The Guardian Interview: Russell Grant
12:00am Friday 19th October 2012 in News
RUSSELL GRANT is predicting that his visit to Swansea as part of the touring production of Grease is going to be a momentous one.
Not only is the flamboyant star taking on the famous role as the Teen Angel at The Grand next month, but it will be a chance for the TV favourite to visit a place he holds very dear.
“I know the area very well indeed and that’s why I am coming,”
says Russell, 60.
“When I signed up for Grease, I was given a choice of where to come and I chose to come to Swansea.
“I love the area because I lived there for so long. I’ve lived in Abergavenny and Cardiff, I spent a lot of time in Merthyr and some of my best friends live in Swansea.
“I’m looking forward to catching up with everyone; to visiting the places I love, like Oystermouth.”
And as for Carmarthenshire, Russell has a surprising link to the county. “I’m a big Scarlets fan,” he says of Llanelli Rugby Club.
Russell, who lives in Portmeirion with long-term partner and manager Doug Beaumont, has nothing but fond memories of Swansea and the surrounding areas.
“I played my first big charity show there; I have worked with Sir Harry Secombe there. In fact my Uncle Monty stayed with Mrs Secombe during the war.
“We did a showfor BBC Wales once and visited St Thomas (where Secombe was from) and we visited a local community centre to meet with everyone.
“They held a street party and, well, that was 20 years ago yet it was unforgettable.
“I have never had the chance to play a week in Swansea before.
“I have always had a fabulous reaction (from the audiences) and that’s just fantastic.”
So it appears the Swansea date is a fixture Russell is looking forward to.
It is just one of four dates on the tour he has elected to appear as the Teen Angel, Llandudno in North Wales being another.
So although it appears the stars have aligned for this role, it is surprising to hear Russell was not at all sure about it at first.
“It was Arlene Phillips who persuaded me and I wasn’t sure about the touring at first, but she said ‘I really think you should do this,’” explains Russell.
“Teen Angel had never had a dancer in the role before - if I may call myself that - so they created this big dancing routine which I do during the song. It was a temptation I could not resist, the opportunity to do a samba, a paso-doble, salsa and cha-cha – so lovely.
“So in the end, even though I was offered many different productions when I left the Wizard of Oz, I opted for Grease and Iam glad that I have.”
The re-invention of Russell Grant may have been surprising for some who have grown used to him as a bubbly and bouncy astrologer and TV personality.
But Russell started out in theatre and television.
Born in Hillingdon, Middlesex, Russell, who once was Astrologer Royal for the Queen Mother, had an early career with roles in series such as On The Buses, Please Sir! and all the Doctor series. Theatre work included roles in The King and I, Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Me and My Gal.
Within ten years, he had become a familiar face on our screens, appearing regularly on BBC Breakfast Time and TVAM as well as fronting his own programmes and appearing on many reality TV shows.
A quieter period followed and Russell himself has previously admitted to becoming reclusive, depressed and, as he was then hugely overweight, having to cope with two near-heart attacks and type two diabetes.
By 2009 he had decided to overhaul his life, lost weight and made a return to the stage, appearing in various roles such as The Rocky Horror Show and Under Milk Wood.
But then along came Strictly Come Dancing and everything changed again.
From his opening dance in that shiny suit to the day he left, Russell captured the nation’s hearts – and votes. And the moment he shot from that cannon during the Wembley show his place as the nation’s new sweetheart was cemented.
“Strictly was everything to me,” says Russell, who was partnered with Flavia Cacace.
“It took me back to showbusiness where I began and opened up a whole new wonderful life for me.
“And I am forever grateful to the BBC, Flavia and the producer, the great British public and, in particular, the great Welsh public.
“They kept me in and I would not be where I am now without that.”
From Strictly came the chance to replace Michael Crawford as the Great Oz in the Wizard of Oz, winning him rave reviews.
His role in Grease comes hot on the heels of that and he is also squeezing in some more dancing alongside that with a newfitness DVD and ITV show with Flavia and even plans to release a Christmas song.
But as the audiences at the Grand next month will find out, he has plenty left to give for his role as Teen Angel.
“I hope the audience are in for a treat, in fact I know they are,”
“It’s a wonderful show with a young cast and it’s very dynamic, exhilarating and exciting.
The cast really are a joy to work with.
“Coming to Swansea will certainly be a homecoming for me.”
● Russell Grant will be appearing in Grease at Swansea Grand Theatre from Monday, November 5, to Saturday, November 10, at 7.30pm, with shows on Friday and Saturday at 5pm and 8.30pm. Tickets at www.swanseagrand.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01792 475715.