I spoke to The Wanted's Jay McGuinness & Hollyoak's Vera Chok before 2:22 A Ghost Story comes to Blackpool

Ahead of the arrival of the highlighly anticipated play '2:22 A Ghost Story' to Lancashire, we spoke to some of the famous faces taking on leading roles...
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2:22 A Ghost Story is coming to the Blackpool Grand Theatre between Tuesday, April 23 and Friday, April 28 and its award-winning writer, Danny Robins, promises that everyone in the audience "will laugh, scream, cry, and jump out of their seats at this ghostly tale."

The smash-hit, supernatural phenomenon stars Fiona Wade (Emmerdale) as Jenny, George Rainsford (Call the Midwife, Casualty) as Jenny's husband Sam, Vera Chok (Hollyoaks) as Lauren and Jay McGuinness (The Wanted, Strictly Come Dancing) as Lauren's boyfriend Ben.

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Celebrity reporter Aimee Seddon was able to catch Jay and Vera for a chat ahead of their shows in Blackpool at the end of the month, take a look at what was said below…

How would you describe 2:22 Ghost Story?

Vera: “The story is: dinner party by a young couple who have just had a baby and then dinner guests arrive - that's us - and then the mother of the child goes ‘there’s a ghost in the house! We want you to stay and  see if it arrives at 2:22’ and during the course of the evening..”

Jay: “We eat, we drink, we discuss, we fight. There might be a kiss, there might be a - I don't want to give too much away! That’s enough.”

Vera: “And we count down to 2:22 to see if there is a ghost.”

Is it scary?

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Vera: “It’s spooky and the hairs on my arm definitely stand up during the show. There's some fun jumpscares but it's not like scary, scary. It's super funny for sure, 100% funny… And it does very much look at whether or not there are ghosts, whether or not people believe in life after death.”

Left: Jay McGuinness as Ben in 2:22 A Ghost Story. Right: Vera Chok as Lauren.Left: Jay McGuinness as Ben in 2:22 A Ghost Story. Right: Vera Chok as Lauren.
Left: Jay McGuinness as Ben in 2:22 A Ghost Story. Right: Vera Chok as Lauren.

What are Ben and Lauren like?

Jay: “Ben and Lauren, I think, are a lot of fun. They're the sort of people that you invite to the dinner party when you really want..

“Entertainment!” Vera interjects.

Jay: “Yeah, the roof to be raised. Lauren loves a drink and Ben just loves Lauren but Ben is a little bit of a fish out of water. He is definitely not in the same class, as I say, Jenny and Sam, or maybe even Lauren because she's definitely highly educated, and he clearly feels that and maybe makes some faux pas which are quite fun to play throughout the show.”

Vera: “Yeah, Lauren is a fish out of water as well, because she's an American who has been living in England. I don't think she really feels like she fits in, and yeah, they turn up like an odd couple and kind of just climb through the evening. She's trying so hard to fit in and be all cool but the cracks show, and then she's brought her sort of toy boy, she's a bit of a cougar… she wanted a bit of rough, she got some cockney geezer who did her bathroom.”

L: Fiona Wade plays Jenny in 2:22 A Ghost Story. R: George Rainsford plays her husband Sam.L: Fiona Wade plays Jenny in 2:22 A Ghost Story. R: George Rainsford plays her husband Sam.
L: Fiona Wade plays Jenny in 2:22 A Ghost Story. R: George Rainsford plays her husband Sam.

Do you relate to your characters?

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Jay: “There's parts of Ben that I really identify with But I think he's from a completely different world from me, that sort of builder, lad, cockney. People on building sites have like really established banter back and forth all day, I'm useless at that, I get so tongue tied. But I do think he puts his heart into things and win or lose, he has a good go and says what he thinks , and I try and live that way too.”

Vera: “I do identify with Lauren, being a foreigner myself, trying to fit in and she's a psychologist so she really cares about mental health and the NHS and things like that. But I don't think I am as much as a car crash! . But I mean, I actually quite like a cockney geezer, I have to say…”

You both already have a long list of theatre credits, why did you audition for this show?

Jay: “I watched it like six months ago, me and my manager watched a different cast doing it and I was so impressed by it, I was so shocked by the twists at the end… I straight away said to my manager, please, please, please get me audition, I really would love to just have a go and I think in my audition, it probably came across how mad keen and pretty obsessed with the show I was so it all went well. I'm genuinely pinching myself that I'm now putting on the suit and shoes with no socks on and putting on my gold watch, and gold chain and strutting around that stage like I own the place. I feel very grateful.”

Vera: “I just loved the opportunity to play a three dimensional actual human being where the characters got nothing to do with my ethnicity. I've had a long sort of battle with fighting stereotypes being Southeast Asian and Lauren is so - exactly my casting of like someone who's putting on a brave face and doing her best but is really struggling so I really wanted to play her and it's such an entertaining play! When I saw the show, I was like ‘oh my god, yeah, I want to be able to entertain audiences in this way.’”

Jay: “Great script”

Do you have any ghostly experiences?

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Jay: “I don't have any ghostly experiences. Do we feel quite similarly about ghosts? Would you say?”

