Chart-topping X Factor champ Matt Cardle has added another string to his bow, wowing audiences with his cheeky-chappy performance as Huey Calhoun in the Memphis musical in London’s West End. The hunky, handsome 32-year-old talks to Attitude's Simon Button about getting his shirt off, the importance of manscaping and the possibility of going full-frontal...
How has it been doing your first West End show?
It’s amazing. The role is so much fun but also so intense that there’s never a sense of me sitting around, twiddling my thumbs and going ‘Oh god, here we go again’. It’s just go, go, go. It’s too much fun.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Without a doubt it’s been the acting and the maintaining of a character. Am I a Method actor? [Laughs] Well, the moment I get to the theatre is when I start talking Deep South.
How lovely is your co-star Beverley Knight on a scale of 1 to 10?
Oh, she’s 10, 10-plus, 11, 12. She’s so sweet and so supportive and oh man, hearing her sing is something else. I had to get over it quite quickly during rehearsals. I’ve heard her on CDs and been to see her shows, but when it’s that close up it’s incredible.
Any diva strops backstage?
Come on, not me! Oh, you mean Beverley. God no! Absolutely not. She’s not like that at all.
Thanks for taking your shirt off in the show. Are you normally in such great shape or did you buff up for Memphis?
I’m not gonna lie, I’m not a gym-goer and never have been. Skateboarding keeps me in shape because there’s a lot of core stuff, as does all the running around in this show. That’s it really.
Speaking of fit guys, who’s your man crush?
It’s more of a respect thing but it was Wentworth Miller from Prison Break
, then he came out so it was like ‘Ah, well done’. The only thing that frustrated me was how quietly he spoke on Prison Break.
You’d have to turn the TV right up, then someone else would speak and you’d be like ‘Oh, Jesus, that’s loud’.
What’s the one thing you’d change about your body if you could?
My head. Stick someone else’s head on there please.
Would you ever go full-frontal if it was artistically justified?
If it was artistically justified, yes. Or if it was for charity. Either of those would work.
You don’t have much chest hair. Is that natural or have you been doing some manscaping?
I’m a manscaper, totally. It’s only fair for whoever you’re dating. I’m quite lucky that I don’t have a hairy back. I’m not overly hairy but I do like to keep it all in check.
The show has some serious things to say about prejudice. Do you think that makes it resonate with gay audiences?
Definitely, yes. It’s such a great message in the show and the way they carry it off is impeccable. You’re not beaten over the head with it repeatedly, you’re just reminded of it quite brutally on a number of occasions. It’s basically the message of equality.
Speaking of gay fans, do they ever send or Tweet saucy messages?
They do, and more so now. I see a lot more guys on Twitter saying a lot more kind of inappropriate stuff. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but you can imagine.
Looking back on X Factor after all these years, what’s your fondest memory of doing it?
There are so many fond memories. That’s a cop-out answer but it’s true. What I really loved was not having to think for myself. Everything is done for you, everything is planned. It’s ‘You’ll be going here and you’ll be doing this, you’ll sing this and you’ll wear that’. Some people don’t like be told that but I do.
Are you still mates with Dannii Minogue?
She’s amazing and she’s coming to see the show soon. I’ll see if I can tempt her out for a lemonade afterwards but no alcohol. I haven’t had a drink for 19 months now. I’m in recovery.
Of all the people you’ve met who has most impressed you?
David Attenborough. I went to the premiere of a documentary he did about penguins and he was there. Oh my god, he’s an absolute legend but I didn’t get a photograph with him because I didn’t want to mither him.
What’s next for you when the curtain comes down on Memphis?
I’ve got a new album coming out. I don’t have a title set in stone yet but it’s going to be very different and I think it will surprise a lot of people. I’m not allowed to say any more about it yet though.
You sing, you act, you dance… What are you rubbish at?
[Laughs] Talking to girls. I have a girlfriend but it wasn’t the smoothest entry. Maybe I should rephrase that. What else am I rubbish at? Cooking. I can reheat my mum’s spaghetti but I’m a big fan of ordering in from Just Eat.
Memphis The Musical is at the Shaftesbury Theatre, London, until October 31st.
Interview by SIMON BUTTON.