Sunday, 10 April 2016

Big Interview: Danny Mac

Danny Mac is currently starring as Warner in Nikolai Foster's production of Legally Blonde at the Curve Leicester.

The production begins performances tomorrow (11th April) and runs until 14th May 2016 with the cast also including Lucie Jones, Jon Robyns and Tupele Dorgu.

Danny is best known for starring as Mark 'Dodger' Savage for four years in Channel 4's Hollyoaks. After graduating from ArtsEd, Danny understudied Boq in the West End production of Wicked for two years. As a child he played Gavroche in the West End and UK touring productions of Les Miserables.

I recently spoke to Danny about why this new production of Legally Blonde is going to feel so fresh, what parts of the show he’s looking forward to performing and how it feels to be returning to theatre. We also discussed his time in Hollyoaks, memories of Wicked and why playing Gavroche led him to pursuing a career in performing…

Warner is such a fun role, was it on your radar? Was it a part you had thought you might be suited for?
I think so… I hadn’t really thought about doing a musical straight off the back of Hollyoaks. I knew Legally Blonde The Musical and loved it – Warner was definitely a part I would have loved to play, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind until this production came up at Curve.

So what was your reaction when your agent phoned and said “Curve are doing Legally Blonde and want to see you for Warner”?
I was really interested because I had wanted to work at Curve and really wanted to work with Nikolai (Foster, artistic director). I had the pleasure of working with him when I was at college for a term and think he’s fantastic. So when the opportunity came up it was perfect! I was over the moon!

Phoebe Street & Danny in rehearsals 

How did it feel going back into a rehearsal room for a musical?
It was strange because it was six years since I had last done a musical! Plus I started the week after everyone else which was also a bit strange. When I went into Wicked I was fresh out of college and ready – I was like a sponge! Six or seven years have passed, and now I’m back in the same type of process… it feels like I’ve travelled through time [laughs]. Although I feel older and a lot less practised! You see all these other guys jumping around and I was like, ‘I remember those days’.

After working on screen for so many years, it must be so nice to suddenly have the luxury of a rehearsal process?
It really is! Having a rehearsal room was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. It’s a joy being able to play around and make mistakes – you know you have time to work on stuff and make it better. Even though it has been a long time since I’ve done a musical, I didn’t go in freaking out thinking ‘I need to get this right in five minutes’ which is where I’ve been for the past six years. It has been nice to be able to practise and play! And you can have so much fun with everyone else in rehearsals – it’s so nice to be a part of a cast and to be able to share it with everyone. For the past six years I’ve been more used to it usually just being me and one or two other people.

How was it meeting everyone?
I thought it was going to be a lot worse coming in late to rehearsals, but I think it was actually slightly better! Mainly because they really are the nicest bunch of people and we’re all having so much fun. They all got to know each other during the first week, and then I came in and they were like “here he is” – I feel like I slotted straight in. There’s always one or two in the company who you think ‘Oh god, I don’t think I could manage a year with these guys’. but there isn’t anybody… so unless it’s me… I don’t think we’ve got one [laughs]. 

What parts of the show are you looking forward to performing each night? ‘Serious’ is such a gift of a song!
It’s slightly nerve-racking that ‘Serious’ is the first number! There’s the opening song, and then ‘Serious’ is the first one anyone gets to sing… and I don’t even sing during the opening so it’s the first time I sing. It’s strange! When we did the read through, which was the first thing we did on my first day, I was worrying and panicking, but I did it and then it was out of the way so I got to relax and enjoy everyone else for the rest of it. So it’s nice that I get it out the way and can then get on with my other bits. ‘Gay or European’ has always been one of my favourite moments in the show [laughs], I think it’s hilarious! We’re going to have some slightly different takes on things which will be nice.

Does this production feel quite fresh? Will people who know the show be happily surprised?
I hope so! I don’t think Nikolai or Curve are wanting to put on this production to copy what the West End had – they had a great production but you wouldn’t want to copy it and then change bits of the same show because it was so good as it was. You have no choice but to hit it afresh and try and find something new; obviously there are bits which will be similar because of how it’s written. It’s definitely fresh and it’s definitely a new production. It will be down to taste what people prefer if they’ve seen both but I definitely think it will be worth watching, regardless whether you know the show or not. We’re approaching it like a brand new show – it’s like we’re learning it for the first time.

Interestingly I think Legally Blonde The Musical works so much better (no pun intended) as a musical than as a film! It’s also interesting that the show ran in London for much longer than it did on Broadway. What do you think is the secret to its success? Why do UK audiences love it?
I have said exactly the same thing! I only saw the film recently. Maybe it was because I already knew the musical and kept wanting them to break into song, but I think the structure of the show is better than the film. It tells the story and makes you care more for certain characters – I think **spoiler alert** Emmett and Elle’s relationship is much stronger in the show than it is in the film. I think their relationship really drives the show, ‘Chip On Your Shoulder’ is an incredible number – I said it to Jon (Robyns, Emmett) when we were rehearsing. That song ploughs the show on, I think it’s one of my favourite numbers just because of its intelligence and creativity. 

