BWW Interview: X FACTOR's Anton Stephans On His New Zedel Show
Anton Stephans became a household name following his stint on The X Factor. His musical theatre credits include Porgy and Bess, Smokey Joe's Cafe and Moby Dick, and tonight he brings his show Brave to Live at Zedel.
Who first inspired you as a performer?
I had a number of influences growing up - Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Nancy Wilson. Musical theatre wise it was Elaine Paige - she was the very first musical theatre star to ever record a musical theatre album. I loved it and would play it over and over and over again. I later got to work with her in Hey Mr Producer! - life has been funny that way for me.
Did you do much singing and/or acting at school?
I did tons of everything at school! I had great friends, I'm still friends with them now. We often get together for nights of wine and visits down memory lane.
When did you realise it might be a career, and were your family supportive?
Being an actor is all I've ever wanted to be. I discovered I could sing, and singing and acting - even when it's been to just one person (Mum) - has been the greatest fulfilment.
Did you do much training?
I didn't do much early on, as I concentrated on Classics as a student. But later I took classes and I have a wonderful singing teacher.
What was your first professional performing job?
Well, I was in Bugsy Malone as a kid. But the most exciting job I guess was Smokey Joe's Cafe, which I later did on Broadway. I was cast by Stacy Haines, who is now my TV and concert performance coach and adviser. Of course I've had a super exciting varied career.
What was it like working with icons like the late George Michael?
Working with major stars is always a thrill. But you quickly learn it is hard work! You must work hard. If I could give myself advice back then it would be to work harder.
What made you decide to audition for X Factor?
I became very ill after Porgy and Bess - I was bedridden for almost three years. Once I got better I found the world had changed, and I needed to change with it. So I took a leap of faith! Thank heavens I did. I will forever be grateful to X Factor - it introduced me to a wider audience globally. No other musical theatre actor who has tried to make it on the show has ever got to finals and to the live tour. I'm very proud of myself. Hopefully my doing that will make it easier for someone else in the future.
How tricky was it being in the spotlight and dealing with criticism from judges and the public?
Standing in the spotlight is like having a bullseye on your heart. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion (some good, some darn right awful), and it feels like they are aiming it right at your soul. I learned very very quickly that it's what I think of myself that truly matters. Being the very best me: authentic, honest, passionate and confident in my right as a human being. In truth the public, since the moment I stood on the X Factor stage, has supported and loved me. I'm so lucky and grateful. I just want lots more opportunities to make them proud. I want to continue to be worthy of the love I'm shown every day.
Did you get any good parting advice from Simon Cowell?
Advice from Si? Usually it's "Anton, you are great - you don't get it yet, but you will! Keep going forward, keep believing in you - we all already do." He is really nice, isn't he? That's the Simon few get to see I guess: a compassionate, supportive mentor and father figure.
What was it like doing Moby Dick afterwards?
Moby Dick was a great experience. Andrew Wright directing and the wonderful Amy Anzel producing were an enormous encouragement, and my co-star Brenda Edward had a show-stopping song. The energy that the young cast of beautiful, talented, generous, extremely supportive performers gave every night is something I will never forget. Definitely some major superstars in that cast!
Tell us a bit about what we can expect from the Zedel show - was it hard choosing the set list?
Choosing the songs for my show came so easily! I just wanted to share my life with songs from my heart. Through the heart we see things clearly - what comes from the heart goes straight to the centre of the heart. That I guess is what you'll always get from me - something real, something true. Sometimes painful, sometimes a little bit funky and sexy, sometimes very very funny. But always authentic, always in the moment.
Why is it called Brave?
It's the only way to live my life I guess. Unashamed, uninhibited, unafraid.
Any future dream roles or work? More solo shows, albums?
Yes to an album called Brave, yes to more solo shows worldwide, film, TV and much more. There is so much more to come. I want to continue playing roles that are challenging and interesting. I love work! So, universe - keep me busy.
Finally, any advice to budding performers?
There is only one you on the planet - be the very best you! You are, after all, magnificently and beautifully made. Whenever you can, do something selfless.