Q/ You originally played Hugo/Loco in the West End earlier this year. What hooked you in about the role?
Shane Richie (SR): I'd just come out of EastEnders and I was kind of happy just to have a break because I knew I was going to be busy from April/May onwards, but then Nica [Burns, the show's producer] got in touch with my Manager and asked:
'We'd love to speak to you and Shane about the possibility of him joining the cast of Everybody's Talking About Jamie, there's a part he's perfect for."
I'd heard a couple of tracks from it and I really liked them – but when you're in EastEnders you're in a bit of a bubble so I hadn't had the time to go.
So I went to see it with Phil Dale [Shane's manager] and was like 'Oh my God, I just love this show!'
They said 'We'd like you to play a Sheffield drag queen' and because it was so different to the next character I was lined up to play on stage [Archie Rice in The Entertainer] I thought 'I need to do this'.
I was in panto at the time so I didn't get as much rehearsal time as I thought I would.
It was seven weeks, then 'Bam!' me and Layton [Williams, who plays Jamie] both started at the same time.
Q/ What are you most looking forward about returning to the show for the UK tour?
Shane Richie (SR): I was only in the show in the West End for three months and after three or four weeks I was gutted that I hadn't signed up for longer, although I couldn't because of other commitments.
But it felt like 'I'm just starting to have fun and I want to do more of it'. Then the opportunity to do the tour came up and I went 'Yes!'
Also, my kids loved it and I want every kid in the country to see it. It is such a great message for them!
Q/ How would you sum up that message?
Shane Richie (SR): It's all about inclusivity and acceptance. The unconditional love of parents for their kids and support from friends and school mates.
It's about beating prejudice people and living your life to the best for you and those around you.
Q/ How did you prepare to play Hugo's drag queen alter ego Loco Chanelle?
Shane Richie (SR): My dad used to run clubs in London so from age ten I was used to seeing men in drag.
Then on one of my very first tours, when I was 17/18, there were three drag queens and two strippers in the show. I knew drag queens, I grew up with them, and I knew Danny La Rue.
It's funny now, if you'd have said to me 30-odd years ago that drag would be mainstream I'd have said 'Don't be stupid' - but drag is mainstream now and quite rightly so.
Q/ Did it take long for you to master the high heels?
Shane Richie (SR): I had a nightmare. With my left calf muscle, even when I just talk about putting on the heels I can feel it twingeing.
It's one thing standing in five-inch heels, it's another thing to walk in them and another thing entirely to dance in them.
Layton and the other drag queens in the show helped me and I'd do the school run, then come home, put the heels on and walk around the kitchen.
My wife was like 'Seriously, if the Tesco delivery man comes you're not answering the door in high heels!' but I walked everywhere in them.
Q/ What kind of feedback did you get from fans about your performance?
Shane Richie (SR): Those who have followed my career for years loved it, but there's a whole generation who would only have seen me as Alfie Moon.
There'd be these young girls whose mums wanted to come see the show because they're going 'What, Alfie's playing a drag queen? I'll come see that with you, darling'.
At the stage door there weren't just boys and girls and teenagers, they were there with their parents.
If I can bring another generation to come see Jamie - the 40-plus-year-olds who wouldn't normally come see a show like this - and then they love it, then I'm happy.
From the outside looking in they might be like 'Oh, it's about a gay boy who wants to wear a dress' but it's not about that at all.
Right at the beginning he's going 'I'm gay, get over it'. It's not about someone being gay, it's about someone who dares to be different.
Q/ How important do you think that message is in this day and age?
Shane Richie (SR): It's so relevant. We're in a country where there are so many social, political and cultural changes going on and people are being divided.
We're getting angry with each other, there's the Far Left and the Far Right, then here's a show that goes 'Be who you wanna be, let others be who they want to be and celebrate diversity'.
Q/ What"s your favourite musical number in the show and why?
Shane Richie (SR): For me it's Over The Top at the end of Act One. Lyrically it's all there and it sets everything up for Act Two, where Loco passes the baton to Jamie and goes 'Right, your turn now'.
Q/ What are you looking forward to about taking Jamie on tour?
Shane Richie (SR): Getting into London to see a show is so expensive but we're taking it to the people. You can't afford to come to us? No problem, we'll come to you.
Q/ What couldn't you be on the road without?
Shane Richie (SR): I bring my guitar and a lot of books and my back-roller for the physical warm-up.
I try to make my dressing room like home from home so I've got my iPad, my guitar, my music and pictures of my family.
Q/ The tour calls at the Theatre Royal, Brighton. Does it have any significance for you?
Shane Richie (SR): Brighton is a place I can commute to so that's handy. That will be the place on the tour where I'll bring my kids along so they can chill out all week in Brighton.
I've been there loads of times and I absolutely love it. And listen, if they're not gonna come see Jamie in Brighton they aren't gonna come see us anywhere!
Everybody's Talking About Jamie, at Theatre Royal Brighton, Monday 6th April - Saturday 11th April 2020. CLICK HERE for tickets.