John Thomson: The man behind the name

“The actors got on me nerves”. A strange comment you might think from a man who has made a living appearing on our screens in some of the best-loved TV dramas.

Addressing myself and a full crowd at The Great Northern Creative Festival, John took his engrossed listeners on a journey through his career, highlighting the highs and lows of being a working actor, trying to make his way in the ever-competitive industry.

John’s passion for acting originated at what was then known as Manchester Polytechnic Theatre. Having a passion for film and TV, he took it upon himself to make friends with as many people in the creative department as possible. Spending his early college days being a typical student and enjoying most of his evenings in a pub, John managed to immerse himself in to a group of people who would cast him in their college productions, helping to ignite his passion for TV acting even further.

Despite this though John did pay gratitude to the amateur dramatics scene in Preston, in particular Preston Musical Comedy Amateur Dramatics Group, saying it helped him realise he would rather have friends in the industry than push his way ruthlessly to the top but end up with no one to support him. “You’ve got to have ambition’ he said, ‘There’s quiet ambition which I have… I have no time for ruthless ambition”.

It may be this sense of subtle self-assurance that helped him to achieve his role in Coronation Street. Despite already having a cameo part in the early 90’s, John returned to the soap in 2008, cast as Jesse Chadwick, a children’s entertainer and Electrician. The role, was perfect for John who said convincingly “I just love the sound of laughter and I love to make people laugh” (something that was obvious form his enthusiastic demeanour at the festival).

He also explained how his time on the famous street often saw him overcome with a term coined as ‘Rover-phobia’. This was known amongst the cast as being the overwhelming sensation of being stood in Coronation Street’s iconic pub, the Rovers Return. John explained how such feelings of utter disbelief would often lead to actors forgetting their lines.

“People go to pieces, its called Rover-phobia and I got it a bit, it was quite scary” said John with a reminiscent look across his face.

Before his role on the cobbles, John played Pete Gifford, an insensitive husband who had a glass half-empty outlook on every aspect of his life. The TV show was a hit and alongside his co-stars, including James Nesbitt and Fay Ripley, John’s career was at its prime. The show then returned to our screens in 2016, much to the excitement of the cast and viewers. John was given a more challenging role this time after Pete was diagnosed with depression.

John says he was able to draw on experiences in his own life to help him portray his character in a sensitive but truthful way. He explained how 2012 and 2013 were particularly hard years and after spending time in Los Angeles but with not a single audition to go to, he found himself and fellow actor Bradley Walsh, helping each other out as they both struggled to crack the industry in America. “Me and Bradley saved each other’s mental bacon” said John.

While his acting career had hit a quieter patch during 2012, John continued with his other love for doing stand up and impressions. He treated us to some hilarious examples, with the room in hysterics especially over his very convincing take on Bill Clinton. Now clearly feeling at ease with his audience, John even shared with us the little secret that he auditioned to be the voice of Shrek in the early 2000’s and after hearing how he would have portrayed the lovable ogre, I personally was left puzzled as to why he was not cast. John put it down to the fact that he was not famous enough to star alongside Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz.

Nevertheless, ogres and Hollywood stars aside, John is now focusing on the future.

He has recently been helping musical theatre students form the University of Central Lancashire put on a 45 minute musical in order to raise proceeds for Children in Need. The event has been scripted rehearsed and performed all in the space of five days and John’s experience of performing both on stage and in front of the camera has been invaluable.

His career has also been looking up after the return of Cold Feet. A six part series coming out next year means Pete Gifford will once again be gracing our screens and with John having co-written the next series it is sure to be a funny one.

John will also be starring in a short film out next year called ‘Talking of Dangers’ and you can catch him in this year’s Christmas special of ‘Trollied’.

Words by Eleanor Beth Cutts

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