Jamie Lomas on why he's looking forward to boos at Sunderland Empire this Christmas
The EastEnders and Hollyoaks actor will be joined in Neverland by CBBC’s Richard McCourt aka Dick from Dick and Dom as Hook’s right-hand man Mr Smee; Melanie Walters from Gavin and Stacey as Mrs Darling and West End actor Josh Andrews as Peter Pan.
Richard McCourt’s first ever panto was at Sunderland Empire in 1999 when he played Wishee Washee in Aladdin alongside Cobra the Gladiator.
For the past 22 years, Richard is better known as one half of the award winning Dick and Dom and this winter he’s going solo for panto.
Melanie Walters is best known for her role as Gwen West in the BAFTA-winning series Gavin and Stacey for the BBC alongside James Corden and Ruth Jones.
Melanie has spent most of her professional life touring the country working in theatre, television and radio. Josh Andrew has appeared in a string of West End hit musicals including Cats, Book of Mormon and 42nd Street.
In 2017, Jamie Lomas was crowned runner-up in ITV’s I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here after completing a number of gruelling bush tucker trials and is best known for playing bad boy Warren Fox in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks and Jake Stone in EastEnders.
We chat to Jamie about making his panto debut:
You were nominated for villain of the year, three years’ running, what makes you good at being bad?
“Probably the way I look! (laughs). I just enjoy it. Most actors like to play a bad guy and some have built a career out of finding their niche in those kinds of roles. It’s great fun, though. I get to be horrible in work and get paid for it.”
If you could be Hook for a day in real life what would you do?
“Well I wouldn’t drive – not with one hand. It’d probably sail my ship down the Manchester Ship Canal and load it with treasure.”
What do your kids think of you playing a panto baddie?
“Aw, they love it. I’m going to buy them a box of tomatoes for Christmas so they can throw them at me on the stage.
“I expect they’ll give me the loudest boos. Panto’s all about kids and family and it’s one of the reasons I’m doing it this year.”
Have you played panto before?
“No, this is my first one. I’m looking forward to it. It’s great fun for kids and I think as I’ve got a bit older, with kids of my own, panto holds more of an appeal.”
You came 2nd in last year’s I’m A Celebrity what attracted you to the jungle?
“I was offered a chance to go into it about five years ago, but it wasn’t the right time. Again, I think when you get older you just want to take on more challenges. Not many people get a chance to spend three weeks in a jungle and it was a real experience. I had no food for nine days and lost two stones – it’s all geared around pushing people’s buttons and getting them to snap.”
Which Bush tucker trial would Hook make Peter Pan do?
“Well, he can fly so I wouldn’t give him anything that he’d find easy. I’d probably drop snakes on his head!”
You play a good villain – what are you scared of?
“Rats! They’re horrible. I had to do the coffin challenge where I was locked in a box filled with rats. I could hear them scratching about and I could smell their breath! One even nibbled my ear (shudders).”
If you weren’t an actor what would you be?
“I’m not sure because acting’s what I love so that’s a difficult one. Before I became an actor I had a job fitting lofts so probably that.”
What’s on the horizon for you after panto?
“Well, there are a few things in the pipeline. It looks like next year could be a busy one for me.”
•Peter Pan the pantomime has been adapted for the stage from the book by JM Barrie. It’s being brought to the stage in Sunderland by Martin Dodd for UK Productions by arrangement with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Samuel French Limited.
•Peter Pan is at Sunderland Empire from December 14 to January 6. Tickets are available from the Empire Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022 or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland