BWW Interview: Actor Andy Moss Talks GHOST THE MUSICAL
Actor Andy Moss is best known for his roles on TV dramas like Hollyoaks, Doctors and Cutting It, but he's currently taking on a very different challenge: the UK tour of Ghost the Musical, performing alongside Sarah Harding.
How did you begin performing?
A drama scout came into our school when I was 11. I was always a bit of an extrovert, but I hadn't thought about acting. I wound up with NK Theatre Arts in Manchester for about 12 years. They encouraged me to believe I could do it.
Obviously you've got parents telling you you need a proper job or a back-up plan. I tried to go to real college, studying French and English alongside drama, but I realised pretty quickly the academic side wasn't for me.
How did Hollyoaks come to you?
My big break was Cutting It - I did two series of that, and it opened my eyes to the world of acting. Getting to perform on an acclaimed Manchester drama was an amazing stepping stone. From that came Hollyoaks - I was very lucky to get that straightaway. I did Hollyoaks for about eight or nine years.
What did you learn from that experience?
It was a crazy time, but so much fun. I got to do things I'd never imagined. I stayed there bit too long, if I'm honest, because it was such a comfortable job - everyone there was amazing, just one big happy family up in Liverpool. But I learned everything about acting. You'd often get given a script in morning and were filming by the afternoon, so it taught me all those skills and the stamina of that pace of work. I also learned how to find that character and longevity.
What tempted you over to stage for Ghost?
After I left Hollyoaks I decided to have a break. I went to India, went travelling, came back and wasn't sure what I wanted to do - I thought maybe have a go at directing or something. But then I landed a role on Doctors straightaway, a really nice part. I'd done it years ago, so initially said "No, thank you", but then they told me the storyline and that I'd be working with Lucy-Jo Hudson, who's a fantastic actress.
I'd seen a few musicals while I was away, and thought "I've trained to do this and I've never done it - I'd love to try a big production." When I got the score and the script for Ghost, I thought "Yes, I need to play this part." We all know the film, and Patrick Swayze leaves big shoes to fill, but they've done a whole new rearrangement of it, cutting out some of the special effects and making it really streamlined and filmic. Each scene slides from one to the next seamlessly.
Tell us a bit about the story
It's a classic love story. Sam, my character, unfortunately gets killed quite early on, but it proves love is timeless and goes on no matter what. There are all kinds of twists and turns, and so many elements - it's supernatural obviously, and you get the thriller element when he comes back to avenge his death, plus the romance when he's making sure the love of his life knows he's still there for her.
Has the touring been challenging?
I'm getting into the swing of it now, but I haven't been on tour for a few years. I've had to adapt for the late nights, but it's exciting being in a new town every week. And the stamina! On TV you can stop and do it again, but the discipline of nailing it every single day, sometimes twice a day, and keeping the momentum so it's like saying these lines for the first time, that's tough.
There's no loose script - you have to stick rigidly to it, as every single word signals a lighting cue or sound effect or specific staging cue to another actor. I'm used to a bit more freedom to play around, so that took some work.
What about the singing?
I was in a band in college, but I've never really sung on stage. That's what I was most nervous about - I said "I want as much help as you can give me", whether that's extra sessions or coming in early to rehearse. I still wasn't quite finding it, and I was so aware of all these amazing, highly trained people around me. Now I've amalgamated my band voice and more of a theatre one, and I'm really thrilled to be getting a good response for the songs. Plus I'm trying to find the realism, even though he's a ghost!
Is it a challenge juggling all those different elements?
That's what's so exciting. In the beginning I have to set up a love story, then he's a banker, which, as we know, are not the best people in the world... Then my death scene, then I'm lost and trapped in this world no one understands, trying to communicate with the living, revenge, romance, comedy scenes too. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but the most rewarding. I don't leave the stage for the full two hours 10, and I'm absolutely knackered afterwards - it drains every bit of emotion. I'm belting out those songs like my life depends on it.
What's the audience reaction like on tour?
