HOLBY CITY star and former Strictly Come Dancing winner Tom Chambers was back in Surrey recently telling drama students that they need as much persistence as talent to succeed – and he should know.
The 38-year-old actor is now a huge success but admits he didn’t get a paid job – except as panto understudy to Keith Chegwin’s Buttons – for six years after leaving Guildford School of Acting.
His route to TV success came via a dance video he put together in desperation.
“My agent had fired me for not accepting the Bob The Builder arena tour, so I needed a new agent!” recalls Tom.
“So I wrote to the Royal Variety Show saying I had an idea of tap dancing with a drum kit as a tribute to Fred Astaire in Damsel In Distress. They told me to get it ready but, after nine months of rehearsing, they weren’t interested.
“So I thought I might as well put it on film. I made 600 copies to send out to agents and theatres in the UK and sent 400 to the US.”
Someone in the Holby City casting team saw the tape and asked Tom in to audition for a small part as an American doctor.
“Because the film was based on Fred Astaire, they assumed I was American, but when I turned up, they said ‘Can you come back for a bigger role?’,” he says.
“That’s why I told students at my old drama school in Guildford that this job is about persistence rather than talent,” adds Tom.
“There are so many talented people in the world but really it’s about sticking at it for long enough.”
Now well known as Cardiothoracic Registrar Sam Strachan in Holby City, as well as Max Tyler, Executive Head in Waterloo Road, Tom is turning his attention to the stage once more in Noel Coward’s Private Lives.
“We’re all very excited,” says Tom, who will star alongside Charlotte Ritchie from Call The Midwife, Richard Teverson from Downton Abbey and Laura Rogers, who was in Tipping The Velvet – but who her co-star is keen to point out is a ‘Class-A theatre actress’.
“We feel very lucky that we have such a great team,” adds Tom. “Our secret weapon is the director Tom Attenborough – he’s the grandson of Richard Attenborough and he definitely has directing in his blood.”
As for Private Lives, it is a 1930 comedy of manners, which focuses on a divorced couple who, by coincidence, end up honeymooning with their new spouses in the same hotel.
“I’ve been married for seven years and I feel like some of the dialogue is about me,” laughs Tom, “I’ve said some of this stuff to my wife!”
He explains: “The play was written in the ’30s but it’s about relationships and the themes are ones we all know and think about. It’s very witty.
“Noel Coward’s dialogue is so well written and has such a rhythm to it, it’s like getting on a train that doesn’t stop at any stations – and you have to stay on it because it’s an incredible ride.”
Private Lives will be at the New Victoria Theatre tomorrow (Friday 15 January) and Saturday (16 January).