Lucie Jones & Danny in rehearsals

It’s a great show because you could look at it as a really shallow two dimensional story… but it’s the complete opposite of that. It’s a musical comedy and it’s very funny and incredibly tongue in cheek, but it also has so much heart. It’s empowering for women and a strong story for anyone – straight, gay, male, female. 

Exactly, boyfriends and husbands who are dragged along will have the best time!
Yes, there is no way a guy is going to say “I hate it, it was awful”. I’ve met so many guys who have seen the show and said “I thought it was going to be this chick flick musical but I couldn’t help but enjoy it”. 

How does it feel to come out of such a massive soap like Hollyoaks after six years? It must be so strange!
It’s really strange; it was such a positive thing for me and I really, really enjoyed it. I went into the show from doing a musical and it gave me the opportunity to break out and create a profile which has led to a job like this… would I be playing Warner if I hadn’t done Hollyoaks? I like to think I could have built up to something like this, but I do always question whether I would be playing this role if I’d come out of the ensemble of Wicked and just jobbed around. It’s hard! Hollyoaks has done so much for me and I really enjoyed it, but it does eat up your time and your life. It demands so much from you because you want it to – I wouldn’t have wanted to be there if I was playing a dip-in once a week character who wasn’t really involved. To be as busy as I was, and for my character to be as popular as he was, was more than I could ever have dreamed of. 

Being back in a rehearsal room now is hard work, but it’s a different kind of hard work. This is structured, Hollyoaks was madness! I’ve lived through madness [laughs]! It doesn’t stop and you’re there a lot of hours during the day and then you leave and it carries on in the street and when you go out for dinner. I was fortunate that my response was always positive which was lovely. It was strange to deal with at first, but you start to have this subconscious alert-ness to people you don’t know wanting to talk to you which never happened before. The first time it happened it really took me by surprise. But now a year on from leaving it’s nice to be moving onto something new. I don’t feel like I’m ‘going back’ to musical theatre, I just feel like this is the next step for me career-wise. I’ve been busy and up to a lot, it’s strange coming out of a show and not knowing where to turn next and what is the right thing to say “yes” to. Legally Blonde came along and felt like the right thing. To do a musical and to play a role and for it to be creative is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do. 

What are your memories of going into Wicked as understudy Boq after graduating? You must have had a blast!
I was like an energised bunny on speed [laughs]! I was the most excited, happy person! If you asked anyone from the two casts I worked with they would tell you the same. I’ve always appreciated every opportunity I’ve had; I went to drama school and it was so far away from where I’d come from but it was what I always wanted. Going to drama school was my dream, so once that happened I had to set another one… so my next dream was getting a job. ArtsEd is a fantastic school, but they work you to the bone! I finished and then Wicked was my first job. I was winning! But I wanted to appreciate it and I wanted people to know that I appreciated it. I was talking to my girlfriend (West End actress Carley Stenson) the other day who was in Legally Blonde, we listened to the music and she said “I really hope I took in every moment and really enjoyed it”. Sometimes you think ‘Where did that go?’ But, even though I miss it and would love to do it again, I know that I loved my time in Wicked and enjoyed every moment of it. Now it’s so strange to see the same thing happening again – but with other people. I was watching some of the guys dancing around in rehearsals and thought ‘I remember when I used to be able to do that’. 

You’ll have to do a big dance role next!
Oh god… I don’t know if I could… I only just about managed it before!

We also have to discuss that when you were a kid you played Gavroche in Les Mis!
[laughs] I did! That’s what gave me the taste for it.

How old were you?
I did the first tour when it got to Southampton in 1998, so I think I was nine.

Danny in Hollyoaks

What was it like as a nine year old to go into this massive show?
It was fantastic. In a show like that, because you’re one of the only children in it you basically spend your whole time surrounded by adults. I think I started to grow up quite quickly, but it was also the first time I realised people do this for a living. Coming from a family where my mum is a nurse and my dad was a fruit and veg man, performing wasn’t in my blood. To see these people having fun and earning a living and then to see how hard my parents worked… I had the choice of the two and went for performing [laughs]. I think it kept me driven, and then going to drama school was a massive leap. My parents worked so hard and they still do; this is hard work, but to go to work and for it to be tough but fun is just a dream.

Looking ahead are you keen to do some more theatre, or do you want to focus more on screen work?
It’s such a funny one, I think talent will always prevail and people will get jobs because they’re good enough, but then there’s the problem of having to keep up a profile and people wanting a profile – that does help you. I would love to dip into theatre, I would really love to do a play because that’s something I haven’t done yet professionally. I like having a beginning, middle and end because that’s something you don’t get in soap – you never know where you’re going and to be honest they never know where you’ve come from. My age changed on Hollyoaks, my family changed – people suddenly existed who had never existed before. It’s really hard to build a character – you have to be patient on a soap whereas I think with a play you can create your own interpretation of the character and do your research without things changing. So I would love to do a play. I just want to keep opening doors and windows rather than closing things. 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Legally Blonde opens at the Curve Leicester on 14th April (previews from 11th April) and runs until 14th May 2016. Please visit for information and tickets.

Photo Credit 2-5: Catherine Ashmore

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