Globe Columnist Peter Grant talks to actor Paul McGann.

THE last time I spoke to Paul McGann he was gripping a cup of tea while mopping his brow in a film trailer.

He had endured a tough day filming in a block of flats in Liverpool - 26 floors high.

"I am scared of heights", he told me then, ashen-faced.

The film was Downtime in which he played Rob - an ex-cop who is sent to talk down a woman who wants to commit suicide.

"I don't know why I agreed to do it having a fear of heights", he laughs, twenty years on remembering the on-location scenes.

"I haven't got a good memory. But I do remember that".

He also recalls chatting to a young actor - a fellow Liverpudlian who became an A-lister star - called Stephen Graham.

Paul laughs: "It makes you think about who you are talking to in life on any one day.

"I guess we should all be kind when we talk to each other. You don't know where or what we all go on to do".

Paul is the eldest of the talented McGann family.

Each is a star in his own right. And each has excelled on stage and screen.

They even appeared together in the West End and shared top billing in the ITV drama The Hanging Gale about the Irish Potato Famine Mark made his name in the Everyman musical Lennon; Joe in the long-running sit-com The Upper Hand and Stephen is currently in the BBC's smash hit drama Call the Midwife.

Sister Claire also works in televsion and stage.

Paul, 57, laughs when he says his first job was in a shoe shop at 17.

He was encouraged by a teacher to audition for RADA. The rest is history.

He has enjoyed his fair share of success appearing in Alan Bleasdale's The Monocled Mutineer in 1986 and the cult film Withnail ánd I and, of course, he was the eigth Doctor Who.

He still provides the voice of the doctor for best-selling audio versions Now he is looking forward to appearing at the Liverpool Playhouse (he was last there 30 years ago) in the thriller Gabriel by Moira Buffini.

It is a wartime romance full of intrigue.

A family held captive in Nazi-occupied Guernsey in 1943 when a mysterious stranger with no history a arrives on the scene.

Paul who has just appeared on Loose Women on TV "an eye-opener", took time to speak to the Wirral Globe about a forthcoming powerful stage drama.

He said: "It centres on a widow and mother, Jeanne - played by Belinda Laing - who does whatever it takes to keep her adolescent daughter Estelle and daughter-in-law LLily safe on an island filled with danger and fear".

Her toughest test arrives in the form of a terrifying Nazi soldier.

Paul said: "I play Major Von Pfunz, who's romantic advances are maybe the only way to keep the family alive. He is smitten with her".

Tensions intensify when a mysterious younyoung man (played by Rob Morrissey) is washed ashore with no memory of who he is.

Fluent in German and the Queen's English, is he an RAF pilot, an SS interrogator, a local boy with amnesia or a saviour sent from heaven?

Paul has researched the occupation of Guernsey and director Kate McGregor visited the Island.

He said: "Unlike the recent SS-GB series where Hitler wins the war, the GeGermans did occupy the Channel Islands for five years. They were that close.

"My character is in charge and it's a bit of a doddle for him even though there are labour camps to run".

Paul says the play will appeal to all ages and he says one of the central characters is a kid who is very important to the story.

"I don't want to give anything away, but it is a real thriller.

"Even as we were reading through it we were all wondering 'how is this going to end?' ''

I ask him if donning the Nazi uniform affected him?

After all, actors Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes both said playing SS men in uniform had a chilling effect on them.

"Yes. Definitely - I know exactly what they mean" says Paul, who appears on the striking poster looking decidedly sinister.

A stare be-fitting a character who is a jew-hating Nazi army officer.

"I remember doing the photo shoot six months and told to 'look hard'. It wasn't difficult".

He says he has a few projects in the pipeline after Gabriel, but he doesn't know what his other siblings are up to.

"We made a policy never to talk about work when we meet up. It is out of bounds. We all catch up on other things - not jobs.

"Our mum Claire is the one to speak to about what each of us is doing.

"She is the McGann family font of knowledge".

There is one massive bonus to appearing in Gabriel, Paul won't have to scale any heights treading the Playhouse boards.

"It will be great being back in Liverpool. I am looking forward to playing there.

"You know, I seem to have played soldiers at least once a year throughout my 40-year career from World War 1 to the Gulf War and the Falklands.

"Someone must like putting uniforms on me".

Gabriel is at the Liverpool Playhouse from April 4-8.

Tickets are from the box office on 0151 709 4776.