and definitely not one that I knew would be watching. You have to make sure that you portray what they’ve been through honestly and truthfully.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We’d stop and talk about it between takes – none of us could believe what these people had been through. The emotion in this was so important, the audience had to feel it and then you got the reaction.

Will Mellor (right) and Ralf Little (left) recording their podcastWill Mellor (right) and Ralf Little (left) recording their podcast
Will Mellor (right) and Ralf Little (left) recording their podcast

" It’s alright reading about something but it doesn’t land until you see the emotion – that was our job, get the emotion right, get the truth out there let them see what these people went through and then it will carry itself and that’s what’s happened.”

And it is clear it was far more than just another role for Mellor.

"It’s been on (television) and it’s got that reaction, but I still want to keep supporting, to make sure they get the compensation and justice they deserve.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He is currently involved in making documentary about the post office scandal and meeting other victims who weren’t in the series. “They’ve had their lives completely ripped apart. One guy lost £800,000, his wife has had a stroke and no one knows about him. There are so many more.”

Mellor, now 47, always knew he wanted to be an actor.

“I was a working class kid on a council estate (he comes from Stockport). There were no actors in our family but I knew there was something different in me. I just wanted to perform for as long as I can remember. We used to go to Butlins on holiday and I’d be in every talent show, singing, dancing, doing impressions.

"Where we came from there nobody else was like that. I failed at school – I’ve ADHD and dyslexia – and was constantly told I would never be able to be an actor. I knew I was going to do it. I’m not arrogant but I had a belief that it was going to happen.” When he was 12 there was an open audition for an acting agency in Manchester.

“My mum took me down to Laine Management and I had a chat with them and they told my mum they wanted me and that I had talent.” They signed him but but his parents had to pay £50 for photographs and to be on the books. “That was a lot of money for my mum and dad who struggled financially, but they backed me and I got the first three castings I went for – suddenly the dream was a possible reality.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His big break came with Hollyoaks, he has since appeared in Eastenders, Coronation Street and Casualty as well as musical theatre work which he loves. From 2001 to 2011 he played Gaz Wilkinson in the hit TV series Two Pints of Larger and a Packet of Crisps, alongside Ralf Little and Sheridan Smith.

Now he and Little are going on tour for a second time with the live show of their podcast Two Pints which was initially a product of Covid lockdown.

People couldn't get to the pub. I was just bouncing off the walls as we weren’t allowed to go anywhere. People had been talking about bringing the show (Two Pints of Lager and A Packet of Crisps) back and I was talking to Ralf (Little) about our characters who just sat a table and talked about anything. We thought it could have the makings of a podcast.

"For Two Pints fans we could talk about the old days and the best bits of the shows, but also any body who wasn’t a Two Pints fan we could talk about anything that was going on. It was like you can’t go to the pub but come and have a beer with us.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Since then they have had 75 million downloads and a successful 2022 tour which they are bringing back next month.

Due to their busy work schedule – Ralf filming Death in Paradise in the Caribbean and Will taking part in Strictly Come Dancing and docmentary series Cops Who Kill – the podcast was put on hold. But then due to public demand they decided to record another ten and then take it on tour again.

"As soon as we start talking we go off on mad tangents and I don’t like to be too guarded, we seem to be living in a world where everyone is scared to say anything. I know where my heart is and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I want to keep pushing to the line as close as I can and have a bit of fun.

"I don’t mind telling stories about embarrassing situations that have happened to me. Ralf isn’t as much like that so you need us both.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Audience participation is key. They send in their own stories and agony aunt questions. They get them up on stage to play games and a pub quiz.

“We want the audience to feel as much a part of the show as we do,” says Mellor. “We just want to give people a really good night out. The April’s Fool tour does what it says on the tin. To make it look like organised chaos you have to be organised.

"I have a lot of respect for the people who have paid their money to come and see us so I don’t just want to get up their and mess around. We do plan and prepare although some of it is spontaneous of course.” Mellor will just have finished filming a new drama in Dublin before heading off on tour.

He is also passionate about Cops Who Kill – a hard-hitting series shining a light on police corruption including Wayne Couzens and David Carrick.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I’m passionate about it – it’s something I would watch, but I’m not just a presenter I want to ask the questions the public would ask. If I’m frustrated I will show I am frustrated. We need to stop ignoring the red flags and stop protecting their own.”

Mellor is also keen to be a role model to other working class children. “I have been back to my old school as they waned me to present a drama award. And I did go just to tell the kids no matter what you ware told you can be whatever you want to be.

"Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. If you believe in something then follow your dream. I believe I going back to where you come from.”

Two Pints Podcast, April Fools’ Live Tour! 2024 will be at Leeds City Varieties on April and Sheffield City Hall on April 28.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.