Neil Morrissey: 'No, I'm NOT scared of commitment!'
by LESTER MIDDLEHURST
Last updated at 14:38 03 January 2008
The Pedigree Adopt a Dog Campaign aims to raise at least £500,000 for charity-run dogs' homes as well as finding more owners for homeless dogs.
The 45-year- old actor is perfect in more ways than one for the task. Not only has he adopted a dog himself - a six-year-old Jack Russell cross called Tiggy - but his own background bears more than a passing resemblance to the plight of Britain's homeless pooches.
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As well as spending most of his adulthood bouncing from lover to lover, he also had a childhood marked by trauma when he was taken from his parents at the age of ten and sent to foster carers.
Yet, despite his insistence that his unstable upbringing has had little effect on his adult life, it is plain he has had difficulty sustaining lasting relationships.
His only marriage, to actress Amanda Noar, lasted for three years. Then he was engaged to actress Liz Carling, had a romance with actress Rachel Weisz and an infamous affair with Amanda Holden when she was married to Les Dennis.
He certainly doesn't believe he is incapable of sustaining a relationship because of his upbringing. "I don't have any commitment problems. I've had a few girlfriends, like most people. So I'm no different from anyone else."
Certainly, his latest relationship, with 36-year-old lawyer Emma Killick, seems to be standing the test of time. They have been together for four years and share a house, and custody of their dog, Tiggy, in North London.
Interestingly, when the couple met five years ago, in California, where Emma was working, Neil asked her to move to London with him.
She refused and, instead, made him move to Los Angeles for a year to prove how committed he was. He says: "If I'd met Emma ten years ago, I know I would have adored her as I do now, but it's difficult to speculate whether or not I would have been ready to settle down with her then.
But the fact that she is not an actress has to be a big factor. Actresses are all mad!
"Emma is a lawyer and is very organised, and I can be a bit scatty, so we counter-balance each other well. I just love her to bits.
"We've talked about marriage, but I haven't proposed and it's not on the agenda right now. Having children together is also a possibility, but there's nothing definite either."
Middle age certainly seems to have mellowed Neil. When he talks about spending time with Emma, one can almost picture him in carpet slippers. They are virtually inseparable, despite his work commitments.
In the past six months, while working on the BBC1 drama Waterloo Road - in which he plays deputy headmaster Eddie Lawson - he slept in his own bed only four times, but Emma usually tries to join him while he is filming.
"I drink a lot less than I used to and I go out a lot less. I would rather sit at home with Emma and enjoy a nice bottle of red wine than be going to parties.
"I don't even like being out late any more. I'd rather have friends round for dinner than be propping up the bar at Soho House till 4am."
So Neil has, at last, found the peace which has eluded him since, as a ten-year-old with his older brother, Stephen - who died in 1997 - he went on a shoplifting and burglary spree.
They became the subject of a care order and were put into a children's home, where Neil remained until he was 17. "Any psychologist will tell you that I have abandonment issues,' says the actor, without a trace of self-pity.
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"So I can certainly identify with homeless dogs. But I'm at peace with all that. I believe you have to be part of a solution, not a problem.
"You can spend your life dwelling on the past and trying to figure out what the problems were, but it doesn't help you in the present. Obviously some people are more damaged than others, and who's to say that underneath this bright veneer I'm not damaged?"
If he is damaged, then Neil hides it well - although ten years ago he did go into therapy. "It was a sort of exercise in self- discovery. I had about four sessions but, frankly, I found it a bit of a waste of time."
He seems to bear no resentment towards his late father, Larry, and his mother May, who lives in Wales, where Neil owns a hotel and two pubs. He describes his parents as "good people, but bad parents. As a result of the way I was brought up, I'm here now as me which is a good place to be".
The resourcefulness Neil displays now as a businessman and actor was evident in his late teens.
When he was 17, he wanted to go to a particular sixth-form college, so he advertised for foster parents in the college's catchment area. He lived with the couple for two years.
It seemed like a case of 'out of the frying pan and into the fire'. His foster father suddenly announced he was gay and the marriage broke up. But Neil talks about the couple with a fondness that most people would reserve for their real parents.
"I was really lucky to have the foster parents I had,' he recalls. 'They were fabulous people. It was a dysfunctional set-up, but in all the right ways. When you think of a regimented children's home, the staff who come in can't really be like normal parents. I don't remember ever being cuddled by an adult when I was in the home."
Neil's refusal to dwell on his childhood as a bad experience is a testament to his resilience. He doesn't even think he had a worse life than his own son, Sam, now 17, the product of that short-lived marriage to Amanda Noar.
"Sam has been very well brought up by his mum and her husband. They live 15 minutes up the road from me, and we all get on like a house on fire. Sam has had a good, public-school education, is an A-grade student and is just as independent as I was. He can't wait to leave home and go to university.
"I remember being in the kids' home and thinking: 'I can't wait to get away from here.' It wasn't because I hated it so much. I was just being a normal, natural teenager who couldn't wait to get out into the big, wide world, and my son is exactly the same."
Although he has never quite repeated the phenomenal career success he enjoyed in Men Behaving Badly as the hapless Tony, Neil has worked steadily and earned a tidy sum providing the voice of Bob The Builder.
His diversification as a businessman has, by his own admission, been 'scary' at times, but he insists his leisure industry empire is secure and, next year, plans to open a brewery with TV chef and beer connoisseur Richard Fox. Their efforts will be filmed by Channel 4.
But until March he is committed to fronting the Adopt-A-Dog campaign, for which he has made a TV commercial and will be promoting throughout the country, including a trip to Crufts.
As for his own abandonment issues, Neil says: "I always had an imagination and a determination to succeed when I was in the children's home.
"What I would say to kids in the same situation is to keep dreaming and work at fulfilling your dreams. Appreciate your past and don't pile guilt on yourself. Life shouldn't be about regrets."
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