Last year, Tom Milner starred as lead character Johnny in the 10th Anniversary Tour of Green Day’s American Idiot, touring the UK from January to July, and recently performed a special version of Green Day’s hit Wake Me Up When September (Covid) Ends with some of the American Idiot band to raise money for the NHS. Prior to leading the cast of American Idiot, Tom had most recently played Argy in We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, and for his musical theatre debut, he starred as Robbie in Soho Cinders at Soho Theatre. As a screen actor, Tom was well-known for playing Paul Langley over a number of series of BBC drama Waterloo Road, having left in 2010, before joining Waterloo Road Reunited the following year. Tom competed on Series 5 of The Voice UK in 2016, where he joined Team Ricky, and last month, he was part of All The Web’s a Stage, a charity fundraiser supporting Acting for Others, The Golsoncott Foundation and Help Musicians UK. Chatting with Tom, he talks about starring as Johnny in the 10th Anniversary Tour of American Idiot, his time in We’ll Live and Die in These Towns and his special version of Wake Me Up When September (Covid) Ends.
What was Johnny like to play in the UK Tour of American Idiot?
He was immense. Mentally challenging at times. It took me two months to build up the mental stamina. In theatre particularly, I’ve played characters which are much more reserved so it was nice to let off a bit of steam!
Was there anything that drew you to the role and how was it performing the Green Day music?
I really wanted to work with the director (Racky Plews). I’d only auditioned for her once before and we got on so well in the audition room – so I was really excited about that. I grew up being a ‘pretend’ indie punk rock boy so I loved Green Day. It was really special performing the songs. The band we had on tour with us too were immense which made it even better.
What do you remember about getting into character for the first time and how was it seeing the audience feedback from your performance whilst on tour?
I remember REALLY getting into character when I’d got my hair done. I then walked into the rehearsal room a different person. I started wearing clothes which associated to him too which again really helped me get into Johnny. Audience feedback is always special especially when there had been previous Johnnys who had smashed the role. But hearing the reaction from people after the shows was just special.
Is there anything you miss most about playing Johnny?
Yes. I got to have a punk haircut and wear eyeliner for eight months. I actually miss that.
How is it touring with a production?
It was good. Tough at times as I’m a home boy at heart. It’s always good when you visit different places and see new things you haven’t seen before.
In 2018, you played Argy in the world premiere of We’ll Live and Die in These Towns, can you say more about this?
YES. I got to work with my hero Tom Clarke. The book was written by the amazing Geoff Thompson. This was a special project for me. The music was by a band called The Enemy who I grew up listening to and I was massively influenced by them. Tom (lead singer of the band) was the MD and we’re now really good friends and he’s always there for help and advice when I’m writing!
What was Waterbabies like to be part of and how was it performing at Leicester Curve?
I’ve been lucky in theatre to create many original characters and this was another. I was involved in the musical from a very early process. I’d done three workshops with the musical before we actually put it on stage. I worked with some brilliant people from the workshop to the production.
Can you say about playing Robbie in Soho Cinders?
This show was special because it was my first musical theatre role. I owe everything to Stiles & Drewe for giving me my first shot at it. The music was gorgeous. The role was awesome too. Again, working with some brilliant people.
Having played Paul Langley in Waterloo Road for a number of years, what was it like filming the show and portraying the character?
He was great. This role really took my career off and I’m thankful for everyone at the BBC and Shed Productions. I was only supposed to be in one episode and I ended up doing four series!! We had an incredible laugh and time. My only regret – I was too young to appreciate how good it actually was!
What was it like working on Waterloo Road Reunited and seeing what happened to the character once he’d left the school?
We got to film in Glasgow for a month so it was fun. Myself, Tachia (Bolton) and Dean (Philip) had our own pad in the centre of Glasgow. Just imagine our time!
How was your experience on The Voice UK in Team Ricky?
I never wanted to do any shows like The Voice or The X Factor. My family and friends were ALWAYS on at me to do it. I then got an email asking if I fancied a private audition. I then auditioned three times in front of producers before I got my first TV audition. Again – I met friends for life on that show, so that tops everything.
How did you get into music and acting?
I always loved Michael Jackson growing up. He was the ultimate performer. I then got bought a really old microphone with a bright yellow foam head for Christmas. That was the start of it!
What music do you enjoy listening to and do you have a favourite theatre or TV show to watch?
I love most music really. I’ve got a vinyl player so I’ve the beauty of that. My favourite music has to be Stereophonics, Arctic Monkeys, The Enemy, MJ, JT. I’ll stop now. My favourite TV show has to be Phoenix Nights hands down. Although I’ve just got into Gavin and Stacey – late to the party I know!
Can you tell us about performing as part of All The Web’s A Stage?
Yeah, I got approached to see if I wanted to help and get involved. Of course I wanted to help people within our industry. It was a really special event. Well done to the guys who organised it!
You and the American Idiot band recently recorded a special version of Green Day’s Wake Me Up When September (Covid) Ends, how did the video come about?
I just felt like a lemon at home and wanted to help but it’s hard when you’ve been told to stay at home. I then contacted the boys and asked if they were up for doing a version of it. Within two minutes they’d all responded and we were away. Nick Kent (bassist) is a brilliant editor and does it on the side when he’s not performing!
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