Paul Wilkins on his Britain's Got Talent appearance – from stacking shelves to national success
The Les Mis star is part of The Frontline Singers
West End star Paul Wilkins was part of a major Britain's Got Talent act during the semi-finals last week – The Frontline Singers put on a rousing performance of an original number based on their experiences during the pandemic.
1) Can you give a bit of background to how you ended up on stage for BGT?
During the pandemic, I chose to take on a key worker role in my local supermarket and worked night shifts stacking shelves - something I had never done before but that I knew would be of importance to the community.
At the height of the pandemic, writers and close friends, James and Gina approached me asking if I would like to be involved in a remote recording of their new song "Strange Old World" which was to feature key workers from across the country - a song created to help raise funds for NHS charities.
When the final recording was released, I was astounded by the amount of frontline workers involved and just how beautiful a piece had been produced. From here, The Frontline Singers began to take shape in full force. With several rehearsals under our belt, we auditioned as a collective and in front of an audience for the first time for Britain's Got Talent at the London Palladium in February 2022, where we received four Yes-es.
Leading up to the live semi finals, the group grew more confident in performing close harmonies and more importantly, closer in friendship. It goes without saying that the mixture of individual backgrounds within the group forms a very unique dynamic that is entirely wholesome and special.
2) How did your stage experience get you primed and ready for the night?
My stage experience helped considerably leading up to the live semi finals as I was able to offer solid support and advice to anyone within the group that required it. For some within the group, it was only their second time performing in front of an audience following our first audition, and to add to this, it was being aired live to millions of viewers around the country - it terms of being primed personally, I felt confident and proud with what I was able to offer as an individual.
3) Describe what's going through your head in front of audiences.
There is a focus that is indescribable and a thump in my chest. Thousands of people hanging onto every word, listening and experiencing the story that I am telling. I live for these moments and this one, was an unimaginable experience. Totally surreal.
4) What more do you think can be done to make sure the extraordinary abilities of stage performers are recognised on a national scale?
I believe a lot more can be done for those who have been pigeonholed within one performance genre. Yes, we may choose to attend a school with musical theatre training and yes, we may be cast in a musical to put our training to use - but this order of events does not define or cap what we are capable of achieving, especially with regards to screen work – which would help massively to be recognised on a national scale. In the apt words of Hannah Waddingham "…theatre performers should be on screen more…because we won't let you down" and I strongly believe this.
If more directors and casting directors of screen work were willing to help develop the careers of actors with a stage background, our theatre community would have a larger pool of extraordinary talent willing to support and uphold its world class reputation.