Sean Smith – for years one half of the pop duo Same Difference with his sister Sarah – will be your Prince Rupert in panto this Christmas in Horsham.
Originally from Portsmouth, Sean is now delighted to count himself a panto veteran.
“I think you are a veteran when you reach double figures,” he says, “and it feels like I am pretty much there. I came off X-Factor in 2008 and I have done a pantomime pretty much every year since apart from when I was doing We Will Rock You in the USA.
“I just love the magic of panto for the children. You see their faces lit up, you feel the hatred for the bad characters, you feel just how much they are into the fairy story. You are putting in all the excitement of Christmas, a whole bunch of Christmas things, and also it is just such a big tradition in Britain.”
And so it continues.
“You have got the children coming to panto and then the children’s children and then the children’s children’s children all growing up and coming to panto.”
For Sean, it is a skill he has enjoyed learning: “You end up knowing how it is going to land, how to make it land to make it work. You know when to add a few little bits in. When I first started, I was just there as a singer, but there is much more to it than that. I was just doing the ballad that tells you how much the Prince loves the Princess. Now actually the singing part is probably the smallest part. Really you need to endear yourself by doing something silly.”
And there is something similar with musical theatre, where it is more about the acting through the song: “I feel like I was on the cusp of musical theatre before X-Factor came along, and when it came along it took me away from that. I had a hankering to get back into it.”
The other day he met a friend who didn’t progress on X-Factor but has since had a great time in the musicals: “And I wonder what would have happened if I had cottoned on to musical theatre earlier.”
Not that the X-Factor wasn’t a great experience: “Nothing can ever take away from me the fact that we got signed to Simon Cowell’s record label and we had a gold-selling record. I don’t think I was on the path to writing and recording. It was almost a pipe dream for me, but X-Factor showed us the way and it was like a new direction for us and it was great.
“We were such a nice market. We really fitted the bill for all the holiday parks. The holiday parks were so sustainable for us, and then after eight years we started to realise that we were slowing down a little bit and we had to look for a different direction, that we had pretty much milked everything we could from Same Difference…
“But it has been great. All I ever wanted growing up was to be able to make a living every year from doing something that I loved, and I have never had a year when I couldn’t sustain myself in that way.”
Ego-wise, he laughs, it’s a shame to be coming to the end of his stretch being the leading-man age: “But people say that you get into other and more interesting and more different roles instead.”
Sleeping Beauty runs at Horsham’s Capitol from December 14 to January 6.
Click here to watch our video interviews with the other Capitol panto stars.