Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
By James Whittington, Thursday 22nd October 2020

A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.

HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?

SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown apart from your family and friends and the next minute you are gigging in arenas and things like that, and you're in recording studios around the world working with producers that worked with people you listened to when you were growing up. It changes your life and its one crazy ride. It's scary at the same time as it's a very tough industry.

HC: You then moved into musical theatre with Rock of Ages and Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. What acting skills did you pick up during these?

SW: Oh, so, so much. The West End... I literally take my hat off to the people there, they are incredible. The talent there is second to none. You have to be a sponge whenever you go into these types of jobs and I did. I went in and I said that I was here to learn, teach me, and I watched very closely. You know yourself; you never truly know everything, and you'll always learn something, and I loved that about it, and I gave it a really good crack. At first, I didn't even know that it was an American accent when I first went for the audition for Rock of Ages so and they said, "We like you. Now can you do an American accent?" and I was like, "What?!" (laughs) but luckily the character I played, Stacee Jaxx was the biggest rock star of the time who has passed his prime in a sense, but he is always very much drunk. So, I drew upon, my family who was born and bred in Ireland, so I used a lot of my Irish accent mixed with American and the fact that I'm acting drunk and it worked (laughs). I did that for a year which was amazing and then Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds, that was just a complete eye-opener for me. That was just so completely different, you know, I played The Artilleryman, acting in front of a big screen with a hologram of Liam Neeson and it was just brilliant like you've got Herbie Flowers on bass, you've got the orchestra and the band and Jeff Wayne conducting. It was brilliant and I had the most amazing time and I learned so much from that.

HC: Then you went onto Corrie. Continuous drama must be such a hard slog at times creating content for six episodes a week?

SW: It changes all the time but I do think that they work three months in advance, so there's enough episodes to go out so we do so much filming and it is six episodes a week. I had the most amazing time, three years playing Aidan Connor. And rightly so in every job that I do I felt very humbled and very blessed every day I went in, maybe people thought that I was a psycho talking to myself, I always sued to mutter the words, "This is my job, this is amazing. This the Mike Baldwin's factory!". I loved it, I miss the people, just miss the feeling of playing the character and what an amazing ride it was.

HC: You left the series on an incredibly powerful storyline.

SW: Well what tends to happen every year, depending on if you're a family in the show and where storylines are going, you're very blessed if you get a big storyline. I had a few good storylines, I had the affair storyline and then the male suicide and that came from "The powers that be", to do that storyline and they approached me about it and it was scary because it was a decision should I do the storyline or do I not and do other storylines and stay in the show. I had important conversations with my mum and my wife, Sophie and they wanted me to stay because they absolutely loved the show and knew how much I did. But I just knew, you have to trust your gut and I knew that was the right thing to do, to take this on because it's about real life, its affecting real people it's still ongoing and it's an opportunity to use this platform which the soaps use all the time in an incredible way, in a delicate way but to use it to break that taboo of getting men to talk. So, I'm very proud of the whole team, the way it was handled, and it was perceived very well.

HC: It was incredibly emotional.

SW: You have to do your homework completely because, like I said, you have to handle it so delicately and people who were watching it have come forward and have connected with the character and what was going on and to just highlight the fact that a lot of the time, the signals are there, they are not always just in front of your face, you've got to ask how somebody is and that is one thing we were trying to do was going to do it in such a subtle way and we did. And it was such a shock and when the BBC or ITV do such storylines they have to prepare the public and say there's upsetting themes and about a week before they let them know it's going to happen so a lot of the people like the fans who love the show when they say they were shocked and they weren't expecting that, when we then asked them to watch back the week leading up to it, it was as if it were jumping in their face and they were like, "The signs were there. There was so much going on, those other distractions" and that was the message. It was handled very well, it was a place that I hope I never go to in my life and my heart breaks for those we know, and those who know someone. It was a tough place to go to.

HC: How did you get involved with The Ascent?

SW: My partner, Sophie, she's an actress and it was through her agent actually, she used to look after, before she parted ways with the agency she created, Williamson and Holmes she was looking after the director, Tom Paton and she said, "You should go and introduce yourself" and he was at an award show for a film festival and he won two or three awards that night and the orders were, "Go up to the table and ask for Tom", simple as that and he knew someone was coming over so I went over and (deep voice), "Is your name Tom? Who's Tom?" (laughs) and it was straight from there we just immediately hit it off. We had a long conversation, me, him and Sophie as Sophie is in the film as well and we went for something to eat out a couple of days later and then before we knew it we had the scripts and we were filming it. It was an amazing gear shift from my Coronation Street days to play the lead in a film.

HC: How exciting is that when you see you name on the big screen?

SW: I got to do some real good, proper action. I wasn't selling knickers or throwing knickers (laughing) I was throwing punches and using big guns (laughs) and running away from a tank! How I dodged those bullets from a tank I've no idea. It was such an amazing experience and it just completely keeps the fire alive and I want to do more from that ilk. Then Tom very kindly said I've got another film would you like a shot and I said, "I'll take it. I like your direction; I like what you do" which was for G-Loc.

HC: Were you nervous the first day on set?

SW: Yeah. You are nervous but the great thing about being on a set like that is, my Mrs always says this to me all the time, "Know your work! You know you've been given an opportunity for this role for a reason, you're a great actor", and that's just all you need. It was good to show a different side to my character and what I am able to do.

HC: So if Die Hard got a British remake you'll be up there for the main role?

SW: Yippee ki yay mother f****r! (laughs)

HC: It's an incredibly tense film, what was the atmosphere like on set?

SW: It was long days naturally as we had such a short period of time, and as Tom would say, "Budget" (laughs) but the camaraderie between us all was just wicked, no egos and there very rarely is and if there is an ego you stay well away from it. We had an absolute scream. There's a great shot actually because Tom's film is in a time loop, and there's a great shot where we're all stood around before they bring the prisoner in and I'm giving orders and there's a wide shot and we're all mic'ed up and I think (laughs) we heard the direction, "Ok everyone and action! Right, you're all looking at Stanton (Shayne's character in the movie). He's about to give you orders. You're all making sure you're listening to him and go!" and from afar that what you see but up close I'm like, "Right guys. First, I was afraid. I was petrified. I thought I'd never live without you by my side" (laughs) So we did that. I sang four or five classics!

HC: Are you a fan of this hybrid of horror and sci-fi movie?

SW: Love it! Love it! One of my favourite things is Horror, my birthday is in October so it's the month of Halloween. I'm a big kid basically so we've already been pumpkin picking. I went to a drive-in cinema to watch the classic Halloween, of course I like The Exorcist and Freddy Krueger so when I got an opportunity to be in this, yes, its very gory with a sort of demon in it, so yeah, its one of my favourite genres.

HC: Would you like to be in any of the classics that you just mentioned if they were to be remade?

SW: 100%! I would love to be in a remake of any of these films. I would like to be in any psychological horror film, you know, change my appearance. I'm a nice guy but I'm very convincing as a serial killer (laughs).

HC: The film is having its UK TV premiere on Horror; how would you sell it to our audience?

SW: Simply to see my singing, well mouthing, "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor! (laughs). The way that I would sell the film in general is that Tom Paton is a brilliant, brilliant director and its one of those films where you can't go to the loo! You need to go beforehand as you'll lose where you are as the film is on a time loop. Its just a very, very clever film where you can get really invested in the characters and you'll really hate Stanton!

HC: Shayne Ward, thank you very much.

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