Vera: “I think I'm more afraid of ghosts, especially Asian ghosts, because I grew up in Asia, where people are closer to the land and the spirits and ancestral worship and stuff. Also I used to be a Christian who believed in lheaven and hell, and like satanic ghosty things just terrify me. But apart from that, I do think there are things that we don't understand as a human species. 

Jay: “Agreed. I feel there are radio waves flying through the air that we can't sense but if you have the right equipment, you can pick up voices and songs. So who are we to say that there aren't a million different types of things like that. But as far as any sort of reaching out from the other side, I don't think I've ever experienced anything like that and if I have, I think I’ve tried to shut it down in my mind as quickly as possible!”

Vera: “When I was little, I was in in bed and there were these footsteps above, running, and in Malaysia there's these things called ‘toyol’, like kind of 3D ghostly babies.”

Jay: “That does sound scary. Running around on the roof?”

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Vera: “Yes and they were knocking! I was like ‘oh they’re trying to communicate’ and there were these little handprints on my ceiling, but turns out they were monkeys but oh my god, I was terrified.”

Jay: “No monkeys in this show, unfortunately. Or are there? You’ll have to see!”

Now you’re best known for your roles in The Wanted and Hollyoaks respectively, what is different about performing on the stage vs the screen or acting on stage rather than performing with a band?

Vera: “I love the live feedback from an audience when you're in a theatre. We can see a lot of faces and it's so much pleasure to share a gripping story with an audience that are on board and wanting to be entertained. That's what's amazing about being on stage.”

Jay: “Then difference from The Wanted days is, I feel when you've got this structure, this story that you have to tell, it puts a different type of pressure on you. Obviously you’ve got your setlist but you still have a lot of freedom to sort of ad-lib wherever you want and speak to the crowd and hype them up in whatever way you want to. But on a theatre show, I feel it's this pressure to drive what the message is meant to be and it takes away some of the ego - there’s still a little bit of ego because you want to get to this screams and the laughs-  but it takes away that, ‘how cool do I look?’ It's more about ‘how much do I look like I've worked on a building site for 10 years? How much do I look like I'm genuinely uncomfortable at this awkward dinner party’. So it's different for the brain.”

L: Jay and the rest of The Wanted perform during HITS Radio's HITS Live 2021. R: Vera attends the British Soap Awards 2022. Credit: GettyL: Jay and the rest of The Wanted perform during HITS Radio's HITS Live 2021. R: Vera attends the British Soap Awards 2022. Credit: Getty
L: Jay and the rest of The Wanted perform during HITS Radio's HITS Live 2021. R: Vera attends the British Soap Awards 2022. Credit: Getty

How are you feeling about taking the show up to Lancashire?

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Vera: “Everywhere we go, the audience react differently or laugh at different things and I reckon that the audience in Blackpool are going to be lively and they're going to be onboard and it's just gonna be so fun for us, which will like feed the audience so it'll be a big feedback loop of excellence and fun.

“When I lived in Liverpool, I really wanted to go to Blackpool. Time and time again, I’d plan trips and they all failed so finally, I'm going to get to Blackpool I’m so excited.

“I love a seaside town, I love the whole vibe and I specifically wanted to see the illuminations but it's not the right time of year for 2:22 but I just love the vibe.”

Jay: “Arcades!”

Vera: “Fish and Chips, seagulls…”

Jay: “Good vintage shops.”

Vera: “Are there? Cool! I hear there are ghosts in Blackpool!”

Jay, have you ever been to Blackpool?

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Jay: “When I did Strictly, halfway through they have a Blackpool week and everyone’s trying to get to Blackpool because of the big Tower Ballroom 

So travelling there and learning a dance, that’s a very strong and meaningful memory for me. But I also think that during all that time and even with The Wanted, I've never really spent a lot of time exploring on my ownhours. As a cast and crew, we're quite good at doing little side adventures together and seeing what each town or city has to offer. So I think this will be the first time I get to spread my wings with you lot and go and enjoy it the way it should be enjoyed.”

Jay on the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016.  (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)Jay on the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016.  (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)
Jay on the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2016. (Photo by Richard Stonehouse/Getty Images)

Have you got any plans for Blackpool night outs?

Jay: “You should help us with that!.. We don’t need anything fancy but if you know anywhere, we’re all in!”

What about some daytime activities?

Vera: “Fish and chips on the Pleasure Beach!”

Jay: “100% There’s a rollercoaster right?”

Vera: “Oh my god, yes!”

Jay: “Definitely getting on the rollercoasters, I’m a bit of a thrill seeker and the idea that they might be sort of old wooden rickety things, adds to the fear factor, doesn't it? But you might just pop off into the ocean?”

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Why would you encourage the people of Lancashire to get the remaining tickets?

Jay: “I think if you’ve heard anything about 2:22, then you know there's like a bit of a fuss being made about it, and I want to reassure people, when you go there, when I went there, I was like, ‘oh, I get why it's so popular’. It was so gripping so it's it lives up to the hype, in my opinion.”

Vera: “It’s a good night out, it's so simple. It's entertaining, it's sort of stimulating, you get to chat to the people around you and keep chatting for days afterwards. It's just super fun and yeah, I highly recommend it. It’s everything I would want from a theatre show."

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