Back to centre stage
Kate Chapman meets TV star Ayden Callaghan as he returns to the stage in the award-winning musical The Bodyguard.
He made his name in TV programmes including Emmerdale and Hollyoaks and now actor Ayden Callaghan is relishing his latest part as he joins the cast of the hit musical The Bodyguard for its third tour of the UK and Ireland.
Ayden is delighted to be playing Frank Farmer – the title role made famous by Kevin Costner in the 1992 blockbuster film – while Pussycat Dolls band member Melody Thornton stars opposite as leading lady, Rachel Marron.
The award-winning show launched in Glasgow at the end of January and runs throughout 2023, with the possibility of additional international dates next year.
Ayden, who lives in Lincoln with wife, actress and presenter Sarah-Jane Honeywell, and their two sons Phoenix (7) and Indiana (5), is excited to be back on the stage and looking forward to the year ahead.
“I cut my teeth in the theatre, so I’m so excited to be back on the stage with this job,” said Ayden when I caught up with him ahead of the opening night.
“The Bodyguard has always been a favourite film of mine, I watched it endlessly back in the 1990s, it was a such a big deal. It’s a big, leading role and a great experience for me to be doing a musical.
“The challenge for me is making the character appear human – one that people can relate to and care about. We need to see Farmer’s fragilities, things he’s trying to suppress and the chinks in his armour and these are the things that are going to make the audience connect and care about him.
“Rehearsal time has been short, but it’s been great fun and I’ve been told to expect something very different from the audience than I am used to.”
Big screen break
Ayden’s big screen break came back in 2007 when he landed the role of Miles De Souza in ITV soap Emmerdale. He stayed for a year and then, after a variety of other parts on stage and screen, was cast in the Channel 4 teen TV soap Hollyoaks. He played Joe Roscoe from 2013 until 2016, when his character plunged to his death following a fall from a Ferris wheel.
Ayden, who grew up in London and Buckinghamshire, admits acting wasn’t always his first choice career, but once he got the bug for it there was no stopping him.
“I was an outgoing child, and quite good at drama. I got very into the films I watched – if it was Rocky, I’d be there jumping around the room, throwing punches! But I didn’t really know anyone in the industry, it wasn’t in my sphere. I was in a place where the school I was at wasn’t great, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
“A friend said he was going to drama school, and I started to think about it too. I thought it would get me off the building site where I was working, and it sounded like fun, so in my naivety I decided to give it a go.”
Ayden secured a place at Guildford Theatre School, after picking up some tips in previous auditions, where he was advised to choose different monologues and passages to show off his natural talent. He found the 40-hour weeks intensive but thrived in the creative environment, driven on by his peers, many of whom have gone on to become lifelong friends.
“I liked the atmosphere at Guildford, and I thought it would give me three years’ breathing space to figure out what I did want to do,” he says.
“When I got there, there were so many people who were really good. It was a really intense, crazy, creative, exciting environment, every single day.
“That’s when I really got the bug for acting, and then one of the teachers said to me ‘there’s more to you than you’re letting on’. They said I needed to decide if it’s what I wanted, or whether I was just going to treat it as a bit of fun.
“That sparked something in me, and I went off and educated myself, reading everything I could, borrowing books from the library, learning new ideas and philosophy. I couldn’t get enough, it really lit a fire in me.”
Ayden has also appeared in Casualty, Bad Education and Doctors and cites working with the late director Sir Peter Hall as one of the highlights of his career to date.
Curious Theatre School
Another thing he is incredibly proud of is the Curious Theatre School, which he set up in Clasketgate, Lincoln, with Sarah-Jane in 2019, where they work with children from a variety of backgrounds in a bid to make the creative arts more inclusive.
“The theatre school was my wife’s brainchild – it just started as a little something, but has grown and grown and is doing very well,” Ayden explains.
“The arts are very exclusive, and it can often be hard for children from poorer backgrounds to access them, but we want to help change that. Plus, with more than 20 years in the profession, we have lots of contacts and knowledge that we can pass on – things I didn’t know when I started out, for example.
“Sarah is doing incredible work bringing them all on and we’ve set up as a Community Interest Company now, which hopefully means we can get funding to offer more, as we have been funding it ourselves. We’re really proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Sadly, the theatre school suffered a break-in at the start of this year, when burglars ransacked it, destroying costumes, equipment and leaving a massive trail of destruction in their wake. The school was forced to close temporarily, but the community rallied around the couple as they fought to re-open.
Ayden adds: “There is such talent here. We’ve done a couple of shows and people have really been blown away.
“And on a practical point, there really is no better life training than theatre school – it’s all about thought processes, problem solving and confidence skills too.”
Ayden and his family have lived in Lincoln for several years and decided to make the city their home after visiting for day trips while staying with relatives nearby.
“We didn’t really want to bring our family up in London. Lincoln is great – it has all the amenities of a city, but is quite small. There’s lovely history, plus it’s really well connected, and that’s only become better in the time that we have been here,” he adds.
“I like my history and just getting out and having a walk around the city, going to visit the castle or the cathedral and soaking it all in.
“Lincoln is a great place to live and Lincolnshire’s a great place to be, we’ve really lucked out here.”