BWW Interview: David Hunter Talks KINKY BOOTS
Actor and musician David Hunter's previous work includes Once, Tommy and One Man, Two Guvnors. He's currently starring as Charlie in the West End production of Kinky Boots.
What was the first musical you saw?
Blood Brothers in Manchester. I think I must have been about 10 years old.
When did you realise you wanted to act professionally?
Not until I was about 17. I'd always wanted to be a cartoonist, but no one claps when you finish a drawing.
Where did you train?
LIPA in Liverpool. Chosen purely because I love Paul McCartney, who founded the school and visited regularly. I'm always amazed when I meet young people who are so clued up about the industry - where to train and what to aim for. I was clueless. I landed on my feet with LIPA, though, I had a great time there. And Paul McCartney gave me my degree.
What was your first paid acting job?
A small piece in the studio space at the Royal Exchange, six years ago now.
What did you take from your Superstar experience, and would you recommend those talent shows to others?
I think it totally depends on your situation. The show came along at the right time for me. I'd been recalled nine times for Rock of Ages several months earlier and missed out. I was scared of coming up against ten "Jesuses" the following year and falling further down the pecking order, so I thought I'd give it a go and ended up having an incredible time. The pressure was immense, but they took such beautiful care of us all. My experience was a great one, but I'm sure there are many who regret entering such shows.
What was it like taking over the lead in Once?
Glorious. I'd been a fan of the film since its release and the soundtrack never left my car stereo. I couldn't believe my luck when they made it into a musical and cast me in it. The songs, the scenes, the staging - it was so beautifully crafted. I feel very lucky to have been a part of it.
Did you know Kinky Boots well before auditioning?
I saw the show when I went to watch Tim Prottey-Jones play Don with the original cast. I had no idea I would be auditioning for Charlie at that point, so I didn't scrutinise the show, or the role, in that way. I just watched my mate doing his thing. He and the show were absolutely wonderful.
Tell us about your character Charlie and how you approached him
Charlie is a little lost and desperately trying to find his path. The challenge is playing that lack of direction without becoming passive. It's full of little challenges both vocally and acting wise, which has really kept me on my toes since I joined the company. I think that's why I love it so much.
Could you identify with some of his dilemmas?
I think we all know that feeling of being lost. When things aren't going your way and you're looking for a direction, any direction, to point yourself in.
Is it hard to put your stamp on an established role?
I suppose the thing is, the majority of people who see me in the role will be seeing it for the first time, and so they meet me as Charlie and all my little mannerisms and tics are part of who he is, for them. So in that respect, it's easy to put your stamp on the role. There are pressures of course, from existing cast members, returning fans and your desire to do well. I spent much of my first few months thinking "Oh God, am I doing this wrong?!".
How do you think the show works in the current climate?
I think it's the perfect tonic at the moment. A message of love and acceptance shouldn't be so vital in this day and age, but astonishingly it is. The world creeps forward day by day, gradually becoming more accepting - I hope. Kinky Boots gives everyone another nudge in the right direction.
What's your favourite number to perform?
"Everybody Say Yeah", the Act One finale. Charlie spends most of the first act looking slightly panicked and trying to sort out various problems against tremendous opposition, but then this song pops up and he finally gets to have fun! I get to hurl myself around the stage (and along our brilliant treadmills) - it's wonderful.
Has it been challenging pursuing both acting and music careers?
I've always been active in one or the other, but it's incredibly hard to keep both plates spinning at once. I wrote a whole heap of songs about seven years ago and I'm only just getting around to recording them. Juggling evening shows and recording sessions is tricky...especially when you have a newborn baby as well!
Would you like to do more music in future?
Very much. Me and my old band practically lived in the studio for a couple of years way back when, and it still feels like home. I'm hoping to get this EP recorded before too long, so I'll keep you posted.
Any dream acting roles or collaborators?
There's no roles in my mind at the moment, but it would be lovely to work at the National again. My first job in London was there with One Man, Two Guvnors and it's such a wonderful environment to be in. Plus you get loads of time off if you're in rep. Money for nothing? Sign me up!
Finally, any advice to budding performers?
Dive in and enjoy the journey. We're all so desperate to take the next step, to bag that bigger role or that cooler job. But some of my happiest days were spent playing covers with my mate Danny in a bar up north for fifty quid and free chips. Enjoy every step.
Photo credit: Helen Maybanks, Matt Crockett