With his professional acting debut as Jeremy Potts in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Finn Richards then went on to workshop Adrian Mole the Musical as the lead character and appeared in RSC’s Matilda in the West End, where he played the role of Bruce. Also a screen actor, Finn has completed a couple of short movies with his most recent, First Boy on the Moon, filming earlier this year. Answering our questions, Finn talks to us about his first professional tour, his screen roles and playing Bruce in Matilda the Musical.
Can you tell us about your time as Jeremy Potts in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
This was my first real taste of working professionally and staying away from home. I was only ten years old at the time and also being on tour was a little daunting to start with. The cast, crew and chaperones were really friendly and helped a lot with making us all feel at home. I learnt a great deal and had so much fun at the same time.
What was this character like to portray?
I had watched the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film on TV, so I knew a little of what the character was like. It was fun to portray him live on stage and alongside such a supportive cast. The singing made him really come to life and helped me express to the audience what I thought he was like.
What was it like learning the choreography and do you have a favourite song in the production?
The choreography was relatively simple to learn but still quite unique and creative. I have trained in modern dance, tap and ballet since I was seven years old, so it didn’t give me too much trouble to learn and perfect. I love singing and, for me, the songs I really enjoyed performing were Roses of Success and Posh. Posh was my favourite as I had a short solo part and the dancing with Grandpa Potts (Andy Hockley) and Jemima (my friend, Emma Jane Shorrock) really got the audience clapping along.
Do you remember how you felt stepping on stage for the first time in front of an audience as Jeremy Potts?
This was probably one of the most nervous nights of my life, as up to that point I’d only performed to a couple of hundred people. So opening night at The Lowry theatre Salford in 2016, which holds nearly 2000 people, is the largest number I have ever performed to. Once I started, I just got into the character and the nerves just disappeared.
How was the experience on your first professional tour and how long did it last?
I enjoyed every second of it. The other cast members were amazing, including Jason Manford and Phil Jupitus, who we had lots of fun with, they were always joking. Although we joined at the halfway point of the year-long tour, everyone was lovely and made us feel part of the team straight away. I was lucky that our shows opened near my hometown, so lots of my family and friends were able to attend. This made every show even more special as someone I knew was always in the audience.
What did you enjoy most about being in the cast of Matilda and what was the most rewarding aspect?
I enjoyed working for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). It was a privilege being taught by some truly amazing world class vocal coaches and dance choreographers.
The most rewarding aspect had to be the audience reaction to Bruce Bogtrotter’s character. He was such a comedic part to play, which I naturally love doing. The best feeling in the world was when he got the audience to laugh and his solo song brings everyone to their feet when he finishes it.
What drew you to the role of Bruce and how much fun was the character to play?
Being able to perform in the West End of London is a dream for most actors regardless of age. Being able to do that when so young and especially in the part of Bruce, a major character within Matilda, was a dream come true. He’s a funny character to play and I got a lot of positive feedback from playing him.
How long were you in rehearsals for this production?
Rehearsals last for about three months and ran from Monday to Saturday usually with a day off mid-week. I lived in “Wormwood Scrubs” which is the nickname they called the house where all the Matildas and Bruces in the show, who live outside London stay during your time with the show.
I started just before summer holidays, so only had a month of being tutored for school before rehearsing freely full time. I basically lived in London six days a week and my mum or dad would come and collect me on a Saturday evening, only to take me back on the train for Sunday night.
How different did you find playing Bruce to Jeremy Potts?
The difference is in how physically more demanding the role of Bruce was to play compared to Jeremy. Bruce, along with the other Matilda characters, are always dancing and moving on the stage. This combined with the singing made for a very full-on performance for me to deliver.
You were part of Live at the Royal Court and The Magic of Musicals, can you say more about these?
As part of my ongoing training, one of the weekly classes I attend is with a musical theatre training company called Stagebox. To showcase our talent, Stagebox elite teams perform several times a year at different venues. We often get to train and work alongside senior musical theatre actors, singers and directors who are currently working in West End and on Broadway productions and hence why I appeared at the Royal Court.
How long were you workshopping Adrian Mole and what did you take from this role?
The Adrian Mole workshop was a full musical rehearsal with the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO). I worked with musical theatre writers Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger on this project to sing Intellectual Boy from the musical The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, which they wrote. It was an incredible experience learning how to sing with a full orchestra and then perform a song with comical lyrics.
Is there anything you can say about the short film First Boy on the Moon?
First Boy on the Moon is an independent short film about a young boy visiting the moon in his dreams as he looks to connect with his dead older brother. I played the older brother who appeared as a ghost and tried to help his younger sibling cope with his loss.
Who is Benji Jackson in Truth and Lies?
Benji, from another short film I have been in, is a vulnerable teenager who is coming to terms with growing up and dealing with peer pressure. It was an interesting challenge playing a darker, more troubled character whose older sister accidently discovers his problems and then helps him overcome his online addiction.
When and how did you get involved in acting?
I started dancing and acting every week from when I was five and trained with my local dance company A.T Dance. I then auditioned for the part of Michael in Peter Pan that a local theatre company were producing. It kind of escalated from there really and I haven’t stopped ever since.
What acting plans do you have for the next few months?
I am continually self-taping and auditioning for roles my agent AJ Management find for me, it never really stops. I hope to do another film later this year but would also like to perform in a stage play or do TV work if the opportunity arises.
We’ve heard you’re passionate about singing and perform in a band, can you tell us about this?
Yes, I am the lead singer in a small band with friends from school. We’ve written a couple of songs but are still developing our style. We have a great time when we get together to rehearse and have done a couple of local gigs. It’s just a bit of fun and nothing too serious but I just love music and performing.
Follow Finn on: