Rob Mills, singer, actor, and Australian Idol graduate is gearing up to star in next year's Australian production of the musical Ghost, based on the iconic film of the '80s. So we decided that a chat with him would be incomplete without a pottery wheel and a big lump of clay.
Were you a fan of Ghost while growing up?
I would have been about 8 or 9 when it came out, but yeah I watched it again recently… It’s really good! Not only is it heartbreakingly beautiful, like the connection between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, it actually has quite a lot of comedy in it which I’d forgotten about. The character of Oda Mae Brown in the film, she’s just hilarious. They’ve got really good banter. They say tragedy and comedy are really close to one another, so I think there's definitely those elements to the show. There’s a beautiful love story but there’s some good comedy in it as well.
What's your favourite song from the musical?
"With You" is a song that Molly sings. It’s just this beautiful song, almost like a pop ballad that you’d hear on the radio, something that LeeAnn Rimes or Kelly Clarkson might sing. It's got a bit of a country feel, but it’s heartbreaking, just soul-crushingly beautiful. I shed a tear when I first heard it. Also the end of act one is great. I feel like every musical should have a good finale for act one and this has a tremendous one, with the three main characters singing together.
And what about of the songs that you get to sing?
There's a duet called "Three Little Words", about saying "I love you", without actually saying it. Also there's a bit of pressure because I have to sing "Unchained Melody", the most famous song from the film. Obviously I'm not the Righteous Brothers, there's just one of me, and I have to woo her back, play guitar, and sing to her! I'm excited, but scared. It's just me and an acoustic guitar.
How are you getting ready for this role?
I've cut out beer, I started that a few weeks ago. I also stopped eating sugar, and I'm training as much as I can. I'm trying not to eat crap food… even though it's delicious. I tried to cut out hot chips. It lasted about a week.
Which musical did you most enjoy working on?
I did Wicked for two years. I'd wanted to be in it for so long. I did a lot of singing, acting and dancing lessons to prepare for it. I almost did "The Secret" thing where I wrote out why I wanted to do that role! It's the story as well, it's about empowerment of females! It's all about being all that you can be and working out who you are as a person. And going "It's OK to be who you can be". The thing I loved most about that was walking out of the theatre every night and seeing young girls go up to Lucy or Gemma or whoever was playing Elphaba on the night, and them being their hero… not Barbie being their hero.
What's the schedule like when you're doing eight shows a week?
It's pretty full on, it's pretty taxing. But it's only a 4-hour day which is pretty good. You get there an hour before the show, you warm up, you catch up with your friends, you put on the show. But my favourite part is the rehearsal period. You learn something new every day from the director or the choreographer. The creative part of the show is really what I love the most. Performing is great. Who else gets to go to work every day, and at the end of their shift, people stand up and clap for them? It's a pretty amazing job. I really love the discipline of it. Having to perform eight times a week, even though you may have done the scene 200 times, it's someone in the audience's first time seeing it.
If you be in any show, what would you choose?
Book of Mormon is coming here next year. I'd love to get an audition for that, it'd be pretty cool to play Elder Price. But I think you have to do tap dancing, which I'm not very good at.
What's harder, performing on stage in a theatre, or for the Idol judges?
I've been doing my one man show at the moment, and that's pretty tough. It's really hard to be yourself on stage! In theatre you get to play a character, and for this last six months I've just been myself. Just me, trying to get people to like what I have to say. Kind of like stand-up but with songs. That's probably the hardest!
What's your best memory of being on Australian Idol?
Meeting all the people that I got to meet, and the opportunities to see how TV is made. I spent a lot of time talking to the crew or the director or the camera guy, or even just the guy who is carrying the cables, and see what they're doing. It's what made me realise that I don't really want to be a pop star, I just want to be in the world of entertainment. Whether it's hosting a show, or being behind the camera, or coming up with ideas and concepts for shows.
So do you think there may be some TV in your future?
I would love to get into more TV and film acting. I got a role this year on the Peter Allen tele-movie, which was great fun! TV and film is a bit more of a challenge.
Ghost: The Musical is opening in Adelaide in January 2016. Find out more here.