Hello Magazine online

~ 13/03/09 ~

As he releases a greatest hits album to mark 25 glittering years in showbiz, West End star Michael Ball opens his heart to about why he's feeling happier and more comfortable with himself than ever, and sets us straight about why acting isn't a 'real job'. He currently lives in London with TV presenter partner Cathy McGowan, who fell for him after she interviewed him…

Do you remember the very first show you appeared in?

"I was three-and-a half when I first went on stage in the local panto. We were meant to sing Doe A Deer with the lead girl and I didn't. I just mimed a trumpet!"

If you could travel back to the start of your career – would you give yourself any specific advice?

"Save! Put the money away!

"No, I'd tell myself to smell the roses. So many things happen, and if you don't take the time to appreciate them they're gone and you can't have them back again."

Was there one moment when you thought, 'I've made it!'?

"When I went on Top Of The Pops to do Love Changes Everything , that was pretty cool. It was a real 'pinch myself' moment because I didn't even think I'd be making records, let alone be in the charts."

Do you think people go to the theatre to escape reality?

"Yes. Especially the performers! It's not like a real job, is it? I mean we work hard, don't get me wrong. And you get knocks and it can be tough, but it's not a real job. My grandfather was a coal miner!"

You've squeezed 25 years on the stage into your new disk Past And Present. How did you choose what would go on it?

"They're either recordings I was really proud of or they have strong memories for me. They're all significant, including the live version of One Step Out Of Time , my Eurovision song."

With promoting the album, the tour you're about to embark on, your radio show and starring in Hairspray you must be working flat out. Do you manage to spend as much time as you would like with Cathy, her daughter Emma and Emma's two children?

"Funnily enough in the theatre you get to spend more time at home. You're at home during the day and you come home after the show at night and there's always someone there, so I spend most of the time at home. And it's lovely.

"I spend a lot of time with the kids. And our dogs Freddie and Ollie. It's what I like to do. I work hard but like to make the most of my relaxation time. That's what life's about."

In 1992 you represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest. These days it seems to be taken less seriously in this country. Do you agree?

"We didn't take it very seriously then. It's great entertainment. It's lovely to watch the rest of Europe give us a good kicking and that's what it is. It's a fun piece of TV and it should never be taken seriously."

You're often on the road, when you are, what do you miss?

"That I don't get to cook and that I can't splay out on my own sofa watching telly. And sleeping in my own bed – you can't beat those things."

In the past you've admitted to being conscious about your self image. Now you seem more comfortable with yourself than ever. What's the secret?

"Don't you find as you get older, you care less what people think? It takes a while but you kind of think, 'Whatever. I really don't care and I'm not going to worry about things like I used to.' It's that simple."

Winning an Olivier award for playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray must have helped?

"Absolutely! Acknowledgement by your peers as well as the audience is very heady and potent. All these people who say it's not about awards, they're talking rubbish."

Your mum was born in Wales, and it's been reported you feel more Welsh than English even though you've never lived there. Why is that?

"I think of myself as Wenglish. If it comes to rugby and war, I'm going to be Welsh. But I'm a very healthy mixture of the two. There's something a bit more exciting about being a Celt. It's lovely having a history like that, and there's something very moving about being part of a tribe."

** Past And Present: The Very Best Of Michael Ball is out now


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