At the time of the interview, Mark Evans was starring as Fiyero in Wicked The Musical at the Apollo Victoria Theatre London. Earlier this week Mark took some time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions about himself and his career in what is a fabulous interview!
As a farmer’s son, what was it like growing up on a farm?
I never thought anything of it at the time, it was just normal. I look back now and realise just how lucky I was to have such a wonderful childhood and upbringing in such a beautiful countryside, but when I was younger I was never interested in the farm, I was rarely there as I was at singing, acting, dancing lessons after school.
You started singing, acting and dancing between the ages of 10 and 12, how did that all come about?
We had a new music teacher come to our primary school when I was in my last year there and by teaching us in the choir she noticed I could sing and gave me the opportunity to sing a solo in the Christmas concert which I ended up loving. She submitted me for lots of Welsh language singing competitions and the Eisteddfod festivals. In the meantime I started acting lessons every Saturday and then my mum noticed an ad in the weekly paper for a dance school in the local area and asked if I fancied going. Thinking back, that was a massive thing and I have so much to thank my mum for. For a farmer’s wife to suggest her son go to disco dancing classes is not the done thing but she took me along to watch and then I joined and was the only boy in the whole school of over 200 pupils for 6 years. I was always singing, acting and dancing. I couldn’t even sit through an episode of Eastenders without going into our dining room, which I called my studio, to work on some singing and using the nozzle end off my mum’s vacuum cleaner to practise my microphone technique.
What was it like growing up wanting to do something different to what many other young boys would have been doing?
I loved having such a great hobby and I’m so happy that I did, or else I wouldn’t be where I am now, doing what I’m doing for a living and loving it. But I had to deal with a lot of bullying at school. People calling me queer, poof, and much worse simply because I went to dance classes, which is absurd. Boys dance and it doesn’t automatically ‘make you gay’. The great thing now is that because of TV shows like Britain’s Got Talent who’ve launched the careers of dance troops like Diversity, dancing, particularly for boys and men is now considered much more of a sport than it ever has been before which I suppose makes it slightly less alien to people who are narrow-minded. I’m a positive person and look back on that period and thank the nasty people who gave me a tough time because they made me strong to deal with any knock-backs the industry throws at me and also provided me with some great material to write about for my debut album!
You attended a Summer School in London when you were fifteen, what was that experience like and how did it lay the foundation for your career in acting?
As I said I was always singing, acting and dancing as a hobby but never realised I could do it as a career until I attended a week long summer school when I was 15 at Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom, Surrey which is where I eventually ended up training professionally a year and a half later. I loved that week and am so glad I did it and that’s why I set up my summer school West End in Wales, so that I can give other talented youngsters the opportunity to discover that what they love so much can be, with a lot of hard work and determination the way they earn a living.
Where did you train to be an actor and what are some of your favourite memories of that time?
I trained professionally at Laine Theatre Arts. The best thing about it was being trained by industry professionals who offered so much invaluable information that I just soaked up and the most amazing memories are just all of the good times I had with amazing friends who I’m still really close to now, 6 years later.
What was your first professional role and how did it feel to have finally made it?
While I was training I did a couple of pantos and was a dancer for loads of artists in the music industry and did TV shows and pop videos so was very lucky to learn a lot that way, but my first job upon graduation was playing Brother Caleb in the UK tour of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
You were runner-up on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s show ‘Your Country Needs You’, what was it like being in a show of that type?
It was great. I never thought I’d do anything like that, but when the opportunity arose and the casting director said they needed a solo tenor, and asked if I’d go in and audition for Andrew, I agreed and then had an incredible few weeks with the program. It was an experience like no other, going live to millions of people on national television and then standing there waiting to hear if people had picked up the phone to vote for you. It’s terrifying and I can’t watch any reality TV talent program’s results show now without having that feeling surging back into my stomach again – it’s like an overdose of adrenaline, excitement and fear which makes you feel slightly sick. I would not have changed anything about it at all, and am so glad I did it.
You performed as Curly in the UK Tour of Oklahoma, ‘Caleb’ in Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and also as Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show UK Tour. What was it like being on tour and what were some of your favourite memories of those shows?
Being on tour is great as the social life is much better and everyone is like a big family because the only people you know in whatever town you’re in are the people you work with so it becomes a bit of a bubble. This eventually also becomes a little too much towards the end of a contract though. When the time to go back to reality and normality gets closer, you start to crave it even more so I find that everyone in the ‘tour bubble’ starts to get a little more irritated and you know it’s time to end the job. Touring is wonderful though to experience all the different cities and towns and theatres and audiences and meet people. I loved touring with Oklahoma because I met so many people at the stage doors who’d supported me in everything since I was on the BBC program. I find it hard to believe sometimes what support I have from people who want to follow my career, even from some people who’ve never seen me live or never met me. I never pictured myself to be in the position to have a fan base and now I have a crowd of very loyal and lovely fans to whom I am very grateful and adore.
Troy Bolton in High School Musical at The Hammersmith Apollo was a brilliant lead role to play. What was it like playing in the musical and as one of the lead characters?
It was great to play that role – made famous by Zac Efron. It was iconic and he had a real cult following. I was lucky that they embraced me as the character and as the actor who’d been given the responsibility to portray Troy Bolton in the live On Stage version in London. The great thing from a creative point of view was that the director said to me on the first day of rehearsals “Remember, I hired you to play Troy Bolton, not Zac Efron so look at the script and make this role your own” and I really did have a lot of input which was great for me, as it was my first lead role and it gave me a massive boost to play such a lead role in the original London production of the show.
You were part of the Ensemble in Chess at The Royal Albert Hall, what was it like playing in such a fabulous venue?
I’ve done a few things at The Royal Albert Hall and worked with some incredible people and Chess was a fantastic job. I love things like that where it’s two weeks intense rehearsals and then a couple of performances and then on to the next. I use every opportunity I can in life to learn, so being able to watch and chat with the likes of Adam Pascal, Josh Groban and Idina Menzel was amazing.
As well as performing in one of the largest theatres in the West End at the Apollo Victoria, you have also performed off-West End at the Jermyn Street Theatre and as ‘Prince Charming’ in Cinderella at the Churchill Theatre Bromley. How does it compare working in such different venues?
Every actor has a tick-list I believe, and I have many things on mine. One of which was to experience playing a really intimate venue. The Jermyn Street Theatre holds about 70 people and you are practically acting on their laps and singing in their faces. I actually embraced the challenge and really enjoyed it, but a challenge is definitely how I’d describe playing a venue like that. You become so much more aware of the fact you have people watching you as you can see them all clearly, where as in a venue like the Apollo Victoria, you know there are nearly 2500 people out there every night but because you can’t see them it’s easier to focus on what you’re doing and forget that they’re there.
You are seen regularly on the Welsh speaking channel S4C, what is it like performing on television compared to the stage and how important is the Welsh language to you?
If it wasn’t for me speaking Welsh I wouldn’t be performing. All the competitions and festivals I took part in during my teenage years were in Welsh and if I hadn’t have done them, I would no way have had the confidence to break out of the tiny little area where I grew up to pursue a career. So I am eternally grateful and a very patriotic proud Welsh speaking Welsh man. All my Dad’s side of the family are Welsh so I was raised completely bi-lingual.
Working on the Welsh TV circuit is amazing. In some ways it’s almost like I have a separate career to my West End and musical theatre career. I have a documentary being made on my life this year, my own radio program being commissioned, my own light entertainment TV show coming up, I play the title role on a kid’s TV show called ‘Marcaroni’ and I am a regular guest on many of the Welsh TV programs – none of this would come my way if I didn’t speak Welsh and it adds such variety in my career and in my life which is important, because to me that means I’ll never get bored and will continue to have an interesting career for as long as I want to have one. Cymru am byth!!!
You set up a project called West End in Wales in 2006 to promote youth theatre in the area where you are from. Can you tell me about this project?
Well I’ve explained how I grew up and had a hard time for being different, so I wanted to provide the opportunity I had at the Laine summer school when I was 15, but in the local area, at less than half the cost, but with the exact same standard of teaching and opportunity. It’s a course lasting six days consisting of rehearsals and workshops with myself as well as a faculty made up of West End artistes and professionally trained teachers. It culminates in a one hour showcase which is of an extremely high standard and performed to the students’ family/friends and invited industry professionals. I want to show as many young people that anything is possible with passion and hard work and that’s not just the talent of Wales, it’s open to everyone world-wide between 10-18, no experience necessary – we had youngsters from all over join the summer school from UK, Europe, South America. Everyone is welcome and is guaranteed to benefit from it and have a great time spending a week in the company of people who share the same interests and have the same ambitions.
Having appeared on stage, television and film, do you have a preference?
My main plan for my career is to experience longevity and variety and so I love every aspect of it. Everything is so different. I love screen acting because you can be a little more natural and real where as theatre especially in venues like the Apollo Victoria, which is huge, your performance has to be slightly heightened. But I adore theatre too because you get a thrill from perusing live. Acting is so interesting, because you play and live in these moments as these characters and then you’ll never get those moments back, and these moments entertain people and can affect them in some way – it’s just wonderful. I also love all the TV work I do as myself and not as an actor in character – concerts, presenting and any recording work I do because it’s very different. It is harder in a way because you’re more exposed standing on stage as yourself as opposed to feeling safe and concealed within a character.
You first appeared in the Ensemble in Wicked, what was that like?
That was an amazing 11 months. I understudied Fiyero and only got to play the role once in the entire contract but it was that one night I played Fiyero that cemented in my head that I wanted to push myself to playing roles instead of being in the ensemble. At the end of the contract I said to myself just before the overture of my last show started “I will come back and play Fiyero!”, which makes it so much more special that I’m back playing the role.
Starring as Fiyero in Wicked The Musical, can you tell me about your interpretation of the character and his relationship with the other characters?
Fiyero is actually a difficult character to get right for an actor I think. He arrives on the scene as a very cool, laid back, borderline arrogant prince who’s been kicked out of numerous schools for basically not playing by the rules and not fitting the mould. He falls deeply in love with the most popular girl in the school who is Galinda. They are the stereotypical prom king and queen type you could say. Then a sudden moment happens with the green girl Elphaba when they find themselves alone in the forest having rescued a lion cub and this shakes up Fiyero’s entire life and being. From that moment on Fiyero continues to be the loved up prince with Glinda, but there is this deep, underlying anxiety and intrigue over how he thinks of Elphaba that keeps recurring. Getting the balance right as an actor between loving these two people is very difficult, particularly because so much of the acting for Fiyero is not done through the dialogue in the script it’s done internally which makes him a very troubled soul.
Wicked is one of the top shows in London at the moment, what is it about the musical that makes it so successful?
Wicked in my opinion has everything a West End or Broadway show should have and more. The songs are incredible, the scenery is unbelievably spectacular, the lighting is awesome, the costumes are so interesting and expensive looking, they always have a fantastic cast – but the thing that makes the show so good is that everyone in the audience gets affected by it in one way or another. For me, theatre is about moving people, affecting people whether it be good or bad. It’s about forgetting your life for a few hours and experiencing the journey of that show in whatever way you interpret that journey. Wicked has so many things people can relate to, bullying, segregation, love, loss, mourning, hurt, joy, laughter and then to top all of this off, and this is what makes Wicked stand out way above the rest, is that people have an unconscious familiarity with it before it’s even begun because of The Wizard Of Oz – watching the story of Wicked unfold, you almost insist that it must have been written before The Wizard Of Oz.
What is it like backstage on Wicked?
You’d never believe by watching the show with its huge sets and lavish costumes just how small and tight it is backstage at Wicked. All the scenery is flown up above in the wings to make more room. All the ensemble costumes and the quick change area are under the stage. There is no way of crossing from stage left to stage right on stage level so you have to go down lots of stairs one side, walk underneath and then up a lot of stairs the other side which sometimes we have to do with very little time to spare. The dressing rooms are spread all over the building on opposite sides and on many different levels. As for the feel and mood backstage at Wicked, I don’t know that I have ever been a part of a happier more fun company. We have a great time.
What is a typical working day for you?
As an actor, getting to perform for a living is not like work at all, it’s like being paid to do the thing I’ve enjoyed for all my teenage years and through my training. I wake about 9am and more or less start working on lots of projects between my summer school, my album, my TV show, my radio show as well as constant meetings with my manager about other projects we’re working on for the future. Mix in the odd lunch or coffee with a friend to keep me sane and with some sort of social life, and a few trips to the gym each week and that’s a general idea of what I get up to.
Can you tell me about your forthcoming album?
‘The Journey Home’ is my bi-lingual English and Welsh 12-track debut album being released on iTunes, Amazon, HMV, www.sainwales.com, www.markevansonline.co.uk and available to buy in many shops too. The music I would describe as easy listening, but a real mix between emotive ballads and up tempo light rock songs. A mixture of new and original songs and some familiar songs which I’ve had translated into Welsh exclusively for my album. The tracks I’ve recorded are specially selected to give the album an autobiographical theme running from the first few songs through to the title track at the end. It’s been 10 years since I left home so this album is a celebration of all the highs and lows and is very personal.
You have your own website with a regular blog, together with being popular on social networking sites. How important are your fans to you?
I will never ever take my fans for granted. The support and love I get from people is amazing and I think I can safely say that every actor is their own biggest critic and I can be very hard on myself as I’m a perfectionist. To get letters and gifts and tweets and messages from fans saying wonderful things is a real boost, which is the very reason I write my weekly blog and try to be as active as possible on my social networking sites as it’s the main way I can give something back to show my gratitude.
When did you first start using the expression “Sh-Boom”?
Hahahaha. I love it! I bought the debut album of the vocal harmony group ‘The Overtones’ when they were less known publicly than they are now and I loved the song Sh-boom. It always put me in a great mood and because I’m such a naturally positive person I decided that should be my motto, but to be honest I never thought it would stick it’s because my fans took to it so well and seemed to love it that I still use it now. I still love the song and think the Overtones deserve much success.
Are there any particular roles that you would like to play in the future, and is there anyone that you would really love to play alongside?
I’d like to play opposite Julia Roberts, Julie Walters and Hugh Jackman. As far as roles for me are concerned, it’s important to me that I don’t get type cast and stick in one casting bracket, I always want to learn and I love being challenged so I want to play anything that excites me, interests me or challenges me and I will only ever take a job if it is a step in the right direction.
Any message that you would say to say to your fans?
I’ve already written how I feel about them so all that’s left to say is Thank you and Sh-Boom!
You can follow Mark on Twitter @MarkHEvans