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In Conversation With... Billy Cullum | Interview


Billy Cullum, has already had an impressive and extensive career starring in shows such as Spring Awakening and Jesus Christ Superstar. He's currently taking on the role of Mark Cohen, the introverted film maker in the 20th Anniversary tour of Rent and wowing audiences across the country with his incredible performance. I saw Rent for the fifth time last night and was as moved as I was the first time. It's truly a brilliant production. 

Not only is Billy a wonderful performer but also a wonderful person and he was nice enough to answer these questions about all things Rent, performing and life in general!


For those that don't know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I trained at the Arts Educational School of Musical Theatre and graduated in 2010. My first job was a small scale musical of Alice in Wonderland that toured all around Italy. It was hard work but getting paid to travel all around such a beautiful city made all the early mornings and get-ins worthwhile. I then went on to play Jesus in Godspell at the Union Theatre followed by one of my dream roles as Moritz in the UK Tour of Spring Awakening. I then performed in Hair, Merrily We Roll Along before my West End debut in the RSC’s Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. Roald Dahl was becoming a running theme as I then joined the cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Being an Oompa Loompa was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! After this I joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. It was an incredible piece to be a part of. I understudied and played the role of Jesus. Now I am lucky enough to be in one of my favourite musicals and playing one of my dream roles as Mark Cohen in Rent


Was being a performer what you always yearned for or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?

Performing is the only thing I’ve ever really focused on from the age of 3. It wasn’t until I was about 16 though that I thought it could become a career. I’m a songwriter and a recording artist which is something I love to do as well. I’m just about to release the first single ‘Lost in You’ from my debut album which is released 03.03.17.


Rent is one of the most iconic musicals ever, do you feel a lot of pressure taking on such an important role?

When I got offered the job I was ecstatic. I was so excited. Then it hit me that this musical has such a strong following. It means so much to people. It really has a place in people’s hearts so the pressure slowly started to dawn on me. I then had to go into the rehearsal room on the first day and let all that pressure go and focus on my portrayal of Mark. I like to think I’ve made him my own and I have enjoyed exploring him. He’s very complex and intricate which I don’t think many people realise. 


The cast must be so close with this production, have there been any standout funny moments on or offstage between you all?

There have been MANY funny moments. My favourite though has to be when Layton Williams who plays Angel got his coat stuck in his wig as he was about to go full throttle into 'Today For You'. Somehow, he managed to sort out the issue whilst incorporating it into the song with humour and sass "My Wig! Help me out with my Wig!" It was pure genius! 


Has the show changed at all going from tour to the St James and then back on tour?

It naturally changes to fill different spaces. The St James was such an intimate setting which I loved. It was very intense. Performing in bigger venues such as Edinburgh Festival Theatre lets other moments thrive more. The show always has the same heart but it definitely feels adapts beautifully to each venue.


How are you enjoying touring life? What do you miss most being away from home?

I’m really enjoying it. I love seeing different places I wouldn't necessarily chose to go to. The thing I miss most about being away is my loved ones and my dogs. 


Can you sum up the show in 5 words?

Live and Love without fear.

If you could go back to any era, when would it be and why?

I’d wanna go back to the caveman era. I wanna know how I would survive!


If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?

Oooh. I think it would have to be Next to Normal


What's the best piece of advice you're ever received and what advice would you give to aspiring performers?

"Just Be You" is the best advice I’ve ever had. It really works. That’s the advice I’d give to any aspiring performers. Don’t try and fit a mould because someone told you to or because that’s how you get work. I like to think I’ve been employed because of my talent and character and I’ve done that by simply being me. To add to this I would also say never give up. Focus on your own path, it’s so dangerous to compare yourself to others. If you really want it don’t give up. Your time will come.


Thank you so much Billy for doing this interview; go see him in Rent and make sure you purchase all his new music!

Rent is playing at the New Victoria theatre, Woking until March 11th. Visit http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/rent-the-musical/new-victoria-theatre/  for tickets



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