BWW Interview: Rebecca McKinnis and Lee Ross Discuss EVERYBODY'S TALKING ABOUT JAMIE
Rebecca McKinnis and Lee Ross have recently joined the cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, a tale of a Sheffield schoolboy's fight for acceptance which has been playing at the Apollo Theatre since November 2017. They speak to BroadwayWorld about the show.
What inspired you to go into performing?
Rebecca: I'd always loved singing, but when I joined my local am-dram group I was smitten! We did Barnum and got to learn circus skills and everything so I thought, I'd like to get paid to do this.
Lee: My family being Scottish, it was listening to Billy Connelly records and acting them out with my brother at family parties.
What made you want to be part of Everybody's Talking About Jamie?
Rebecca: As soon as I heard the soundtrack I was hooked, and then when I read the script I couldn't believe my luck. It's just so good I said 'I have to get this job'.
Lee: After watching the show and joining in with the unanimous standing ovation I knew I wanted to be on the receiving end.
Tell us about the character you're playing
Rebecca: Margaret is a single mum bringing Jamie up with not much money. She loves him so much and wants to encourage him to be what he wants to be. Her wanting to protect him leads her to make a couple of questionable decisions, but all to help her son, who she loves and who's her world. Her love and acceptance are what has made him who he is.
Lee: Hugo is a down-on-his-luck ex-drag queen who is awakened by the courage of youth.
What is your favourite thing about playing them?
Rebecca: My favourite thing is just being able to play a mum who is such a wonderful person - she's a complex human being at the same time and has lots going on inside.
Also, I get to sing two amazing songs, and I've loved the challenge of a Sheffield accent!
Lee: Hugo is a kind and caring man so, they're wonderful characteristics to play. Also morphing into [Hugo's drag persona] Loco Channel for one last hurrah is an absolute blast!
Have you drawn on any personal experiences?
Rebecca: Sometimes I have to say 'How would I feel if that was [my daughter] Molly?'.
Lee: Well, I like to think I'm a kind and caring empathetic soul. As for Loco, that's been one of the biggest challenges of my career thus far.
How has it been joining an existing cast?
Rebecca: The cast were so lovely and welcoming, it was easy to slot in.
Lee: It's had its advantages and disadvantages: a magic bunch of people who all care deeply about the show is a massive plus, but fitting into such a well-oiled machine left me feeling a bit like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole at first. But I soon found my grease.
Do you have any favourite songs or scenes?
Rebecca: "He's My Boy" is seriously one of the best female musical theatre songs ever written and I will never get tired of singing it - it still gets me every time. It's definitely a highlight of the show!
Lee: I love both my big scenes, as Hugo and Loco. The songs in the show are so well crafted and an absolute pleasure to sing. I think Loco just pips it for her sheer audaciousness and (ahem!) balls!
Why do you think it's important this story is told on stage?
Rebecca: This story is so important because it reaches out and touches - not just 16-year-olds who want to go to prom in a dress, but anyone who has ever been bullied for being different.
"There's a place where we belong" are the final song lyrics, and it leaves audiences uplifted and positive about humanity at the end, despite all the turmoil that's preceded it. There are so many important messages in this show.
Lee: It's important on many levels. The first being it's a purely working-class story and that is a very rare thing these days - and vitally important if we are to encourage theatre not to just be a bastion of middle-class concern. But most importantly, it's about courage and beauty in the face of adversity.
Any advice for aspiring performers?
Rebecca: Never give up on your dreams. Work hard. Believe in yourself. Be nice to people.
Lee: Grow some very thick skin!
Why should people come to the show?
Rebecca: It's an amazing story told with amazing, catchy songs. It's current and beautiful and heart-warming. Just come - you won't be disappointed!
Lee: It's a cracking, joyous, beautiful night out delivered with love. What more do you want...?