Gary Wilmot talks Chicago
I WAS a week late calling Gary Wilmot, struck down by a bout of man-flu and as everyone knows, it doesn't get any worse than that.
So, I immediately apologised. "No problem," said Gary, a star of television and stage who seems to have been around forever. "Don't worry about it ... you feeling better now?"
Double act: Gary Wilmot and Emma Barton
Some I have interviewed in the past would have been more the "yeah, whatever" type. Not Mr Wilmot, he comes across as a genuinely nice guy and, despite having headlined some of the biggest shows in the West End, he remains remarkably modest.
Taking over the role of sharp-talking lawyer Billy Flynn in the roaring 20s musical Chicago puts Gary in the wake of some high-profile performers like Sacha Distel, Tony Hadley, Marti Pellow and John Altman.
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He admits there are some big shoes to fill but says: "I only ever take my own toolbox into the rehearsal room, I only use my experience and what little talent I have got to make the thing as three-dimensional as possible."
I think 'big talent' is more appropriate. His back catalogue is topped by starring roles in Me And My Girl, which earned him an award nomination; Copacabana, The Goodbye Girl, Oliver, Half a Sixpence and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
But Chicago, it seems, is the one he has been waiting for.
"I think it has been known for a long time that I wanted to play it, but wanting to play a role in a show that already exists is one thing, finding an appropriate moment when a particular project one is involved with stops, and tying it up with a cast change, is a difficult thing to do but I am delighted to say it has finally come around.
"It's certainly the best written musical I have done for many, many years, since Me and My Girl probably. Everything about it is superb, a really classy, unique piece of work."
Although his late father Harry was a singer, part of 50s harmony group The Southlanders and the man responsible for the classic pop line "I am a mole and I live in a hole", he died while Gary was still young.
"He died nearly 50 years ago, so no direct influence on me coming into the business but, who knows, it's in your blood so maybe indirectly.
"I have been really, really lucky, I have tried to give myself reasonably high standards and that seems to be paying off. I love the job, I treat it with respect and I feel privileged to be part of it."
There was a time when he seemed to be on television every week, starring in his own Showstoppers spectacular, but not any more, and it is a bit of a sore point.
"We seem to be obsessed with people for whom it's their first time. The nation likes to see people progress and be given a chance, that's one thing, but there doesn't seem to be any room for those people who have worked hard for a number of years, myself excluded. I am not worried about what I do. I am happy with what I do, but we are not seeing enough of people who can actually do it on television."
That rules him out of going down the reality road then?
"I have no desire at all to go into the jungle with a bunch of people and I have no desire to learn how to ice skate.
"Strictly Come Dancing? That's something that would be fun and something I would like to do but whether they would ever have me on, there are much higher profile people than me on there."
I don't know about that. Gary's dazzling smile alone would light the place up.