BBC makes version of 'Sex and the City'

Monday, July 29, 2002

PASADENA, Calif. -- Anthony Stewart Head was worried.

In the BBC America series "Manchild," he plays a divorced, middle-aged dentist who pals around London with three other rich, aging-against-their-will men who are chasing women young enough to be their daughters.

The British actor -- who was the guy next door in those romantic Taster's Choice coffee commercials -- knew the unabashed hedonism of what's being called the male version of HBO's "Sex and the City" would resonate with men.

But would women understand?

"I was intensely nervous to know how my other half would react," he says, referring to girlfriend Sarah Fisher.

To his great relief, "She absolutely loved it."

And Fisher's not alone.

Comedy with insight

The series, which co-stars Nigel Havers, Ray Burdis and Don Warrington, has slightly more women watching than men, according to BBC America spokeswoman Alison Green, citing audience surveys in Britain.

Head believes "Manchild" -- which debuts at 7 p.m. Friday in the United States -- appeals to women because it combines serious insight into the male psyche with comedy.

"The rug is constantly pulled out from under them," Head notes. "You quickly learn that theirs is a very, very hollow life indeed."

Head, who also plays occult counselor Rupert Giles on UPN's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," belies his own 48 years -- in attitude and appearance.

"There isn't time to get staid and old doing what I do. Everything is constantly changing. You are always learning," says Head, who lives in England with Fisher and their children.

"My daughters' friends often say, 'Ooh, I wish my dad had spiky hair and wore cool jackets like your dad,"' he says with a laugh.

At the Television Critics Association summer meeting in Pasadena recently, the actor was making the rounds to promote "Manchild."

He'll also be featured more often during the new season of "Buffy" after seeing his role gradually diminished.

Now Head will appear in "a minimum of 10 episodes," though he doesn't know his character's fate.

"Anyone can be bumped off at any time in any way," he says, laughing.

He admires show creator Joss Whedon's unpredictability.

"No one knows what's going to happen. ... It's like being hit in the stomach."

Entertainment family

Head was born in the Camden Town area of London. His mother, Helen Shingler, was an actress; his father, Seafield Head, a documentary filmmaker. Older brother Murray starred in John Schlesinger's 1971 drama, "Sunday, Bloody Sunday."

On stage in England, the younger Head has starred as Jesus in "Godspell" and Dr. Frank-N-Furter in "The Rocky Horror Show." He's sung on "Buffy" and earlier this year, released "Music for Elevators," an album of his songs set to electronic scores by George Sarah.

Head has always loved role playing. A kindergarten teacher once told his parents: "It would be lovely if he would come as himself one day."

So did those Taster's Choice commercials impede his acting career?

Certainly not, Head insists.

"It bought us our house, gave us wonderful security and enabled me to pick and choose."

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