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Lee Mead on making the transition from screen to stage

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Since winning Any Dream Will Do, Lee Mead has gone on to appear in Wicked, Legally Blonde and has even turned his hand to straight acting in Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and a couple of popular television dramas. Now married to Denise Van Outen and a proud family man, I caught up with him backstage at one of the concerts on his recent tour.

In the Joseph show they billed you as the “experienced professional”. Did that put more pressure on you?

I guess on paper it looks like it would be more pressure, but not for me. I knew there were thousands of guys auditioning for the show and, when we were queuing for hours, we would talk. Some guys would say they were doing this show or that show but they had a storyline that said they worked in an office.

It’s freedom of choice, I guess, but I decided from the outset to be honest. I was the guy who had done musical theatre for a few years but I hadn’t had the chance to play a lead role yet.

Your television performances were so passionate and committed. Did your experience help with that?
I’m not sure how to really answer that question – it’s a tough one. I suppose it helped to a degree, but it’s also down to the kind of performer you are. We’re all different really. The performance is created by the kind of person I am, the kind of actor I am.

I think I just try and go out there and enjoy myself. I do my homework on whatever role it is I’m playing and then I just let the rest happen. Thankfully it seems to have worked so far.

When did you stop and think that you could actually win it?
I think it would have been when we got down to the last four or five guys that were left. I just felt really confident and things were going well. I guess I believed, from the very first audition, that I had a lot to offer and a lot to give in terms of the casting of the role.

An actor can play many different roles but if you have a personal connection to something that you love then you add passion. Joseph was the first musical that I ever saw, and I just believed that I could be him – if I ever got the chance.

Some of the other guys said they knew you would win after the second week of live shows.
Oh wow, really? I had no idea. Isn’t that funny how different people see things? I wish I had known at the time! That would have saved a lot of stress.

How did it feel to hear your name called out as the winner?
I was just relieved initially. At the end the relief was just immense and then it was just a whirlwind. It was a very bizarre experience. You go from just auditioning for musicals in front of three or four people and then, all of a sudden, you have nine or ten million people voting and a panel of judges.

The whole experience was surreal, but very exciting too. Being woken up in our multi-coloured beds by a film crew and all the missions we had to do which were, at times, quite random. It was stressful, but a lot of fun too.

Was actually playing Joseph a lot of fun?
It was great – unbelievable. First and foremost the cast were brilliant. We had a great team of people. Anthony Van Laast and Nicola Treherne were great directors and they really cared about the piece.

Joseph is a very simple show – simple plot, simple songs and it’s very easy for it to get lost and become wishy-washy, but if you have a great team of people, who sincerely believe in it, it’s so touching and special. I was very conscious that I wanted to act the role and not just go along and sing the songs, look good, make sure my hair was right and all that.

Those acting skills then took you into Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime. Will you do more of that?
Oh yes. I’ve been filming recently for a television series called Bedlam on Sky, and that was great. I’m in episode four and I play a character called Scott. His younger brother, Jude, gets possessed by an evil spirit. It was brilliant to do, as was my appearance in Casualty for the BBC, and I’m hoping to do a lot more as we move on.

Tonight you’re performing in concert as part of your current tour?
Yes, and potentially the last tour for a long time.

I don’t really know. I’m somebody who thinks that the natural thing after finishing a tour would be to get straight on with planning the next one but I’d like to think that the reason things have worked out so well since the Joseph experience is because I am very conscious about the choices and decisions I make.

Right now, I feel that I should be going in an acting direction and finding myself more in that area. Hopefully another musical will come along. I’d love to be part of a brand new production. I’m very proud of the tour, and of the Love Album, but doing more of this is not on my radar at the moment.

I have just one more question. How has your daughter Betsy changed your life?
She is brilliant. It’s wonderful. It’s the best thing being a parent. You’ll notice I’m going all shy now. It’s because, in my life, she goes above everything else and I never thought that would be possible. Before getting married my career was first but then this little person comes along and changes your whole life.

Any parent will tell you that, when you have your own child, it changes your view of everything. I’d jump in front of a bus to save her at any given second. The time we spend together is so precious. This last week we’ve been for walks and been to the zoo and it puts your whole life into perspective. I love her, and Denise, so much.


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