THEATER TALK: Exclusive Interview With Richard Fleeshman
Fleeshman, who started acting at the age of 12 on the British soap opera "Coronation Street," has recently taken on more theatrical projects, playing Warner Huntington III in "Legally Blonde: The Musical" on the West End, and originating his role in "Ghost" in the world premiere of the musical in Manchester, England. He continued with the show on the West End, and has crossed the Atlantic to play the victim of a mugging gone wrong on Broadway. He is also a singer/songwriter.
Katie Buenneke, Neon Tommy: How has the adjustment from the UK to New York been?
Richard Fleeshman: They are both cosmopolitan, busy exciting cities so they're not all that different, but I love that I can order delivery 24/7 here. It really is the city that never sleeps.
What are your three favorite things about London? New York?
London - Home, family, friends
New York - The beaches being so close, the 24/7 food, the adventure of being here.
You come from a show biz family. How do you think that has affected your career?
It made me realise it was possible for me to make acting my profession from a very young age, and also gave me "the bug" from always watching my parents on stage or on TV.
You rose to prominence in England for your work on the soap opera "Coronation Street," which you started on when you were just 12 years old. How did that prepare you for a career in the performing arts?
It was a great way to "cut my teeth." The work is so fast paced and it's watched by upwards of 10 million people every show, so there's no room for mistakes. I also got to work with amazing writers and actors, it was a great preparation for things I've done since and also led on to some amazing opportunities for me. I’m very grateful for my time there.
What made you want to make the switch from TV to musical theater?
I haven't switched from anything to anything. The business is vast and I just happen to be doing this right now. I love new challenges and getting to play different characters whether that be on stage or screen. If I'm lucky enough to keep working as I have been, then I fully intend to keep doing things in different genres.
Both of your shows on the West End ("Legally Blonde: The Musical" and "Ghost") were based on beloved American movies. What has it been like to work with the expectations of your viewers?
Every part comes with its own pressures and expectations, especially if it’s in the West End or Broadway. You can only try not to let it swamp you too much and focus on trying to make it as good as possible.
Putting on American accents is nothing new for British actors, but you've been performing in an American accent almost every day for two years now. What has that been like?
Initially the thought of playing a famous American character in an American love story in front of 1500 Americans was pretty daunting, but honestly I don't really think about it now. People seem genuinely shocked at stage door when I open my mouth, so I'm taking that as a good sign!
What was it like singing "Consider Yourself" (from the musical "Oliver!") with the London cast of "Avenue Q"?
It was for charity, it was good fun.
From British TV to the West End and now to Broadway, you've been a performer for almost half your life. How do you keep yourself grounded?
I have a great group of friends and I'm incredibly close to my family. My parents have been performers for 35 years each, so [they] have been there and done it all, so if I ever got ahead of myself they'd be the first to bring me back down.
"Ghost" had its world premiere in Manchester, where you filmed "Coronation Street." What was it like coming back?
It was very special for me to be in my home town for the world premiere. It was also great for Manchester that it was chosen, as it has a great history of theatre and hopefully more shows will follow suit now.
You also have a music career, including touring with Sir Elton John. Do you consider yourself more of a musician or an actor, or a combination of both?
I’m a combination of both. I love them both equally.
You just turned 23 earlier last month, making you the youngest leading man on Broadway this season. How do you feel about being one of the youngest men in the neighborhood?
I didn't know that. That’s pretty cool. I don't think about it really, but maybe in a few years I’ll look back and think that it is pretty crazy.
You've written on your blog that you personally don't believe in supernatural occurrences, especially those like the ones portrayed in "Ghost." How do you, as an actor, work as a character who is at odds with your personal beliefs?
Actors often have to play against things they themselves believe or support—it’s just part of the job. I do however believe in the story of "Ghost"…I think its brilliant!
To be quite blunt: what's it like playing a dead man eight shows a week?
It's emotionally draining to play this part every night, but I love it.
What is your favorite part of getting to be in "Ghost" every night?
It changes show to show. I love the physicality of the role and the songs I get to sing and also working so closely with all the illusions.
The staging for this show is incredibly complicated. How difficult is to deal with the technical aspects of the show while telling your story?
It's run so tightly, it’s like the army. The crew and stage managers are amazing, so everything runs so smoothly I don't even think about it now.
What was the process of preparing to transfer the show from the West End to Broadway like?
Very exciting, it was a dream to originate this part in the UK, but to bring it to NY was incredible.
What are your thoughts about Ghost closing on the West End?
Shows open and close all the time, it’s just how it goes in theatre. Ghost has had an incredible time on the West End, and I’m immensely proud of the show and the fantastic cast and crew that work there.