It feels good to be flexing the acting muscles again
Ready for a good stage fright? MARION MCMULLEN finds out how last year’s Strictly champ Joe McFadden is preparing to spook audiences with a ghostly thriller
How did you celebrate winning Strictly Come Dancing last year?
I WENT to Barcelona, and it was a really nice way to unwind from it all. Strictly is such a big show and you don’t realise how popular it is.
It felt like everyone in Britain was watching it, but you’re not really aware of that at the time because you are so busy rehearsing.
How tough were the dance rehearsals?
(LAUGHS) It was the fittest I had ever been. We were rehearsing 10 hours a day. I was a mass of aches and pains. I had pains in muscles I didn’t even know I had and lots of blisters.
I watch the dances now and I think ‘my hip was out that week and my neck was locked there.’
What has it been like since Strictly?
PEOPLE ask ‘Do you still dance?’ and I just laugh. You don’t take up dancing in your 40s. You give up dancing. Your muscles pack up. I’m certainly not looking at Covent Garden or the Opera House, but I’ve got good skills if I do a musical.
Are you looking forward to starting 2019 by scaring audiences with the world premiere of bestselling author Peter James’
The House On Cold Hill?
IT’S really, really exciting. There is a massive appreciation for Peter James’ work and the two plays that have been done before have both been very successful. I’m a massive horror fan, I really am, and I do love scary stuff.
How would you describe it? MOST ghost stories are set in the Victorian era, in the past, but this is a contemporary setting about a family who move from the city to the country and we very quickly learn that all is not as it seems with the house and the family.
It’s great as an actor to get your teeth into and it’s good to wind the audience up like a tight spring and have them jump out of their seats. It’s funny in places as well and it’s both a modern thriller and ghost story.
So not much chance for any dancing?
(LAUGHS) You say that, but at one point (voice assistant) Alexa starts playing this music and my character has a bit of a dance in the house on his own. The someone comes in and says: ‘I don’t think we’re going to see you on Strictly mate.’ It’s my favourite line in the play. Maybe that’s why they gave me the part.
When was your last stage show?
IT’S about five years since I was last on stage. I did Torch Song Trilogy at the Menier Chocolate Factory. That’s the show that the producers of Holby City came along to see and led to me working on the TV series.
I’ve been lucky to have done a lot of television over the last few years, but it feels good now to be flexing the stage acting muscles again. I think it’s a good thing for an actor to do.
When did the acting bug first hit?
I HAD a fantastic drama teacher in Glasgow who used to invite TV directors to come along to see our productions and I ended up on Taggart.
(Chuckles) I obviously looked like the sort of boy whose father had his head chopped off – young and wide-eyed and like a victim.
I never had the guts to go to drama school. I didn’t have that self-belief. It’s such a competitive industry.
I fell into television and I learned on the job. I taught myself to an extent and I’ve taken voice lessons and singing lessons over the years.
What was a turning point for you?
THE BBC mini-series The Crow Road changed my life. I’d always done soap operas up until then and I remember thinking ‘this is really good quality television’ and I was scared I was going to mess it up. But it’s good for you as a person to do things that take you out of your comfort zone.
I signed with an agent down south after The Crow Road and it opened a lot of doors for me. I did Cranford with Judi Dench and Eileen Atkins, was in Aladdin at the Old Vic with Ian McKellen and there has been Heartbeat and Holby as well.
For a long time I think I was a bit bemused by it all and thought it was not going to last. Even now, 30 years on, I still love acting so much and I think I’ve been very lucky to have done so many things, like Strictly.
How do you like to relax? I GO for walks with my dog, a cockapoo called Douglas, and I just enjoy normal stuff – watching scary films like the Halloween, Scream and Insidious movies and going to the theatre to check out what everyone else is doing.
I might go to the gym in January to lose a little bit of weight I’ll probably put on over Christmas, but that usually only lasts for a few weeks.
I’ve done Dry January in the past as well and I might give that a go again for 2019. ■ The world premiere of Peter James’ The House On Cold Hill tours the UK from January 23. Go to peterjames.com for details.
Joe lifted Strictly’s glitterball trophy in 2017 with his dance partner Katya Jones
Joe as Dr Jack Marshland in Cranford Wth his The Crow Road co-star Valerie Edmond Joe starred alongside fellowSir Ian McKellen (centre), Sam Kelly, Cat Simmons and Maureen Lipman in the panto Aladdin in 2004
Rita Simons stars with Joe in The House on Cold Hill from January next year