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Jaymi Hensley in Joseph and the
Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Whether you know him as a contestant on The X Factor, as a member of Union J, or from his work on stage, there's a good chance you've heard Jaymi Hensley sing.

Now, he's taking Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on tour, starring in the titular role.

You're touring right now with Joseph, and that, I think, is the first musical a lot of people see as kids. Do you remember the first show you saw?

The first show I saw? God, now that's asking. I think the first show I ever went to in the West End was Billy Elliot. When I went, I knew that's what I wanted to do.

I'd always loved singing and acting and stuff like that on a small scale. But I just remember when I went and I saw how big the theatre was, and the lights, I think I really got a taste for it - that's where I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

Did you have any idea then that you'd end up doing that?

Maybe not that young, but I've always said it was always a matter of when. Like self-belief. Not in an arrogant way, but I knew from a young age that if you didn't believe in yourself, no one's going to do it for you. So I always dreamt, I guess hoped, that it would happen for real. And I knew that if you worked hard, anything's possible.

And I think I knew from a young age that this was a job. Do you know what I mean? As much as there's a really fun lifestyle, and getting to live my dream, I knew I'd have to work hard. So as a child, it was classes every night after school, and during school, and my parents really supported me in doing after-school clubs and training.

There are so many people out there who are better than you. That's what I knew from a young age. So you just have to believe that you're the best for the job, because if you don't believe that, no one else is going to see it.

I think it's really interesting - 'when', not 'if'. We know you now from your stage work and we know you also from Union J and Triple J. Do you have any other 'whens' lined up? Any other ambitions?

I'd love to do a West End show! Broadway would be a dream, in whatever aspect. Even an Off-Broadway show would be an amazing experience. Just to pursue acting. I love acting so much, it's kind of my passion. I would love to maybe do some straight acting.

I think, because I sing and have sung so long for a living, acting is going back to learning. As much as I've learnt along the way with singing, I haven't had to necessarily learn as much as I would do in a different craft. I've really enjoyed honing my craft as an actor, studying, just finding out who I am as an adult.

It sounds like there's been a lot of introspection in your journey to become an actor

Absolutely! I always thought I would struggle with tapping into my emotions. When I was studying acting as a child, as a teenager, I was a little more insecure. So that's something I struggled with at stage school.

But now I'm older, and I'm wiser, and you learn to tap into what you naturally have in your locker, and that's when you give your best performance.

What else have you had to do to prepare for the role of Joseph?

Fitness was definitely big for me. Stamina. I've got a strong voice - I've always laughed that my voice is made of steel. I rarely lose my voice and it rarely falters on me. It was the stamina of doing 10-12 shows a week, every day, day in and day out.

And I did joke that as much as I've been a singer for the past seven years, singing is one of the things I've done the least, because there's always the TV and the touring and the press side of it and the merchandise. So actually singing seven days a week was something I haven't done for a long time.

So it was just looking after myself, realising I'm not as young as I used to be, I can't burn the candle at both ends anymore. I do have to look after myself.

But also it's about getting over that insecurity barrier of reading comments and stuff like that. You have to give yourself time before you go into the realm of looking at reviews. You have to be comfortable with your performance, and be confident in it.

It sounds like you've figured a lot out. Did you get good advice as you transitioned to acting?

That's what's great about being in a company of performers, is you do have people to fall back on. You can pick up little tricks of the trade along the way and use them for yourself.

I've realised that, at the end of the day, the whole world's a stage, and everything is acting. Every day is an act, and if you can get through life, then getting through a musical for a couple of hours a night isn't necessarily the hardest job in the world. It should just be enjoyed!

I've done a lot of Off-West End shows, you know, smaller theatres, and you do meet such a diverse group of people. I've met some actors who have been struggling and I've met some actors who have been very fortunate in life.

And actually, when it comes down to it, everyone has the same insecurities, everyone still gets nervous, so I think it was just about - I am quite an observer, so not necessarily advice, it was a lot more of me sitting back and watching people, how people get on with their jobs.

Is there anyone in particular you've really benefited from watching?

I did the play Myth last year the at The Other Palace - it was just a short three-week run, and we had no time to rehearse. For me, it was how incredible these performers were, and how much effort and time they put into their roles. What we pulled out as a company - they were probably the ones that ignited that fire in me, that this is really what I want to do.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat tours the UK until 20 July

Photo by Pamela Raith

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