Lee Mead Q&A
The Joseph and Holby City star talks career, pinch yourself moments and wardrobe malfunctions to Muddy ahead of his My Story shows coming to Sussex.
It was being cast as Danny in a school production of Grease that first lit in Lee Mead the ambition for a career on the stage. Fast forward to 2007 and he won TV talent show Any Dream Will Do, landing himself the lead in the West End’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. A stage and TV regular ever since, he talks to Muddy about his career, pinch yourself moments, wardrobe malfunctions and his new personal show Lee Mead: My Story coming up at The Capitol, Horsham this month.
You’ve had a crazy ride over the last decade or so. What have been your highlights?
I have been lucky – there have been quite a few.
Being in the first panto at the London Palladium for 30 years, appearing as the prince in Cinderella… I used to walk past the Palladium as a kid and to me it’s the greatest theatre in the world. We were there for five weeks and sold out every night.
….The Tribute concert to Lady Di performing Any Dream Will Do with Donny Osmond and Jason Donovan…A record deal, a gold album.
I have always tried to work hard and be decent to work with.
What were you doing before your big break?
I’d been working six or seven years as a jobbing actor in musical chorus lines including Miss Saigon and Phantom. My first paid entertainment job was actually on a P&O ferry called the Pride of Bilbao working with a band in front of an audience for the first time.
I didn’t have a conventional route. I didn’t go to RADA, I’ve learnt on the job and I think that’s the way really. I still tell people ‘you can still make it if you have the talent and work hard’.
What can we expect from your My Story show?
It will be a Parky-style show. Just after the programme I was asked to write a life story. At 25 that didn’t make much sense really, I thought I’d give it a few more years. Now I’m at this stage of my life, approaching 40, I thought it would be nice to do it and sing a few songs.
I talk to Beverley Humphreys who has worked for the Beeb for 20 odd years. She asks questions, we cover the high points, and the low points as well. Because it’s personal it’s been the hardest show I’ve done. It’s two and a half hours with quite a few songs and going right back to my childhood.
There are things about my first job … and stories, like on the show when I was in Majorca down to the final three I was sitting on my own at the piano with Andrew Lloyds Webber and he said to me “what do you think of these chords? I’m writing a sequel to Phantom of the Opera.” I was one of the first people in the world to hear Love Never Dies. That’s not bad for a guy from Southend.
What are your favourite songs from the musicals?
Hushabye Mountain from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – it is a simple but beautiful song and it’s a turning point for Caractacus Pott. It’s about moving forward and letting go. So it’s a really sweet moment and I’ve sung that to my daughter as well so it’s personal. Also, from Joseph, Close Every Door To Me is a powerful ballad. I must have sung it over a 1,000 times but it never grows old for me.
We open the show with Some of Us Belong to the Stars from Billy Liar. It’s a about a young kid who has a dream and that was me growing up.
There is also a Joseph medley. I was actually in a touring production of Joseph when I was 20 and I was cast as the Pharaoh then so I do some of his songs too [breaks into an Elvis impersonation]
We also have a Big Screen with VT messages from friends and so on.
You’re just filming the next series of Holby City – any plot hints you can give us?
I can only tell you I have some big storylines. It all kicks off for Lofty!
I knew executive producer Oliver Kent and the part was actually written with me in mind. Before Casualty [where Lee appeared before Holby] I’d been wanting to break into TV for years. In America the transition from Broadway to TV is quite accepted but not from stage here so much.
Do you ever get the urge to break into song at key plot points?
That actually happens every day! I’m quite known on set for that. The crew and I have a bit of fun and banter.
I sing every day and I’m grateful they let me off for a few weeks to go and do panto at Xmas.
What’s next for you?
I try to plan a year ahead. I hope to release my 6th album next year and go on tour again.