Actor Ben Heathcote, star of the Rod Stewart musical, tells Aasma Day about his teacher
Ben Heathcote says he owes his passion for acting to his English teacher at St Bede’s High School in Lytham who introduced him to the world of drama.
He is certainly in fine company as the Lancashire school also spawned the talents of successful actors Stephen Tompkinson and Sean McKenzie.
Ben, 35, who is currently playing Stu in Tonight’s The Night, the hit musical comedy inspired by the songs of Rod Stewart which is showing at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, says: “I first got into performing at the age of 12 when I learned to play the guitar and began singing along to a variety of songs.
“At secondary school, I had a teacher called Geoff Lynham who got me into drama. In the years before I was at the school, he also inspired the actors Stephen Thompkinson and Sean McKenzie into acting.
“When I left school, I knew I wanted to go into acting so I went to study performing arts at Blackpool and Fylde College.”
Modestly, Ben describes his ascent into an acting career as being down to luck and being “in the right place at the right time”.
Ben explains: “It is very much about who you know than what you know and about being in the right place at the right time.
“I was very lucky from the start.
“I got my first acting job when I was sharing a flat with a friend and he got offered two jobs and could not do both of them so recommended me for one of them and I got it.
“My friend took up some work he had been offered on a cruise ship and I got the other job which was a European tour of a show called The Best of Broadway.”
Ben’s first acting role ended up being lucky in more ways than one as during the show, he met his now wife Danielle who was a singer and dancer.”
The couple now have a five-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter and Danielle is now a singing and dance teacher.
Ben also puts getting signed up with his first agent down to luck as he went to an audition where the casting agent recommended him to a top London agent and Ben was initially taken on by him for six weeks and ended up being with him for 13 years.
Then a few years ago, Ben was acting in the Three Musketeers at the Rose Theatre in Kingston when he was approached after the show.
Ben recalls: “A guy called John came up to me and said: ‘You are very funny. I have been known to do a bit of TV and I would like to get you involved’.
“He just happened to be John Ploughman who was head of BBC Comedy at the time and he produced shows like The Office and Absolutely Fabulous. He is now an OBE.
“He got me a six-part comedy series called Way To Go which was aired on BBC last year.
“I do consider myself very lucky.
“You do need an element of talent as well, but you never know who is watching.”
Ben’s other acting credits include Fame, Mamma Mia, The Beautiful Game and Peak Practice.
He also did the series Truckers with Stephen Thompkinson – also a St Bede’s old boy – and the week after Ben finished filming, Sean McKenzie came on Truckers too.
Ben reveals that he loves being a dad and since having his children, he has chosen not to tour instead taking on acting roles closer to home and he last toured in 2003.
But when the opportunity came up to appear in Tonight’s The Night, he felt it was an amazing opportunity and a dream role that he just could not turn down.
Ben says: “Tonight’s The Night is about a nerdy guy who really likes a girl and one day, he says he would sell his soul to be as cool as Rod Stewart.
“Then he literally becomes the soul of Rod Stewart.
“The show involves a lot of singing and acting.
“My singing just stemmed from singing along to the guitar and I have never had any proper singing training.
“It is just my raw voice which has a rocky edge.
“My dad was a big Faces fan so I grew up hearing Rod Stewart’s voice so it is nice to be re-introduced to his singing.
“I am really enjoying performing in Manchester and being close to my mum, dad and two brothers who still live in Lancashire.
“We will be going to Liverpool next week so I will still be near them.
“I do miss my wife and children while I am touring but I am absolutely loving being in Tonight’s The Night.
“It is an amazing show.”
n Tonight’s The Night which had the book written by Ben Elton has a major new tour starring Jade Ewen from Sugababes.
It will have it’s final night at Manchester Palace Theatre tomorrow before going on to the Liverpool Empire on January 27 where it will be on until February 1.
For details, visit: www.atgtickets.com.