“The gravity-defying ‘Wizard of Oz’ prequel” (Time Out) is coming to Edinburgh, playing for five weeks only from Tuesday 8 May to Saturday 9 June 2018. The Mumble managed to catch a wee blether
Your career has spanned TV and theatre. After EastEnders, is musical theatre something you wanted to go back to?
Absolutely, I always wanted to come back to musical theatre. Growing up, most of the youth theatre productions I did were musicals, so I feel like it’s where I came from and where I learnt the craft. I’ve always been more of a theatre lover to be honest.
Did you train as an actor?
I didn’t really have a typical training where you go off to drama school, as I was pretty young when I started on EastEnders. I was 18 when I was cast as Stephen Beale and it was my first job. Before that I was acting at Sixth Form College, so getting my first television job was a bit daunting but such a fantastic opportunity.
Was Wicked a show you’d always wanted to be in?
I first met the producers of Wicked about four years ago, and I came very close to joining the show then, so there has been a conversation about my playing Fiyero for quite a long time. I first saw the show about ten years ago and fell in love with it instantly. It’s such a great show with a really interesting political message.
Tell us a bit about your character in Wicked?
Fiyero is a student at Shiz University, which is where he meets Glinda and Elphaba as classmates. On the surface, he is a spoilt rich kid who’s a bit of trouble. But underneath all the bravado he has hidden depths, and it becomes clear that really he’s lonely and vulnerable, and is looking for some meaning to his life. He’s a great character to play.
What aspect of the show are you most enjoying? Do you have a big moment that you always look forward to?
The great thing about Wicked is that every song, every moment is hugely important to the story, so there are so many moments I could choose. Fiyero has two songs which are completely different in character, but I have a soft spot for “As Long As Your Mine”. This is a duet Fiyero sings with Elphaba, where they finally begin to be honest with each other about how they feel. It’s the first time we see Fiyero’s true character.
For anyone who have never seen Wicked, what do you think is the reason for its enduring success?
What audiences connect with the most is the story at the heart of Wicked. It’s a story of friendship, and standing up for what you believe in. It’s also a story of being misunderstood, which is something I think people of all ages feel at some stage. It’s a really special story which everyone can relate to. It’s also a spectacular production – what audiences will see in Edinburgh is the full West End show, which is an absolute visual feast.
What did you enjoy most about your time in EastEnders?
The people I met will always stay with me. They’re all stunningly talented. And the highlight for me was working on my exit storyline; it was difficult but a great challenge. I think in the end there was a lot of sympathy for Steven. He was a tragic character by nature, and he was really at his best when his back was against the wall and things were spiralling. His moments of happiness were very brief!
How does touring in a demanding musical compare to the experience of working on a long-running TV drama?
Working in TV and theatre requires totally different disciplines. In theatre, the need to keep yourself at the top of your game at all times is far greater. You’re performing live eight times a week and there are no second takes, so it’s really important to look after yourself.
How do you balance being in the show with family life?
I have an amazing family supporting me – my mum, sister and kids are all so understanding of the demands of touring. My partner Tricia is incredible.
We know you were once in a band – do you have any ambitions for reviving that side of your career?
Music is something that will always be part of my life, but I have no aspirations for it to be the central focus of my career. It’s definitely a passion and a hobby.
Do you have any plans for 2018 after Wicked, and what would you ideally like to do next?
2018 is all about Wicked for me, so I’m just living in the moment and enjoying every minute!