Shrek the Musical Q&A with James Gillan (Lord Farquaad)

Were you a fun of the original Shrek Movie?

I loved the movie. I thought it was very funny, very fresh.

Did you ever imagine you’d be doing Shrek the Muscial?

When you say you’re in Shrek, everyone goes, “Oh my god, amazing!”

What attracted you to the role of Lord Farquaad?

I picked up the script and instantly thought, “Oh, this is fun!” I feel like I got Lord Farquaad quite quickly. It’s nice to play someone who goes hot and cold, a bit of a manic villian.

What was the audition like?

For my second and final audition, I popped out from my little skincare job that I do (we actors all have other jobs; very few of us just act). It was very chilled, and the team were very king. I know Sam Holmes, who’s co-directing the show with co-director and choreographer Nick Winston and he was his usual funny self and put me at ease. So it was nice.

Where were you when you found out you’d got the part?

I was sitting have a cosmopolitan at home with my partner. So it was glass in hand all ready!

How does it feel to be stepping into such a well-loved show?

There’s always an element of pressure but it’s usually unfounded. You put this pressure on yourself really. You can second guess yourself a lot and it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. When I was younger, I think I had a bit of a thicker skin really. You just have to trust your instincts.

How will you make the role your own?

I’ve always said about the way I perform that I’m 90 per cent myself and 10 per cent costume and direction. Of course there’s accent and stuff like that as well: the costume will do a hell of a lot of work and the script is really funny. But unless you’re really reacting as you would react, I think it lacks a bit of honesty. So if you think, how would I react in this situation, then you’re usually spot on. All actors have to bring themselves- without that essence of knowing who you are then you can’t really move forward with honesty with a character.

What is the message of Shrek the Musical?

It’s about how it doesn’t really matter what you look like because it’s about who you are inside. There was that same message in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie too, in fact.

You can see that Lord Farquaad is a product of what’s happened to him as a child: he feels abandoned by his father, and his mother fell of 20 mattresses and killed herself. So he’s a bit damaged. I feel a bit sorry for him. But most villains you really should, shouldn’t you?

You’re touring to some wonderful venues all over the country with the show, some of which you’ve played at on other tours, some of which will be new. How does it feel to be returning to….


I love Blackpool. One of my first musicals, when I was 19, was Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat with Philip Schofield, which played at the Winter Gardens. And I used to go to Blackpool when I was a child every year. I’ll definitely go back to the Pleasure Beach- love the Pleasure Beach!


I love York, I think York’s great fun. I’ve done a lot of drag gigs recently at a venue called Impossible York, which have been lots of fun. I’m going to try and organise a little party when we all go up there.

…Glasgow, your home town?

It’s going to be fun, all my family are really excited. I have a huge family. My mother had eight brothers and sisters and my dad had eight brothers and sisters so there’s hundreds of cousins and second cousins so there’ll be loads of people.

I did Taboo at the Kings Theatre and my last panto, in 1999- they take panto so seriously up there!


When the Sunderland Empire had just been renovated 18 years ago, I was there with Starlight Express, and it was covered in dust head to toe. We were all on roller-skates so it was treacherous!


There’s a lovely statue in Liverpool called “Reconciliation” by an artist called Stephen Broadbent that I helped to sculpt when I was about 13, so when I go to Liverpool, I always go visit the statue. There’s one in Glasgow and in Belfast that I try and visit when I’m there too.

Shrek the Musical will be at the Wales Millennium Centre from 20th to 25th November tickets are now available, so get yours here!