Friday people: Gary Mitchell
The 48-year-old internationally recognised writer lives in carrickfergus with his wife Alison. They have five children between them: David (25), lewis (22), Harry (15), Rachel (6) and Stephen (5). His comedy Forget Turkey, written with Dan Gordon and Colin Murphy, opens next month at Belfast's Lyric Theatre and runs into January.
Alison and I met a good number of years ago and we got married in 2004. We bumped into each other at the Europa Hotel and there was a running joke that I was there all the time. Actually it was so handy if you had a play on in town or were working for the BBC.
Alison was with her brother when I met her. She was living in Australia and had come home because her mum wasn't well. Once she met me she decided not to go back.
Alison used to be a model but has since retired. She now is essentially my agent. After our last baby was born she had a couple of heart attacks caused by a heart defect. She was treated for it but heart conditions are something you never really get rid of.
David and Lewis are from Alison's first marriage – her husband passed away. They've moved out of the house to have their own lives and jobs now. The great thing about having people of so many ages around is having such a range of material I can use for characters. I can talk to the older boys about what it's like being in their 20s, Harry about what it's like to be a teenager and watch the wee ones to learn about children. We certainly planned to have more – we were aiming for the football team until Alison got sick. We'll just have to play five-a-side against our six cats. They'll probably win.
MY BEST FRIEND
I'm a family man so I don't have huge crowds of friends. My closest friend would be my brother. Stephen is a reverend for the Elim Pentecostal Church. He's still in Northern Ireland but as he's tending to his flock it can be quite difficult for us to meet up. We stay in contact through emails and phone calls though.
My parents are both retired. Mum Sandra worked as a nurses' assistant and dad Charles was both a semi-professional footballer and singer – he could never pick between the two. As well as my brother Stephen I also have a sister, Gail, and she's still in Northern Ireland and is a housewife. We're a very close family. I would call both my brother and my dad my best friends. When Alison was ill we moved from east Belfast to Carrickfergus so that my parents could help with the kids.
WHO I GO TO FOR ADVICE
I go to my wife, my dad, my mum and my brother. It's a difficult question as I tend to go to different people about different kinds of problems. Again it's because of our close family that they're the ones I would talk to.
MY MENTOR, PAM BRIGHTON
Pam was the head of BBC Radio in Belfast. There was a playwriting competition and she picked my entry as the winner. The play was then entered in a nationwide competition and won that too. Pam went on to commission about 15 plays from me – more or less one a year and they kept me working steadily. She was the person who showed me how to communicate with an audience outside of Rathcoole where I grew up and she really helped me to develop as a writer.
My secret crush is ... Maureen O'Hara
I saw her on TV when I was about 12 in the film McClintock. Then I watched The Quiet Man and all the films in which she starred after that.
MY FANTASY DINNER PARTY
My musical guests will be The Ramones. I heard Blitzkrieg Bop when I was 14 and it changed my life for ever. Then I'll ask Gerd Muller (left) who scored the winning goal of the 1974 World Cup for West Germany. People who play football with me call me Muller as I score a lot of goals. Next I would ask actor Christopher Walken. I first saw him in The Deerhunter. He really develops his characters and tells a story. A great film like that can change someone's life. Finally I would ask Jesus. I read the Bible when I was younger and he's the ultimate hero.