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Norfolk Tourism Awards

Sexiest male nods are flattering but it’s strictly about the work for Sunset Boulevard’s Danny Mac

PUBLISHED: 15:40 08 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:51 08 March 2018

Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer and Danny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, which recently visited the Ipswich Regent during its tour. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

Molly Lynch as Betty Schaefer and Danny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, which recently visited the Ipswich Regent during its tour. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

Manuel Harlan

Hollyoaks and Strictly Come Dancing Star Danny Mac talks about his critically acclaimed turn in Sunset Boulevard, the importance of theatre and his heart-throb status.

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLANDanny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

Danny jokes the older he gets, the fonder he’ll become of his numerous sexiest male awards. He knows they’ve not done his career any harm, but you won’t find him shouting about his popularity from the rooftops. He longs for success, not fame.

“Celebrity is such a big deal now. The thing is, there’s a big old fall that comes with that as we know in a lot of cases. As a society we seem too obsessed by it... people who know me know it’s not who I am,” says the former Hollyoaks actor.

“At the time they were great... realistically it’s a popularity contest. People like the look of you and that’s lovely and they gave me more episodes and more opportunities on the show. I’m shy, I’m not coy... if I could avoid it (taking his clothes off) I always would but I also understood the job I was in. I never did it for photo shoots... you could count on one hand the photo shoots I did and they were very early in my career.

“It’s always been about work. If I did it on screen it’s because it was in the script and was justified and it’s fine. All I ever wanted is to do good work and for people to care more about my work than just that because the problem is longevity. They have been flattering, I could do that (trade on his looks) for now, but then what is there for me?”

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis, Ria Jones as Norma Desmond and Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLANDanny Mac as Joe Gillis, Ria Jones as Norma Desmond and Adam Pearce as Max Von Meyerling in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

He needn’t worry just yet, having earned a Manchester Theatre Awards nod for his role as Sunset Boulevard’s impoverished screenwriter Joe Gillis.

“The nominations we’ve received are completely unexpected. I felt blessed, stunned and shocked but also just so proud,” he says of the show, at the Ipswich Regent until March 10.

He laughs off suggestions production shots of him in skimpy shorts may pull in audiences.

“I don’t think they will come just because of that but if that gets them in or makes them pay attention to the show I’m not knocking it. Then it’s our job to tell our story and make them appreciate it. That’s all I want. I adore theatre. I’m a small town boy from Bognor Regis. Theatre opened my mind to so much and I’m such a better person because of it and the people I meet.

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLANDanny Mac as Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

“The world is such a funny place and theatre is a chance for us to open our minds and other people’s. There’s so much Netflix and computer games you can soon lose yourself in now - human interaction is just disappearing,” says the keen supporter of the arts.

He accepts there are other priorities but thinks people underestimate the importance of drama, sharing a story about how people are overcoming anxiety by attending improv classes.

“There’s so many times in theatre that I’ve thought ‘I didn’t like that’, I’ve walked thinking it’s terrible but I’m still talking about why two days later and other people disagree. That’s what’s important, debating and telling stories and questioning people’s mindsets.”

He says he couldn’t have done Sunset Boulevard had he not done Strictly Come Dancing. Although the risk of jeopardising his private life was a concern; discussing it with the TV show’s producers and fiancée Carley Stenson, whom he wed last year.

Danny Mac as Joe Gillis with the company of Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLANDanny Mac as Joe Gillis with the company of Sunset Boulevard. Picture: MANUEL HARLAN

“Touring (with Sunset Boulevard) obviously wasn’t ideal post-marriage, but why break the habit of a lifetime? We’re very used to it so appreciate our days together a lot more,” he laughs.

“I was so aware of the press and the tabloids, but I was fortunately in a fantastic year full of such strong people that (it was) all about the dancing and the show.

“The great thing with the BBC and with Strictly is it’s such a celebrated show, by the nation, by TV and by all of the BBC; they have so much respect for it, themselves and for every person that takes part. I stipulated that I’ve maintained a very private life all though my career so far and I didn’t want Strictly to change or ruin that.

“They were like ‘well, we can’t stop what people print but off the back of the way you hold yourself we won’t ever push or press any of that upon you; you can always say no to things’. I was so well looked after.”

Dodging “the curse of Strictly” he’s immensely proud of the fact it was his and professional dancer Oti Mabuse’s routines that had people talking, not some drama he had.

People’s reasons for doing the show vary. He relished every moment of 12-hour long days in the rehearsal room, learning a new ability from one of the best dancers in the world.

“Because I was an actor and a performer, I know any experience I have in my life I can always use. It (dancing) was one of those I could use more than any other because I was going to learn an incredible new skill I could maybe take on stage or take on screen so for me, my best interest was to go into the rehearsal room and learn each week and I learned so much.

“Going straight into musical theatre would never have happened had I not had Strictly and that wasn’t down to the fame (being on the show brings) because Regent’s Park in London is such a renowned theatre they don’t need celebrities. It shows when you work towards something you can really use it provided you use it in the right way.”

Growing up loving theatre, Danny thinks Sunset Boulevard is one of those greats that’s slipped off people’s radar.

“When people come to see us they’re a bit dubious unless they know the film... I think there’s a sort of gift in that, that when people do come they have no expectations of the story and they sit back and get to experience a piece of ‘new theatre’. The people who know and love the show have been so positive so that’s superb, but to have the new audiences blown away it’s just glorious.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tony Award-winning musical stars Ria Jones as faded silent screen goddess Norma Desmond and Danny as Gillis who is seduced by her reclusive yet luxurious world. The score includes Sunset Boulevard, With One Look, As If We Never Said Goodbye, The Greatest Star Of All and The Perfect Year.

“We only ever see the people that are up there (at the height of fame) and this tells the story of someone who isn’t there anymore. She’s someone who was great and deserves to be up there, she’s not somebody who’s been acting up for five minutes because they went on a reality show. These people around Norma put her on this pedestal, once that’s ripped away she’s left a crumbling mess. This young man Joe Gillis comes in as fresh meat and reflects that even more.

“They’re both victims. He’s there to get what he wants out of her too, it’s a real test of character for both people. The way they, in a way, innocently manipulate each other is torturous, it’s heartbreaking because you can see it from the outside but they can’t necessarily see it from the inside. They are both gaining to a point... when all the pieces fall apart it’s a tragedy,” he says.

“As strange, as awkward and as horrible as the story is everyone relates to it in one way or another. Everyone’s behaviour is completely understandable and justified to a degree. Whether they agree with it or not is a different thing, but it’s such a clever tale about the human condition.”

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