Interview: Fame at last for Steps singer
After the storm of controversy caused by Celebrity Big Brother this year, and coming out as gay, you would be forgiven for thinking that Ian “H” Watkins is in need of some rest and relaxation.
But with redcoat training under his belt (and let’s not forget, “H” stands for hyperactive) the ex-Steps popstar has bounced back and is ready for his next big part: Nick Piazza in the West End musical FAME.
He told Amy Bourke all about it.
When Ian spoke to PinkNews.co.uk, he was clearly exhausted from a long stretch of promoting his new show.
However, the cheeky chappy still managed to keep upbeat and polite; every inch the gentleman he was in the Big Brother house, keeping the peace while all around him lost their heads.
Ian is still finding it hard to adjust to real life after leaving the madhouse.
“Big Brother was a very weird and intense, experience.
“I kept waking up in my own bed at home, thinking I was being watched by cameras.”
Ian came out as gay to his close friends and family (including his Steps bandmates) when he was 21. In previous interviews he has referred to himself as the only gay in his rural Welsh village.
He had a ten-year affair with Tim Byrne, the manager of Steps.
The relationship which ended amicably just a few months before Big Brother, leaving him single for the first time.
Ian famously came out to the public on the day he entered the house.
“It was very strange because everybody knew! Everybody just said, “Yeah, we guessed.”
“The public reaction was fantastic and very supportive.
“Coming out to the public helped me to be a lot more comfortable with who I am and how I perceive myself.
“The advice I would give to anyone in the public eye who struggling with coming out is: whatever you decide, don’t let anybody pressure you. Just follow your heart, because it is a very personal decision.”
Is he single now? Ian suddenly turns coy. “I’m single-ish, I’ve just started seeing somebody so I don’t want to say too much about it, but it’s all lovely.”
Of course, Big Brother was not Ian’s first foray into the world of reality TV.
After Steps split in 2001, Ian has been gradually moving himself away from his persona as “H”.
Channel 4 made a documentary series about his time as a mature student at the Royal Academy of Music called H Side Story.
Ian did a one-year course in musical theatre, which he believes was essential to helping him get the role of Nick in FAME.
He describes the course as a positive step in his career:
“The vocal coaching and training really helped me to unlock the tools and talents I already have.
“It put them more at my disposal. I would recommend the student life to anyone!
“I’ve ticked the box of reality TV and I’ve broadened my horizons in doing so. People are wary of doing reality TV because it’s got this “tacky” label, but it’s helped to redefine me in the eyes of the public.
“People now know that my surname isn’t Steps.”
Musical theatre has been Ian’s overriding passion in life. He has appeared in Jesus Christ Superstar and starred as Joseph in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat.
“Yes, I have been following the BBC’s Any Dream Will Do,” he confides. “I watched it a couple of weeks ago because my good friend Johndeep was voted off, which was very sad.
“When I played Joseph, contestant Lee Mead played my Pharaoh. So I’m rooting for him now. He’s one of the favourites to win, and very good to boot.”
The opening night for FAME is Monday 8th May – which will be Ian’s 31st birthday, a milestone which marks him moving from being a poster boy for the Spice Girls generation to a bona fide musical theatre actor.
The plot of the musical follows a group of drama students trying to make it big.
Ian’s character, Nick, is an ambitious actor who falls for the geeky girl in the class, Serena, but denies his feelings towards her.
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“I’m absolutely cacking myself!” He admits, screeching a little. “It’s the new re-launch, and we’re under extreme pressure but hopefully we can pull it off. A lot is riding on this performance.”
When Ian “H” Watkins left the Big Brother house, he was met with raucous cheers.
Davina McCall announced that he had entered the house as “H”, and left as Ian.
Surely this newfound maturity and honesty can only spell good things for his performance in FAME, what Ian describes as “the perfect summer musical.”
To book tickets to see FAME, ring 0870 040 0046. Show times are Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays at 7.30pm, Friday Matinees at 5.30pm, Saturday Matinees at 3pm.
Tickets cost £17.50-£55.