Tom Milner, star of Waterloo Road and The Voice, comes to The Palace Theatre in Green Day musical American Idiot. He talks to Quays Life about auditions, rejection and Playstation downtime.
What attracted you to American Idiot?
I had friends who’d been in it or seen it, who just talked about how amazing it was, how energetic it was and how it should have had a longer run in London. As a show, it’s right up my street. It’s a completely different style of musical and it’s my style of singing, so it really suits me.
What’s the show about?
It tells the different stories of three characters. My character, Johnny, has not had the best of upbringings and has a lot of deep lying issues. He wants to leave his city and go and explore the world. He takes everything that comes his way – sex, drugs and rock and roll.
It’s a rollercoaster of a show and you’ve just got to go with it. It’s an emotional journey dealing with today’s issues. It’s about making the right choice in life. Sometimes we don’t do that, but my character certainly doesn’t.
The show explores serious subjects including drug and alcohol abuse. How is that handled?
If you delve into why Green Day wrote the album American Idiot [on which the musical is based], it was a backlash against the government following the Iraq war and 9/11. It can be hard putting this type of story on stage; it’s not easy viewing for an audience. But the director, Racky Plews, is amazing. She’s come from a choreography background and now she’s a director, so she can visually and physically tell a story, not just using the script but through dance and movement too.
Former X-Factor stars Sam Lavery and Luke Friend star alongside you. What are they like to work with?
People might make a judgement about them being from the X Factor, but actually they both took to this like a duck to water. They are just amazing. I remember my first musical. I asked so many questions and learned so much. With these two, it’s like they’ve been doing it for 10 years already.
Are you excited about touring the show?
I’ve never toured before, so yes, I’m really looking forward to going to seeing new places with great people. Luckily one of the cast members, Josh, has decided to book all my rooms for me, so I don’t have to worry about that.
Is there anywhere in particular that you’re looking forward to playing?
I’m looking forward to Manchester. It’s a beautiful city. I spent a lot of time there filming Waterloo Road. I’m actually staying with one of the old cast members from that show. It will be great to catch up with him.
Is there anything you’ll need to take with you?
My Playstation. That and FIFA and I’ll be very happy. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of tournaments. And obviously a guitar, because I write music as well. I’ll be using my downtime in the days to do a bit of that.
In an age when entertainment is available at the click of a button, what’s makes live theatre special?
We’re living in a decade where we’re obsessed with screens. You see parents feeding kids their iPad because it’s easy. We should be getting out and doing more of what we did 20, 30 years ago, what our parents and grandparents did.
With this show in particular, we don’t have an inch of energy left when we’re finished. You’re seeing that; live performers giving everything.
What was it like to appear on The Voice?
It was a whirlwind. What people don’t know is that you’ve actual done three producer auditions before the first time that you’re seen on television. 50,000 people audition, and by the first TV episode the viewers see you’re down to the last 100. If you can make it to the TV and you don’t get a chair turn, you’ve actually still been very successful. People don’t realise that.
The whole experience was amazing, especially as before it I took two years out of the industry because I’d been working since I was 13. I needed a break and a bit of normality in my life.
Was it difficult being part of the industry from a young age?
I’ve never trained. I’ve worked since I was 13. I was learning on the job at a very young age and it doesn’t get better than that. But I think drama schools give young performers an armour that I didn’t have. Rejection is massive in this industry. When you go for a job, the chance of you getting it is really low. That’s not being negative, it’s realistic.
From a young age I was successful. As a young actor doing all this work, you think it’s going to last forever, but you get slammed back down to reality, because that isn’t life. That’s why I needed to take those two years out to sort my head out and work out what I wanted to do. Right now, this is exactly what I need to be doing and I love it.
What can audiences expect from a trip to see American Idiot?
Great music and great energy. You’re not going to leave the theatre feeling disappointed. We throw our heart and soul into the performances.
American Idiot is at Manchester’s Palace Theatre from 2-6 April 2019. See website for details.
Read our interview with co-star Sam Lavery.
Read our interview with co-star Luke Friend.
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