Earlier this year, Ilan Galkoff joined the cast of the world premiere of Tom Stoppard’s new play Leopoldstadt as Pauli, which opened at the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, with the show receiving great reviews and due to run until 13th June before theatres closed around the world until further notice. Ilan started his stage career at a very young age which has seen him have roles in shows such as the UK Tour of Oliver!, Bumblescratch at the Adelphi Theatre and in the original London cast of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole the Musical as Adrian. With new TV series Good Omens released last year, Ilan played the role of Brian and attended the Leicester Square premiere alongside the rest of the cast. Amongst his screen roles, Ilan has filmed episodes of Grandpa in My Pocket and Wizards vs. Aliens, and also has voiceover experience. Answering our questions, we found out from Ilan about being in the world premiere of Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt, playing Perry in Bumblescratch and filming for Good Omens as Brian.
How was it booking your role of Pauli in Leopoldstadt and how had the run been going since opening at the Wyndham’s Theatre in January?
I was asked to audition for Leopoldstadt whilst on an educational trip to Poland. The purpose of the trip was to learn about the Holocaust, so to be contacted about a show of the same topic whilst there was amazing. Once I was back in London, I met with the creative team at Leopoldstadt, and after a few auditions, I got the role! I was so pleased that I was going to be able to retell the story of the Holocaust, an event which affected my own family, and to educate our audiences about the event.
The run of Leopoldstadt was going wonderfully, performing to a sold-out auditorium every night, so it was very sad when we inevitably had to say goodbye for the time being.
What was it like being part of the world premiere and how was the atmosphere on opening night?
As I mentioned before, it was an honour to be involved in Leopoldstadt. To perform what is often regarded as Tom Stoppard’s most personal play, as well as one which has so much significance to my own life, was a dream come true. The atmosphere on opening night was electric! We came into our dressing rooms to a mountain of presents and cards… just what you’d expect from a cast of over thirty people! After the show, we all celebrated together and waited for the reviews (which were really good!!).
Can you tell us about playing Ivan Sergievsky in Chess at the London Coliseum?
Chess was an incredibly fun show to be a part of. Although I only had a small part in the show, I used to love listening to the cast performing the music every night. It was an honour to be the son of Michael Ball and Alexandra Burke.
What did you know about The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole before booking your lead role of Adrian at the Menier Chocolate Factory and what was the production like to be part of?
Before Adrian Mole went to the Menier, where I was in the show, it had been performed in Leicester, however, I didn’t get a chance to see the show so I didn’t have much knowledge about the show itself. I started reading the book before the audition and during rehearsals which was really helpful for me to get into character. The production was amazing to be part of. It was one of the most enjoyable shows to perform and the music was just incredible! Sadly, my voice broke towards the end of the run and I had to take a few shows off, but I came back for my last show even if I couldn’t really sing the songs in the way I could at the start of the run!
How was the experience playing Young Louis Braille in The Braille Legacy?
The Braille Legacy was a hugely inspirational show and Louis’ story was told perfectly through music, song and dialogue. Through much of the show, I was wearing a blindfold, which was to create the image of blindness. It was difficult at first but an interesting experience once I got used to it!
You played one of the lead roles, Perry, in Bumblescratch at the Adelphi Theatre, can you tell us about your time in the show and recording the cast album?
Bumblescratch was a very unique experience for me because we only performed the show once, quite different to the six-month runs I was used to. We rehearsed for about two weeks, during which time I celebrated both my birthday and bar mitzvah and after two weeks performed the show at the Adelphi Theatre. I’m also incredibly proud of the cast recording which showcases Robert J. Sherman’s amazing music. I love being in a recording studio so was delighted to spend a week there recording this album.
What are some of your favourite memories from your earlier productions?
Some of my favourite memories are from the UK tour of Oliver! in which I played Nipper (the youngest boy in Fagin’s gang). I was in this show in 2011 at the age of eight and I remember my parents being very nervous to send me across the UK without them to look after me. I was, however, full of confidence and very much looking forward to all the challenges that this new lifestyle was going to bring.
Last year, you appeared as Brian in the Prime Original series Good Omens, what was it like being part of the cast and can you tell us more about your character?
My Good Omens experience began with a self-tape audition. I was then recalled at Spotlight studios in London, and after an intense day of auditions, I got the part! It was the most exciting day ever as this was my first large TV role and I couldn’t have been more excited to get started.
