Brief Encounter With ... Chris Hardman (aka Lil' Chris)Date: 6 June 2012Chris Hardman, aka Lilí Chris, will make his stage debut at the West Yorkshire Playhouse to star alongside Gareth Gates in Elliot Davisís and James Bourneís musical Loserville, which opens on 18 June.
At just 21, Chrisís CV resembles the career of someone double his age. He was thrust into the public consciousness in 2006 when he starred in reality TV show Rock School, where Kiss bassist Gene Simmons transformed a class of school kids into a fully-fledged rock band. Chris leaped into a solo music career after being spotted by lucrative music producers, and hasnít looked back since.
He made a string of TV appearances, from The Weakest Link to Never Mind the Buzzcocks, before hosting his own Saturday morning TV show Everybody Loves Lilí Chris.
Loserville is a new musical premiering in Leeds following a bunch of geek-chic high school kids in the 1970s, tackling everything from dating to fashion to exams.
Tell us why you decided to star in Loserville.
Itís the first time I have ever done anything like this, it is completely new to me and a massive learning curve Ė but every day I am trying different things. I like challenges and I like new things and I have always had a passion for acting. I have always wanted to try it to see if I could actually do it, especially as I really enjoyed drama at school.
Iíve released albums, singles, done my own TV shows, so why not go for theatre and live performance? Itís not necessarily the natural progression from my previous career but I thought, ďyeah, I really want to do that!Ē
The Loserville genre is one I can relate to. Itís rock, itís modern, it lends itself to my strengths and it just felt right. Itís about geeks, social ridicule and being an outcast and I can understand that. It just sort of happened!
Tell us about your character.
His nameís Francis Wier and heís a real geek. His voice is always on the verge of breaking, he canít really communicate with girls but he really thinks he can. He thinks heís got it all worked out and that heís got all the best chat-up lines. Heís really fun to play. He does silly things and says silly things. I was really short and geeky in high school so I can see some of myself in Francis.
Are you a fan of musicals?
I have never been overly-keen on musicals. I have only seen the Thriller musical on stage but I used to watch musicals on film, such as The Wizard of Oz, with my great-granddad when I was younger and there is a sense of nostalgia in doing musical performance now. My great-granddad passed away but I think he would be really pleased to see me doing something like this Ė my whole family love it.
What do you think of Leeds?
I am originally from Suffolk, so this is actually the first time I have been here Ė even though I used to support Leeds United! It has loads of cool shops and people. It still has all the same big and exciting things as London without being so jam-packed all the time.
You have done so much from such a young age. What keeps you so grounded?
My family. They are awesome. My mum works in retail and my dad works in a warehouse so I am not really sure where I get my passion for music from. But they have also been so supportive and are really excited to see me doing Loserville.
I have met some amazing people but I never get star struck Ė it actually feels really weird being the interviewee rather than the interviewer now! The best person I have interviewed on Everybody Loves Lilí Chris was Pink Ė she was just so grounded and friendly. We were chatting like we had been mates for years.
What would you have done if you had not starred in Rock School?
I loved running all the time at school and was really keen on athletics. I won a championship when I was 15. But singing is what I love to do Ė just yesterday morning I was singing one of the Loserville songs out of the window of my sixth-floor apartment, with my arms wide open, for the entire street to hear! I canít see that I would have done anything else. Rock School just came along and I donít have any regrets. I am a terrible dancer though, unlike my sister Hannah. Sheís an awesome dancer. Thankfully I donít have to dance in Loserville.
Now that youíre 21, are you going to keep the Lilí Chris image?
Yes. I have been wearing a backwards cap since I was 13 and thatís just something thatís stayed with me Ė although I am not wearing one today! I am older and more mature now but I will always be Lilí Chris to my fans and thatís important to me.
Loserville runs from 18 June to 14 July 2012 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.