Earlier this year, Adam Gillian had been portraying the role of Gerry Goffin in the touring production of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical before the tour was cut short due to theatres closing around the world. For Adam’s first professional stage experience, he understudied the role of Orpheus in the National Theatre’s production of Hadestown and his first screen role was as Gareth Fleming in Counsel for BBC NI and he has also filmed for Pan Tau as well as short films, with his most recent being Re:Live. Last month, Adam released his self-written single Ghost Light, raising funds for Acting For Others, alongside fellow performers from the West End, Regional Touring Companies and 2020 Graduates, and this Friday, he will be sharing the stage with Vicki Manser at her streamed single release show. We spoke to Adam about touring as Gerry Goffin in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical, his time in Hadestown and releasing Ghost Light for Acting For Others.
You had been touring as Gerry Goffin in Beautiful – The Carole King Musical before the pandemic closed theatres, what was the role like to play?
Gerry was a difficult role at first because he’s quite layered in terms of his journey and how he behaves at the beginning, in his youth, to how he ends up in later life. Having to have a nervous breakdown every show was tricky but I got there in the end! He’s often seen as the villain of the show which I don’t agree with – but then I would say that. I loved stepping into his shoes every show.
What was it like being part of the cast and what were you looking forward to for the rest of the run?
I think I was quite nervous being part of such an experienced cast at first. I had a lot of learning to do! It was my first onstage role and a main one at that but after a few weeks of rehearsal I got used to it. The cast were lovely and incredibly talented so I soon felt like part of the team. I was most looking forward to performing in the New Wimbledon Theatre as I had quite a few friends coming to watch. Had we been going to Belfast I would have said that but unfortunately we weren’t. Next time maybe!
Had you seen the show previously and was there anything that drew you to the script?
I had seen the show before while I was auditioning for the West End production a few years ago. I loved that it felt like a play with music as the songs came from organic songwriting moments and how the songs were then brought to life by the groups that performed them. As a songwriter as well as an actor I could relate to the writing processes seen in the show and was definitely able to relate to Gerry and Carole’s frustrations.
How was it being cast in Hadestown at the National Theatre?
I really couldn’t believe that call to say I had been cast. I thought “this is so monumentally huge even just to audition for something at the National” that I didn’t even contemplate getting that opportunity! That was my first stage job and I had never understudied before so needless to say I was very nervous starting. It was amazing to watch the cast work every day and experiencing how the show changed throughout previews to what it is (mostly) now on Broadway was just incredible.
Can you tell us about being understudy Orpheus?
I loved it! The story is incredible and, at the time, Orpheus was written as more of a ‘rockstar’ compared to what he is now on Broadway. Having been in bands before, I loved bringing that energy to the character. I had to learn how to play a Tenor Guitar which has four strings which I didn’t actually know until the first day of rehearsal! So that was interesting but Reeve was so helpful and always answered any questions I had. Having to go on last minute before I had had a tech rehearsal was something I’ll never forget but what an experience it was. Needless to say I was very careful on the revolve!
What was it like working on the BBC NI special Counsel as Gareth Fleming?
This was my first TV job and arguably my first ever job. Again, I was very nervous before starting and the night before the first shoot I definitely thought they would replace me after a day. Thankfully they didn’t and I got to have an incredible time playing Gareth. The crew were brilliant and Declan (the director) was very appreciative of the fact I hadn’t really worked on screen before. The school that was used as Gareth’s school was actually my old school! So that was very strange playing rugby outside seven years later!
Can you tell us about your time filming episodes of Pan Tau?
We filmed in Munich, Germany in August so it was beautifully sunny and hot. I was there for three weeks with a lot of downtime so getting to be a tourist was amazing. The episode we were shooting was set in a Fantasy Medieval period so the castle that was used was an actual castle just outside the city. I had a great time but I think I’ll leave the wig and tights next time around.
You’ve worked on a number of short films, can you say more about them?
I was back home in Northern Ireland for the majority of the first lockdown and as the regulations began to relax I was able to audition for a few short films and was cast. I worked on a short called Copy That in August and it was just so nice to be with a crew and castmates again. I definitely felt a little rusty after not acting for a good few months but I met some great people who I will hopefully be working with again in the future. The last one I worked on was Re:Live which was about mental health, particularly in men. It was a bit of a challenge as my character Edward was in shorts and a shirt while we were shooting outdoors in a forest for three days but I’m hoping my shivers aren’t captured in the final edit.
Had you always wanted to have an acting career and how did you start?
Since I was around fifteen I think I knew I wanted to perform in some capacity. I either wanted to be in a band and writing music or acting on stage and screen. Fast forward however many years (too many) and I’m fortunately doing both as much as I can. I started off with music playing drums and guitar in local bands in Belfast as well as getting involved in as many amateur stage productions which went on at the Grand Opera House in Belfast, which is an amazing place to sharpen your skills. I then, very fortunately, got an Andrew Lloyd Webber scholarship to study at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland when I was twenty.
Can you tell us about being part of The Actor’s Community?
Not too long into the first lockdown, my friend Mark Rowley got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in online acting coaching and teaching classes. I very quickly said yes and about eight or nine months later we have a small but growing community of actors and students taking courses on Shakespeare, Acting for Stage and Screen, Acting Through Song and loads more. I really love coaching and I’m very glad I was asked to be involved.
What do you enjoy doing away from performing?
I tend to be doing something creative which usually involves writing; either songs with and for other artists or myself. I’ve recently taken a deep dive into screenwriting and have a short film being made (all being well) next year. Besides that I’m probably quite boring! I’m a slight gaming nerd…
How long were you working on the single Ghost Light that has recently been released with funds going to Acting For Others?
The song itself was written and finished around May this year during the first lockdown but the logistical aspect took until October to get everything finalised; mainly because everyone’s takes were being recorded remotely and then sent to my brother Ryan (an absolute wizard of a music producer and musician) for him to patch together.
What was it like working with the other performers involved with the song and seeing the social media response to the release?
I loved hearing everyone’s takes as they came in and how they interpreted the song in their performance. I think it’s safe to say I’m relatively unknown in the theatre world so Cameron Sharp was able to get some great performers involved that I didn’t know personally with my demo and a vague release plan! The response has been amazing so far with a lot of people enjoying the song for the song and not just as a charity single which is what I was hoping for. Still many more ears it needs to reach but I’m hoping for some mainstream radio play very soon.
Can you say about some of the other projects you’ve been involved with or have coming up in the time theatres have been closed?
I’d love to say there’s been loads but unfortunately it’s been quite stagnant, as it has for so many people! I have, however, been writing with Vicki Manser throughout lockdown for her upcoming EP next year and have somehow landed a spot next to her playing at her streamed Single Release Show for her next release Love Me Like The Movies, so I’m really excited to show people what we’ve been writing and working on; and to play a gig. An actual gig with a band, can you imagine?
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