5 minutes with: Newton Faulkner – "I had a huge amount of catching up to do"

We spoke to the ”Dream Catch Me” singer-songwriter who stars as Johnny in ”American Idiot”’s return to London

Newton Faulkner
Newton Faulkner

I actually got quite a lot of acting work when I was a child. I did quite a lot of stuff for the Royal Shakespeare Company as a kid – Richard III and Christmas Carol twice – and then I did an advert and stuff. But after that, music completely took over. I guess I took a 16 year break from acting.

When I was about 13 I played bass in a Green Day cover band. "Dookie" was probably the first album I bought, it's a classic. Lucas [Rush], who plays my schizophrenic alter-ego [St. Jimmy] in the musical, was also in the band. It’s a weird story. I did some voice work, which meant sitting in a room all day making the most ridiculous noises. Doing that opened a part of my brain that had been completely closed for years. I tried to get back into it, and everyone mentioned Once and American Idiot as good points to step across. After a bunch of meetings, Lucas got in touch and said "I need someone to play Johnny in American Idiot". I thought: "yeah, why not?" Everything seemed to be pointing in the right direction.

Newton and cast in American Idiot
(© Darren Bell)

Before the first show of the tour, I was terrified. I've never done anything like this before, and it's a part that's incredibly demanding. In rehearsals, people were saying "you’re up stage left" and I was like "w… w… where?" I had a huge amount of catching up to do. I actually joined the tour half way through, so everyone had to rehearse all over again just to fit me in – I couldn’t help feel a bit bad about that. It was like: "Oh, you're all here at 10am, but you're not usually here until 6pm. Yay!"

There’s endless layers to the challenge. I didn't really think about it when I agreed to it. I just thought: "It'll be fine, it's just something to do like everything else." You just say yes and solve all the problems later. The first thing I had to deal with was the American accent – I had to keep it believable and not too over the top. I've had a great dialect coach, though. She's been amazing.

I have no idea what’s next. I quite like the idea of doing some straight acting – that would be the final piece of the challenge – so I’ll do some auditions and see what’s around. Casting directors will come and see this, and it will start the ball rolling. It’s opened a lot of really interesting doors, but I’ll never stop doing music and making albums. I don’t think I could even if I wanted to.

American Idiot runs at the Arts Theatre from 13 July to 25 September.