Tom Ellis used to envy the success of his famous friend James McAvoy. But now he’s a big star with adoring fans and a series of his own...

When Tom Ellis was first asked to star in BBC2’s brilliant hit comedy Miranda, the show’s hilarious writer, actor and stand-up comic Miranda Hart wasn’t even on his radar.

In truth, he wasn’t really on ours either, unless you happened to catch the moment he locked himself out of the house naked during a five-month stint as the dashing Dr Oliver Cousins on EastEnders.

Fast-forward four years and two series of Miranda. Today, Tom, who’s married to the lovely Tamzin Outhwaite, can barely set foot outside his own front door without one girl or another wanting to lick his face (more of which later).

Today, Tom, who¿s married to the lovely Tamzin Outhwaite, can barely set foot outside his own front door without one girl or another wanting to lick his face

Today, Tom, who¿s married to the lovely Tamzin Outhwaite, can barely set foot outside his own front door without one girl or another wanting to lick his face

And Miranda? Well, let’s just say they’re thick as thieves since she cast him as her drop-dead gorgeous crush Gary Preston in the award-winning comedy.

‘I didn’t really know who Miranda was or what she’d done when I first got the script from my agent,’ says Tom. ‘At that time it was called Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop and went very against the grain of the edgy, fly-on-the-wall comedy that was around.

‘I remember reading it, thinking “this is funny” but I couldn’t place it. When I went to the meeting Miranda was there. She started reading and I was laughing as she read it because it suddenly made sense. I just felt really at ease with her. Now we’re a really tight bunch [Miranda also stars Patricia Hodge, Sarah Hadland and Sally Phillips].

‘When we did the pilot four years ago we had a great laugh, but none of us expected it would be as big as it is now.’ Miranda, of course, is huge, securing enough awards for Hart to fill a chain of joke shops, including British Comedy Awards for best new show and best actress. As for Tom… well, back to that licking-his-face thing.  

‘I was at a charity event the other night and every five seconds someone would come up and ask me for a photo,’ he says. ‘There was a girl with her boyfriend who asked, “Can I have a photo with you?” I said, “Yes all right”. Then she asked, “Can I lick your face?” Her boyfriend said, “Go on, she loves you Tom.” I said, “You can’t lick my face but you can put the tip of your tongue there.’’’ He points to his cheek, which does, in truth, look rather irresistible.

Tom and Tamzin with their daughter Florence

Tom and Tamzin with their daughter Florence

In fact Tom, 32, is so dishy you can’t help but want to… Enough. He’s a married man and a father to two girls, Nora, seven, from an earlier relationship and Florence, four, with Tamzin, who’s expecting a second baby girl any day now.

We’re actually here in a trendy retro east London warehouse to talk about his new comedy series for Sky Living, Gates, in which he stars as builder Mark who’s forced to negotiate the political minefield of the school gates when his wife Helen (Gavin & Stacey’s Joanna Page) returns to work.

‘It’s about the pressure of the playground and the expectations of other parents,’ says Tom.

‘Of course, as soon as the mums see this new guy they get their claws into him and it all becomes a competition about who can befriend him and take him under their wings, with hilarious consequences. It’s alarmingly accurate.’

Tom strikes me as the sort of easy-going, happy-in-his-gorgeous-skin type who’s comfortable in most situations. His close friends include the hugely talented James McAvoy, Liam Gallagher, Holly Willoughby, Nicole Appleton and… well, you get the picture.

The son of a preacher and the only boy in a household of three girls, including a twin sister, he says that he’s usually as easy in the company of women as he is with men.

He’s certainly in touch with his feminine side. ‘I’m not a blokey bloke,’ he admits. ‘I don’t take myself too seriously. But that doesn’t stop me being a bad person sometimes and doing things I regret. Such as having a child with someone you’ve split up with then falling in love and wanting to spend the rest of your life with someone else. That’s quite difficult.’

Crikey. Tom’s lobbed this hand grenade of a confession into the conversation from left-field. Hang on. I presume the person he fell in love with and wanted to spend the rest of his life with is Tamzin? He nods. What about the ‘someone’ he wasn’t with? Nora’s mother, Estelle Morgan? Again he nods.

‘Estelle and I were friends at drama school in Glasgow and got together two years afterwards. As it was coming to an end she fell pregnant and wanted to have the baby. We tried to make it work but it didn’t. When I met Tamzin, Estelle was still pregnant so it was quite tricky.’

Tom was introduced to Tamzin seven years ago by James McAvoy. He was instantly smitten. ‘I’d had a bit of a crush on her when she was in EastEnders. She’s incredibly sexy,’ he says in his open, heart-on-the-sleeve fashion.

‘I remember we sat and talked and laughed for about three weeks solidly. It was just an incredible coming together. I’d met this person I’d completely fallen in love with and I knew she’d completely fallen in love with me, even though it seemed the worse possible timing. Tamzin was a complete rock.’

He proposed to her within a few months and they were married the following June, with James as best man. Today they continue to be blissfully happy in their home in London’s Crouch End with Florence. ‘When Flo was born it was a big wake-up call showing what I’d missed out on with Nora.’

As Estelle and Nora were living in Wales, Tom only saw his daughter on the weekends. ‘It was hard for Nora’s mum and I wasn’t there for that. I have a hell of a lot of respect for her because Nora’s a lovely, happy girl.’

When Tom Ellis was first asked to star in BBC2¿s brilliant hit comedy Miranda, the show¿s hilarious writer, actor and stand-up comic Miranda Hart wasn¿t even on his radar

When Tom Ellis was first asked to star in BBC2¿s brilliant hit comedy Miranda, the show¿s hilarious writer, actor and stand-up comic Miranda Hart wasn¿t even on his radar

Tom has none of the arrogance that so often goes hand-in-hand with celebrity. He never, you see, became an actor for the fame or the face licking. ‘I just love being at work,’ he says.

The acting bug struck when a teacher persuaded him to take theatre studies for A level and he discovered he was actually rather good. He later went to drama school in Glasgow, where he met James, the pair bonding as they appeared together in a panto in Fife.

‘That’s when we really cemented our friendship. It was the first Christmas I’d never been at home with my mum, dad and sisters. I only had one day off and couldn’t get home and back in time for the next show so James invited me to his nan and grandad’s house in Glasgow for Christmas day – our only day off. I don’t think he realised it at the time but that was very special. We’ve always sort of looked out for each other since then. He’s been a rock for me.’

Tom soon landed roles in ITV’s Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby and the sitcom Kiss Me Kate opposite Caroline Quentin. Then, until Miranda, his career stalled.

‘When I first left drama school I’d measure myself against James. My career was on an upward curvature but it wasn’t as steep as his. One night, over a bottle of  whisky, I admitted to an element of jealousy. He said, “Don’t be so stupid.” I’ve come to realise that we’re all unique and there’s no point trying to keep up to speed with someone else.’

Today, he’s one of Britain’s hottest young actors, soon to appear in a BBC1 adaptation of James Herbert’s gripping thriller The Secret Of Crickley Hall, as well as Gates and a third series of Miranda.

Next year, he says, he intends to try his luck in Hollywood for ‘pilot season’, the time of year when up-and-coming actors head to LA to try to get roles in new TV shows. And Tamzin and the girls will join him.

‘If I go there and it doesn’t work out I have a lovely career here so it’s not make or break.’ Chances are, though, they’ll be queuing up to lick his face.

Gates, Tuesday 14 August, 8.30pm, Sky Living.