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Will Mellor: 'It's crucial we get it across to men that they should check themselves once or twice a month'

Will Mellor tells Gabrielle Fagan how he uses humour to get men thinking about testicular cancer and how he coped following the deaths of his sister and father


Will Mellor

Will Mellor

Press Association Images

Will Mellor

Will Mellor is regaling me with nicknames for that most delicate part of male anatomy, as well as a few below-the-belt jokes for good measure.

"I mean, no one ever calls them testicles, do they? There's balls, plums, nuts, gonads, crown jewels, take your pick. Personally, I'm a knackers or slingers man," adds the actor and father-of-two. "My mum calls them 'orchies' after the orchestra stalls! I mean, how strange is that?

"And there's no end to the silly jokes, like, 'My left nut thinks it's better than my right nut - it can be very ego-testicle!'."

Mellor is a master of laddish humour, which he put to good use as Gaz in cult Noughties sitcom Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps, before going on to land roles in the likes of Line Of Duty and Broadchurch. But behind the banter, there's a serious aim.

The nut jokes and puns are part of a KP Nuts campaign - Mellor (44) has teamed up with the brand to produce an online guide to help men (and women) start conversations about testicular health and encourage them to 'check their nuts' regularly, as part of Movember.

Testicular cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancer among young men, but it can be treated and there's a 95% survival rate if it's found early. KP Nuts research found nine out of 10 men (87%) think humour would be a good way to start a serious conversation about it.

"We hope jokes and humour break the ice and open up the chat about something which is vitally important," says Mellor, who coincidentally played a character with testicular cancer - Jack Vincent in Casualty back in the early-Noughties.

"My character in Casualty was a classic case of a young man struggling to tell anyone or seek help. Sadly that's still common, so it's crucial we get it across to men that they should check themselves around once or twice a month. And if they, or their partners, notice something which doesn't seem right or a change, then they should get checked by a doctor.

"The trouble is, in general, men are rubbish about talking about anything serious - football or any kind of sport or sex is fine, but they tend to just shy away from genitalia, mental health and real issues in their lives."

He admits his own approach to dealing with life challenges has radically changed, after facing two family tragedies.

Six years ago, he suffered depression after the sudden death of his sister Joanne (44) and is currently grieving the loss of his father, Bill, who died in April.

"I just collapsed after my sister died. I felt helpless and it was such a shock. It was a sudden heart attack and I didn't deal with it too well," Mellor recalls.

"My sister's loss actually went to my core, and for a good few months I was in a dark place.

"My family are my life and mean everything to me, but during that time I didn't even want to be with or speak to them," says Mellor, who has two children with his wife, dancer Michelle McSween.


Will Mellor with his wife, Michelle McSween and their children, Jayden and Renee

Will Mellor with his wife, Michelle McSween and their children, Jayden and Renee

Press Association Images

Will Mellor with his wife, Michelle McSween and their children, Jayden and Renee

"I was so bad that there were periods I couldn't get out of bed, didn't see the point in anything and was pretty horrible to be around."

The turning point came when his wife told him she believed he was suffering from depression.

"Men especially don't want to talk about things like that, or admit to them. They'd rather block them out or pretend nothing's wrong. Thanks to Michelle, in the end, I had to face it," Mellor shares. "I got through without any help - apart from amazing family support - but now I wouldn't advise that for anyone else, and I'd always say go and speak to somebody."

By contrast, although his father's death was an equal shock - he died just two weeks after a cancer diagnosis - this time, Mellor has freely opened up about his feelings.

He's even shared them publicly on Two Pints With Will & Ralf, an online show and podcast inspired by the original hit sitcom, where Mellor and fellow Two Pints actor Ralf Little share their trademark banter and put the world to rights over a few beers.

"I learnt so much from what I went through over my sister, so this time with dad, I'm being open and honest about what I feel," he explains.

"The reality is, the grief is overwhelming some days, while some days it's not as bad. I opened up about what I was going through now, and what I suffered in the past, because mental health's under so much pressure at the moment for so many.

"I hope it helps people realise it's okay to say, 'I'm struggling' for whatever reason, and you shouldn't have to put on a brave face and pretend you're alright. It's about being able to express yourself honestly, and to reach out to people who can help.

"Men should be much more open about talking about their emotions and be honest if they don't feel right," he adds. "That's mental health and it's nothing to be ashamed of."

Mellor says he's "coping day by day" since losing his dad, which he says was made worse by the difficult circumstances of the pandemic.

"Immediately when I heard the news about the cancer, I drove up to see him, but I could only go into the garden not the house, because of social distancing. I wasn't allowed to hug him and that's my biggest regret," says Mellor, who grew up with four sisters in Bredbury, Greater Manchester.

"One of the last things Dad actually said to me was, 'If I got hold of you, I wouldn't be able to let go'. That absolutely killed me. If I'd known then what I know now - that he'd die within two weeks of my seeing him - I'd have grabbed hold of him. I had no idea he'd pass so quickly and I'm still in shock about it really."

Mellor says the losses have heightened his determination "to make the most of every day, month and year I've got. It's very tough but I comfort myself by thinking my dad lives on in me, and I've got to stay positive and make the most of my life because it can be all too short."

Reflecting on life, he adds: "I was a working-class kid from a council estate, who had a dream to perform and I made it. Show business is exciting and terrifying because you're always living on that edge, not knowing what will happen or when you'll work again.

"It makes my heart beat and keeps me excited and energised. I've always loved doing different things, from singing and musical theatre, to comedy and drama.

"I just try to keep looking forward, and don't take myself too seriously," says Mellor. "I'm so lucky I have so much to live for. I have a wonderful family and a career doing what I love."

KP Nuts has partnered with Movember again, alongside actor and comedian Will Mellor, to launch a handy online guide to help men (and women) start conversations about testicular health and remind them to 'check their nuts' regularly. Visit kpnuts.com/movember

Belfast Telegraph