It's fantastic, as you get different reactions in each place. Jacqui Dubois, who plays Oda Mae Brown, me and her have some funny scenes, and if we get good laughs we milk those like there's no tomorrow! You figure out each night if they like the slapstick, the bickering, or the more subtle bits.
You obviously had a tricky opening period, with Sarah Harding having to withdraw from the show temporarily - how did you cope with that?
Full respect to Sarah - she's come from a singing background, and she's had to learn everything we knew acting wise in that short time. She was giving 100% in every rehearsal, which led to her getting run down just as we opening. But the company's amazing - we all get on great, and we just pulled together. Kelly Hampson, the understudy, was brilliant too.
Whenever you come to see Ghost, you'll have a great show. It's not just about the leads - our ensemble is fantastic. When you see how few people there are bowing at the end, you think "What? But they told all those stories and played all those different people."
What have you learned from the company?
It's a totally different discipline to being on TV, and moving around the country is still really alien to me as well - plus little things, like no one helping with hair and make-up! They all work so hard. Going through that process together, on the road, we're getting better and better. Their work ethic is incredible, and when I follow that, the reward is just unbelievable.
Is there pressure singing well-known songs like "Unchained Melody"?
Yes and no. The full version wasn't even in the original Ghost - Bill Kenwright managed to wangle that somehow! A couple of my songs are big, rocky numbers - they're more intimidating in a way. "Unchained", we've built up all that emotion over those two hours, my voice is fully warmed up, I'm in the moment, and I don't have to think about it - it just comes out. It's great seeing everyone in the audience reaching for the tissues.
Was it nerve-wracking stepping on stage that first night?
The first two weeks were nerve-wracking for everyone. My problem is I don't leave the stage, so there was a bit of "What comes next, what comes next? Oh yes, it's this scene." Now I'm finding my feet and Sam's journey a bit better - the big emotional dips when he's on his own, that isolation. I can really do my job as an actor.
It's a great part, as there's never a dull moment - there's always more you can find. I've almost caught myself out, thinking of new things to do, then "Oh wait, it's my line now." We're all buzzing at the moment - the audience response is just what we wanted.
What do you make of the media and social media response?
We had that awful, ridiculous social media battering early on. It was the same 14 people that all the press were digging out and rehashing their Tweets - a few people trying to ruin the show before it even opened. Someone's putting on a production, pouring everything into it, and to sit behind a keyboard and slate it is so horrible. I've never experienced anything like it - it's really unfair. I don't understand how you can attack something if you haven't even seen it.
I know I can act, so I didn't doubt my ability, but it was weird when they put me in their Twitter responses - I was thinking "What's wrong with you?" Those angry kids sitting at home typing this stuff, you have to feel sorry for them really, and take everything with a big pinch of salt.
Do you respond much on social media?
If people write to me directly on Twitter, I'll read them - I don't normally comment back. But the lovely Tweets outweigh anything negative. I definitely don't read what we call the "slag mags" or the tabloids - my only contact is when they've got my chips and gravy in them!
With Sarah, they asked me not to say anything at the time, but believe me, I had plenty to say. She's nervous, she's out of her comfort zone, she's used to arenas with monitors and earpieces. I don't care who it is - to pick on someone like that is crazy. It's not to do with singing or dancing or musical theatre - it's personal and it's vindictive. I'm glad we've got through it, as a team, and we're back to the important thing, which is bringing people a story they love.
What's next after Ghost?
There's talk of it going to other countries - that would really excite me. But casting directors have also come to watch me in this and are saying "Come back to telly!" I'm grateful to have the chance to diversify and show people I can act on stage, I can sing. The best thing about acting is you never know what will happen next.
Do you think you've changed people's perceptions of you?
Well, I'm very northern, so when I go from that to the New York accent, no one can handle it! I do have a lot of friends who've gone over to America, and it sounds great. But I'm so lucky I've been able to work continuously here - I just hope they keep asking me.
Any advice for budding actors?
It's about knowing yourself, what you can do, your strengths and limitations, and going for parts you really want to play - things that interest you, excite you, inspire you. If you're in this game just to be famous, you're going to fail.
Photo credit: Darren Bell