I was initially auditioned for the role of Wensleydale, another member of The Them, the gang I appear as part of in the show, however, in the end, I was cast as Brian. From the first day of filming, he was incredibly fun to portray, funny, slightly slow and most importantly… grimy!
The cast and crew on Good Omens were amazing to work with because they all had huge amounts of experience and there was so much I could learn from them. I remember feeling this particularly when shooting a scene alongside David Tennant and Michael Sheen, both of which are big inspirations for me.
What was the series like to film and how was the experience at the London premiere?
The majority of filming on Good Omens took place during winter, and with most of the scenes being outdoors, this meant that we were often quite cold! I remember my chaperones bringing me bottles filled with hot water in between takes to warm me up! Nonetheless, filming this show was a phenomenal experience, something which I’m desperate to do again in the future.
The London premiere was incredible, an experience which I could never have imagined. We were the first TV show to have a Leicester Square premiere! I loved walking down the red (or, in our case, green) carpet and posing for photos with the rest of the cast and then watching the first couple of episodes of the show in the Odeon Luxe cinema.
You’ve voiced for a couple of TV series – Hilda and Sofia the First – what are voiceovers like to do?
I’ve been doing voiceovers for quite a few years, normally English Language Tapes which are what people who are learning English as a foreign language would normally have played to them in their classrooms. In doing these, I gained experience in voiceover and got a job doing voice work for Disney! I appeared in two episodes of Sofia The First, playing the role of Wendell Herman Fidget III, a naughty Wizard with a passion for stealing flying horses. I got to record my own Disney song, Wendell’s Way, as well as providing the speaking voice for the character. This was a very unique experience for me as, although I was being recorded in a studio in London, I was on a live link to the show’s producers in LA!
(Song link: https://youtu.be/9cvKucWlFuc)
Your early screen roles have been in Grandpa in My Pocket and Wizards vs. Aliens, what do you remember about filming for these shows?
Another very interesting experience was Grandpa in My Pocket for CBeebies. In one of my scenes, I had a conversation with Grandpa in his small ‘pocket’ size, however, of course, this is all done through editing. During filming, I found myself talking to an action figure in place of Grandpa, whilst his lines were read to me by a crew member off camera. The most amazing part of this was seeing the final version once Grandpa had been added in post-production and the toy which I was chatting to had been removed.
The most memorable aspect of filming Wizards vs. Aliens was having hair extensions, something which I’d never had before. Once they were on, which took about four hours, they were typically left on for a week whilst we filmed and then removed before I went home. I remember clearly that this was the most painful part, taking closer to five hours and feeling like I was having my scalp removed! Still, I really enjoyed having this new look, even if I didn’t enjoy having it removed quite as much.
When did you get interested in an acting career and how did you go about taking it up professionally?
I’ve been singing and dancing since I was very young. Also, my mum used to send me to theatre camps over the summer, so I think that’s where it all started. At theatre camp, some of my roles included Joseph in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. When I was eight, I auditioned for an agency, and I’ve been acting professionally ever since.
What TV and theatre shows do you enjoy watching?
I love watching a variety of shows on TV, but I think my favourite, as well as my dream show to be in, would have to be Black Mirror. I love the modern and thought-provoking storylines, and the acting is always phenomenal. I do, however, also love watching more light-hearted comedies, my favourite definitely being The Office.
I also listen to a lot of musical theatre and love seeing shows whenever I get the chance, sadly, not very much at the moment due to lockdown. I love the work of Jason Robert Brown and Pasek and Paul among many others, and some of my favourite shows are; The Last Five Years, Dear Evan Hansen, Dogfight, Next To Normal, Spring Awakening, Hamilton… the list goes on!
How do you like to spend your free time?
As well as an actor, I’m also an artist, so I spend a lot of time creating many types of artwork. In the past year, I’ve developed a passion for painting, typically using acrylic or spray paint on canvas. Here is some of my artwork!
How was it performing and recording Santa, You’re Still My Friend alongside Jaime Adler and Harriet Turnbull?
It was a lot of fun as everyone was in the Christmas spirit and it was a very lovely song with great lyrics. Jaime and Harriet were great to perform with, and we were lucky to be able to perform it live at a venue in London. I am really pleased that they have both gone on to do great things in their career.
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