Talking Music : Lee Mead Discusses Anniversary Show – Part 2

Yesterday we published the first part of an interview with TV and stage star Lee Mead who is celebrating ten years since winning the coveted starring role of Joseph in the 2007 stage revival, an event that catapulted him into the public eye.

To celebrate this anniversary Lee is currently undertaking a yearlong anniversary tour in 2017/18 and he will be at The Riverfront, Newport on Saturday May 19 2018 at 7.30pm.

Today, Lee discusses lige after winning the TV show, Any Dream Will Do.

How did you feel when you were announced as the winner of Any Dream Will Do?

Weird things go through your head when Graham says, “The winner is…” I was thinking, “If I don’t win this, I don’t care because I’ve had the most wonderful experience.” Then Graham said, “3 million people have voted.” I had a little chuckle as I thought, “That’s a lot of people!” When he said my name, it was so surreal, like an out of body experience. I sank my head into my hands. A huge weight had lifted, and I was overcome by sense of a happiness. Then I thought, “Blimey, now I’ve actually got to do the role!” But that moment changed my life.

Did it feel like fate that you won Any Dream Will Do?

Yes. If I may say so, it did feel like it was my time. Everything came together. Joseph was the first show I’d seen. It was my favourite show and had always been part of my life. I simply love performing it. The greatest compliment I received was when Andrew said I was the best actor he’d ever seen playing Joseph.

Now you’re starring in Holby City. How did you land that role?

I was a guest in an episode of Casualty, playing Harry, a schoolteacher. Afterwards I got a handwritten letter from Oliver Kent, the executive producer. He wrote, “We were so impressed with what you did. You were such a gentleman on set. We’ll keep our eye on you.” I thought, “Yeah, you hear that all the time.” But two years later, the producers asked, “Could you come and audition? We have a character called Lofty who we think might be up your street.” Within two weeks, I was in Cardiff filming my first scene with Derek Thompson. He’s a lovely guy and has become a close friend.

Why has Holby remained so popular for so long?

People love the show. They like the familiarity of it. It has great characters, and the writers are constantly trying to keep it fresh with original storylines.  

You have a wonderful career, but what would you say is the most important thing in your life?

My seven-year-old daughter Betsy. I see my life as a pyramid, and Betsy is at the top of that. I’m fortunate in that I have a very busy career. It’s great to have work, but if ever I feel I’m not getting the balance right, I check myself and get back to the idea of the pyramid. Betsy always comes first.

Can you give us an example of that?

Yes recently when I was recording my new album Betsy was in her school play.   I’m in the middle of recording my new album, but I’m not going to miss her play. So I am going to watch it and then I’ll come into the studio afterwards. We all have priorities, and I put Betsy first. I’ve turned down major jobs on big shows because of her. There were big opportunities I could have taken, but for me there is nothing is more important than being a dad. Every time I see her, I feel recharged.

It’s an enormous responsibility being a parent, isn’t it?

 It is. You hope that when they are young, you bring them up correctly, put the work in and instil the right principles in them, so that when they’re older they make the right decisions.

Lee Mead brings his tenth anniversary show to Newport Riverfront on May 19.Lee Mead brings his tenth anniversary show to Newport Riverfront on May 19.

Lee Mead brings his tenth anniversary show to Newport Riverfront on May 19.

You have constantly worked hard for her sake, haven’t you?

Yes. When I got a part in the West End production of Wicked, I had a very intensive, ten-day rehearsal period. Betsy was born right in the middle of it, and I spent that time dashing backwards and forwards across London in a taxi. Looking back, it was insane. I remember holding Betsy and the script for Wicked on my chest and just falling asleep. But it was 10 months’ work, and as I had just become a dad, I couldn’t afford to turn it down.

But you have always been a grafter, haven’t you?

Yes. My first job was as a paperboy. I’d be up every morning at 5.30 to work two hours, going up and down hills delivering papers. I would save five pounds a week from the paper round and use the money to buy Christmas presents and go to play snooker on a Saturday morning. Every week, I’d treat myself to a packet of crisps and a Coke. I was living the dream! So very early on, I learnt how to earn a living and the value of money. I want Betsy to learn that, too.

Where do you think that very strong work ethic comes from?

My dad. He’s my hero. He would work a 90 hour week as a postman. My parents had nothing, but they would do anything for us. He spent £400 for my costumes when I was at college which he really couldn’t afford but he wanted me to have every opportunity.  That’s where my work 

What was your upbringing like?

I had a very happy childhood full of love.  My parents have been together nearly 40 years and have been through a lot together.   They have set a very high benchmark for relationships. I have so much admiration for them.

How do your parents view your career?

They’re very proud of me, but they remain very unaffected. I’ll say to them, “I’ve just recorded an album,” or “I’ve just sung for Andrew Lloyd Webber,” and they will reply, “Do you want mash or chips?” I love that normality. That’s how it should be.

Have you ever been motivated by money?

No. I’ve turned down jobs that pay better because I want to make the right choices. I have sometimes done jobs for nothing. Money doesn’t drive me.

How would you sum up your approach to the business?

 I’ve never taken anything for granted.  Some kids these days don’t want to do jobs for free. They think they’ll simply walk into the West End. But it doesn’t work like that. I give lectures in colleges and tell the students that they’ll be lucky if they work for six months a year. The first couple of years, I only earned £7000 a year.

Do you still get the same pleasure as always out of your work?

Absolutely. For me it’s never been about money or fame or applause. I just love making people happy. I get as much pleasure out of playing to 80 people in a small room as to 80,000 at Wembley Stadium when I was invited to sing for the concert for Diana. It’s the same buzz for me. I adore connecting with people through music. I love my work. It’s a great privilege. I’m a very, very lucky guy.

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