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‘The pandemic taught me a lot about myself’: Life according to… stage star Keith Jack

© PND PhotographyKeith Jack
Keith Jack

Actor Keith Jack chats about accents, a scary car crash, and 15 years since TV breakthrough, Any Dream Will Do.

You’re back on stage in Sunshine On Leith – is this your first time in the production?

Yes, and it’s actually my first time doing anything Scottish or even having a Scottish accent. I need to go back to what I sounded like at 19, before I moved to London and started doing American and English accents. I’ve got used to adding those sounds into my voice, so now I need to take them away. Instead of saying something like: “Where are you from?” I need to say: “Where are ye fae?” That’s how I spoke years ago, but when you come down to London you can’t speak like that. I talk to my dad every day, and he’s really Scottish, so I’ll just talk like he talks.

Who is your character in the musical?

I’m Ally, who along with Davy, has just returned from the war in Afghanistan. He struggles with fitting back into civilian life, how to deal with relationships, getting a job, staying in his sister’s spare room. There’s some amazing moments in the show for me as an actor. It’s an emotionally draining part – I’m not playing the love story role I usually play. It’s very different for me, it’s nice as an actor to take that on.

How does it feel to be going back on stage after Covid?

The pandemic taught me a lot about myself, and I feel I’ve come out as a stronger, better version of myself, and now I’ve got a part in a production I’ve always wanted to do. It’s an uplifting show with lots of heart and great Scottish songs. To open the theatre back up with this is perfect – I can’t think of a better show to do it with.

You had a scary moment after a show a few months ago?

I was driving home on Christmas Day after panto and my car slid on black ice and I went through a fence and into a tree. I thought I was dead. I closed my eyes and didn’t think I would open them again. I called my dad and he was in bits when he arrived, seeing how bad the crash was. I had cuts all over my body and arms but no broken bones or a mark on my face. It put a dampener on Christmas Day, wondering what could have been, but I survived it and I’m still here.

Does it feel like 15 years since you found fame on BBC’s Any Dream Will Do?

It feels like something I’ve always done, but it also doesn’t feel like 15 years, even though I look and feel completely different from then. It was such a popular show and people don’t seem to realise how long ago it was on.

What have been your highlights since then?

I don’t have one specific thing that’s a standout – I sang for The Queen, I’ve done West End shows and made albums. But the best part is the friendships I’ve made along the way.

What’s been key to your longevity?

I’ve had a good agent and a good family around me. I’ve never taken anything for the money – after the programme it would have been easy to do Big Brother but my agent said it was smart not to do anything like that if I wanted a long career. It was about picking things at the right time, and have people see I wanted to be an actor.

Sunshine On Leith, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, May 20-October 1, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, June 7-18