Actor Nico Mirallegro: 'I was ready for a new chapter'
Nico Mirallegro has no regrets about saying goodbye to Hollyoaks, he tells Susan Griffin
Nico Mirallegro is suddenly feeling a little nauseous. It's the news that he's been described as the "hottest guy in the north of England" on the promo information for E4's My Mad Fat Diary. "What? Who said that?! I've just been sick a little bit," says the 24-year-old with a nervous laugh.
Based on the novel by Rae Earl, the show, which debuted in 2013, provides a nostalgic trip back to the late Nineties and stars Sharon Rooney as Rae, a troubled teen trying to reconnect with her pals following a stint in a psychiatric hospital. This third series marks the end of the journey.
"It's so sad. It's the fact that every year we've had the next series to look forward to, and once you've developed a character and a bunch of friends you'll have forever, you don't really want it to end," says Mirallegro, who plays Rae's love interest Finn.
Their relationship had a rocky start, but, the actor notes, the beginning of series three "pretty much picks up from where we left off, and Finn and Rae are very loved up and in a happy relationship".
As they approach the end of their teens, however, thoughts are turning to the future.
"Everyone's got a different path they want to take," says Manchester-born Mirallegro, and it's the same with the cast.
As emotional as it has been to part ways with Rooney ("We're both very emotional people and we love the show and each other") he believes the time's right time to bring the show to a close.
"We're all getting older and want go and do different things. I think everybody is ready for a new chapter and to move on, but the fans are really going to love how the series is completed."
It's not the first time he's had to tear himself away from a show.
In 2010, he left the Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks, after playing emo kid Barry "Newt" Newton for three years.
"Hollyoaks was such hard work and at 18, it seemed like the best place in the world, so it was a big thing to leave." Plus, there were sceptics. "Some people were saying I wasn't ready and that I should have another year, so it was a difficult decision. But you need to step into that unknown place and excite yourself. "
Looking back on his teenage years, he describes himself as "quite rebellious".
"I was quite naughty with my mum. We just used to argue and I'd run out of the house and leave home. That was partly why I went to live with my dad in Spain in my early teens. I was a very active child, so when I was bored, I'd let her know."
But it's not his father's Sicilian roots he credits for the attitude.
"My mum's Irish, and I'd say she was the feisty one," he admits, grinning. "My dad just scares you with his sinister eyes. He's got really scary Italian eyebrows."
Ah, yes - it would certainly seem Mirallegro has inherited his father's statement brows. Their fullness led one journalist to describe them as "mournful looking", the mention of which induces more laughter from the actor. "Yeah, they certainly are!"
He and his brows soon found work after his Hollyoaks departure, first in the TV series Doctors and then as John Simm's teenage self in the drama Exile.
He reunited with Simm, this time playing father and son, on the successful period drama The Village in 2013, following a stint on the revival of Upstairs Downstairs.
"When we did Exile together, I was younger and we were never going to keep in touch, but after The Village, we go to some Man United games together. He's a top bloke and I can almost say he's like an older brother/dad. He's a legend and has such a lovely humour about him."
He also speaks highly of David Threlfall, the Shameless actor he co-starred with on the recent BBC drama The Ark.
"He was another actor I truly admire. He can change in a heartbeat, and was someone I was watching very closely on set. He's so down to earth and willing to talk about his experiences, not everybody is as kind."
Relatively speaking, Mirallegro might just be starting out, but he's already received a Bafta nomination for The Village, and has trouble choosing a personal favourite project.
"There have been so many that I've really loved. My Mad Fat Diary because of the people I've met and it's been such an uplifting show. The Village was a surreal experience, because I was working with two actors I truly admired, like Maxine (Peake) and John. Common was written by Jimmy McGovern and had an amazing director and stunning cast and I felt a lot of pressure on that.
"But then Spike Island, that was the first time I'd worked with one of my best friends and it was six weeks of pure bliss."
And things are only looking brighter for the actor. He recently wrapped on HBO's Virtuoso, created by Alan Ball, the man behind Six Feet Under and True Blood, and co-produced by Sir Elton John.
"I didn't have any direct contact (with Elton), but there was the odd email wishing us luck and giving the odd point. It's a very exciting show," he says of the period drama set in 18th century Vienna, which follows a class of young musical prodigies.
Although, Mirallegro notes: "I'm not a natural violinist, but I am a good mime!"
- My Mad Fat Diary, E4, Monday, 10pm