Off to see the Wizard
You know you’re getting older when you’re old enough to have given birth to your doctor, so when I interviewed actor Kelvin Fletcher, I felt rather elderly. I remember his very first performance as the young, scrawny young farmer Andy Sugden in Emmerdale and within what seemed like a few weeks he’d blossomed into someone who resembles a Chippendale, a muscular milking machine. So, today as I’m about to interview him, I feel positively ancient…
Kelvin left his role as Andy in 2016 and swapped his wellies for a racing helmet, but now former Emmerdale hunk, Kelvin is adorning himself in tin and taking a step down the yellow brick road as he goes in search of a heart in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens’ annual pantomime, The Wizard of Oz.
“Kelvin felt it was time to move on, but admits he still feels a huge connection to The Dales”
“I can’t wait!” He grins, “I’ve been a musical theatre fan from as long as I can remember.”
For Kelvin, it’s his first time performing at the iconic Winter Gardens and while the ‘sheer size’ of the building is exciting, Kelvin is thrilled to be performing in Blackpool – a place where he spent many a childhood holiday.
“Like most people in the north my holiday was Blackpool – that was it! I remember the trips in the car and being the first one to spot the tower – you know ‘I can see it, I can see it’ – it’s a Peter Kay joke but literally everyone has done it haven’t they?” he chuckles.
“I’ve only got fond memories of Blackpool. It represents the north west at its best – everyone is there for a good time. There are brilliant characters and some unbelievable talent here”.
Blackpool is undoubtedly the home of showbiz but with the rise of DVDs, Netflix and YouTube more and more people are choosing to stay home, something Kelvin believes should change:
“You can go to the cinema or watch a DVD and enjoy it and be entertained but there is something about seeing live theatre whether it’s a comic, a cabaret show, or musical theatre, it has a profound effect on you. I’ve taken many a friend to theatre shows and they’ve come away and said, ‘bloody hell, I don’t normally go to the theatre, but that was brilliant’ – it really resonates just to witness someone’s skill set live.”
After seeing Kelvin dressed in his new role as the Tin Man, the costume looks incredibly uncomfortable, a complete nightmare if you were to get an itch!
“It’s actually quite comfortable!” He laughs, “You’ve got to embrace it. It’s quite nostalgic. Everyone has memories of The Wizard of Oz and watching it as a kid so when I put the outfit on and looked in the mirror, and didn’t recognise myself – all I’m missing is an oil can.”
But possibly the more pressing question what does he wear underneath? Kelvin beams:
“Nothing! Temperature is going to be a factor so I think less is better but we’ll see – I don’t want to give people a fright!”
Surely with his Adonis-type physique he couldn’t possibly give anyone a fright?
“I’ve got a ‘Dad-bod’ now haven’t I? It’s all the rage at the minute!”
Anyone who watched Emmerdale might find that hard to believe but he insists it’s true. Kelvin first appeared on the soap in 1996 when he was just 12-years-old and went on to become one of the soaps biggest ever stars. However, after 20 years, Kelvin felt it was time to move on, but admits he still feels a huge connection to The Dales.
“I don’t think that will ever go. It’s brilliant to see the show doing so well as a fan. It’s at the top of its game and there’s no one prouder of the show than me. I know how hard the guys work and how talented they are so it’s richly deserved and long overdue. It holds a very cemented place in my heart but it’s all I did as a kid and I wanted different things.”
But would he ever go back?
“If I get a pound for every time someone says that!” He laughs, “It’s nice people still feel that your character has a strong connection but it’s not down to me, it’s up to the writers, they’re the ones that orchestrate these great ideas.”
Kelvin has been working as a professional actor since he was just eight-years-old. With roles on Coronation Street and films in South Africa prior to Emmerdale, I wondered if he had ever wanted to try anything else?
“I was obsessed with cars – that was my passion and hobby and all I wanted to be was a mechanic. It’s weird how things take a different path. I’m 34 and still thinking what do I want to do?”
Kelvin is now a successful racing car driver as well as an actor but he’s clear that it’s not one or the other:
“People in the street often say, ‘you’ve stopped acting to be a racing car driver’ but I’ve not stopped acting, I’m just racing as well. I have two careers.”
But does he ever scare himself when driving?
“No it’s weird. As a driver you’re thinking about hitting certain lap times, so you don’t really get chance to enjoy the thrill of speed! I’m not chasing a thrill, it’s gone far beyond that.
I wondered if Kelvin’s love of driving matched the excitement of performing live and whether the adrenaline junkie in him relished that feeling?
“They’re two very different things. I guess the pinnacle of winning a big race is very similar to receiving an award.” He smiles, “But acting is still my favourite, nothing tops that.”
While it may seem impossible for Kelvin to have time for anything else in his life alongside racing and acting, the biggest portion of his time is devoted to his wife Eliza and daughter, Marnie, aged two, who is very much looking forward to seeing her Daddy perform as the Tin Man.
“She’s seen a picture of me dressed in costume and it’s amazing how quickly she seems to grasp the fact that I’m performing. I said, ‘this is Daddy, dressed up and he’s got make up on like Mummy sometimes wears’ and she was giggling while repeatedly saying, ‘Daddy, Tin Man!’” Kelvin smiles, “She’s said some beautiful things. She can’t wait to see the show. It sounds really silly but that’s why doing stuff like this gives my little daughter the opportunity to see me in a completely different role. I feel like I’m creating a memory for her that we can both look back on.
“Parenthood is everything I wished and hoped it would have been. It’s life changing, it’s my greatest achievement.”
With an illustrious career under his belt and so much still to come, Kelvin’s life certainly isn’t boring. From playing Andy Sugden to a racing car driver to now taking on the Tin Man it seems that variety really is the spice of life.
“I want to do a variety of work whether that’s theatre, TV, film, comedy or musical theatre. I’m looking forward to it and we’ll see what the new year brings, – it’s the reason I left Emmerdale – to explore that variety.”
My time with Kelvin is coming to an end but before he dashes off I had a burning question that I need an answer to. Andy Sugden was of course a farmer so had he ever put his hand up a cow’s arse?
“No!” He chuckles. “Not yet!”
Kelvin will be tapping his way onto the yellow brick road at The Winter Gardens, Blackpool from 7th December – 30th December.