“I didn’t really think I’d end up doing it if I’m honest”: X Factor winner Matt Terry on his acting debut

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One of the best-loved animated films of the early 2000s, Madagascar is a tale of adventure for a group of animals living in the New York Central Zoo. Unaware of what life is really like in the wild after getting used to a spoilt lifestyle in captivity, the group embark on an escape mission that sees them shipped back to Africa.

They have to work together to navigate living in the wild while attempting to return to New York, aided by some cunning penguins and a host of animals they meet along the way.

In what will be his acting debut, X Factor winner Matt Terry will be taking to the stage of the Palace Theatre from 14th-18th August, starring as the show’s lead character, Alex the Lion. He’s New York Central Zoo’s most popular resident – and doesn’t he know it.

Since finding fame as the winner of X Factor in 2016, Matt has started to carve out quite the career for himself. After a hit with the winner’s single When Christmas Comes Around, penned by Ed Sheeran, Matt released his debut album Trouble in 2017. His first single Sucker for You reached 60 million streams on Spotify. More recently, going back to his Spanish roots, he featured on Enrique Iglesias’s hit Subeme La Radio alongside Sean Paul.

We spoke to Matt ahead of the Manchester leg of his UK tour to find out all about his acting debut.

Tell us about your character

I play Alex the Lion, who is the lead in the show, and it’s about a group of animals that live in the Central Park Zoo in New York. They escape and end up in Madagascar and have to try and find their way home. It’s a really cool show. So much effort has gone into the set designs, the costumes are amazing, the music is great, and the whole cast work really well together. It’s so much fun at the minute and I’m honestly loving life.

How have you been getting on with the other cast?

We all get on amazingly – everyone is so lovely and made me feel really welcome. It’s nice to be part of a cast for once, actually. This is my acting debut so I’m really excited and feel really passionate about the role.

How did you prepare for the role?

To be completely honest with you, it was very last minute. They asked to meet me and I thought, you know what, I’ve not got anything to lose by meeting them. I didn’t really think I’d end up doing it if I’m totally honest with you. And then they offered it to me the next day. I had a few days to think about it and decided to take it, and a week after that we were in rehearsals, so I guess I didn’t really prepare for it that much at all.

What’s the reaction been like so far?

It’s just been amazing. All of our reviews have been four or five stars, and loads of fans have been saying how great they think the show is. The music and set specifically seem to be what people have been commenting on the most. So, we’re all just feeling really grateful at the moment.

What’s your favourite scene in the production?

It has to be Move It, that seems to be everyone’s favourite and we all really enjoy performing it. It’s very fun and has got lots of bits and pieces going on, so it’s quite entertaining to watch. I don’t want to give too much away, but the audience love it.

What have you found most challenging?

I think the most challenging thing was we got the show all down and dusted in normal vests, shorts and trainers, and then we had to put on all of the costumes, the muscle suits. And there’s puppets and a massive set, so it was just a completely different story. I think we were all a bit shocked with the difference. It took us a few previews for us to get into the swing of it wearing all the gear – we only had three weeks to prepare, really, so it was very short, and I thought that we handled it well. We’ve all just been sweating buckets and are so lean because we just sweat all day, it’s crazy!

Do you think acting is something that you will continue with?

Yeah, for sure. I trained in musical theatre before I went on the X Factor so it’s always something that I’ve been very passionate about. I love acting, so we’ll see, but you never know what’s around the corner. I think it’s definitely something I would like to continue with and something I enjoy, so probably yes.

What do you love most about Manchester?

When we toured with the X Factor we stayed in Manchester for a while and a lot of my work has been based up there, so I’ve been to Manchester quite a bit. I think mostly I enjoy the people there. Everyone’s is so nice and friendly, and people just chat to each other – people actually stop to say hello, whereas in London I guess it’s a lot more single lane. So it’s great.

Do you have any new music on the horizon?

Yeah, I’ve actually written some new music and have been in the studio when I can. When I’m less busy next year after the tour, hopefully we can start looking at getting that out – I can’t wait for people to hear it.

Madagascar The Musical is at the Palace Theatre, 14th-18th August.

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