Panto to pandemonium for Torchwood star
HE may have started his career being wicked but Kai Owen’s 2008 will be defined by a pair of good guys.
Owen is currently playing Prince Charming in Snow White and just before pantomime season ends he will reappear on our TV screens in the second series of Torchwood.
His role as Rhys Williams has been considerably bumped up for the new series and, as in real life, he has a wedding to look forward to – but more on that later.
As we settle down in front of the mirrored desk of his dressing room backstage at Cardiff’s New Theatre he appears slightly nervous, more likely due to the prospect of the impending evening performance than my visit.
“This is my first panto run,” he says as if by explanation, his eyes wandering momentarily to a prop sword on the desk. “So far I’m loving it.
“I remember going to see an awful lot of panto when I was younger because my dad used to take us on his works outing.
“I remember seeing Aladdin at Liverpool Empire with Cilla Black, Dick Whittington with Ken Dodd and I remember going to the old Davenport Theatre in Stockport to see lots of the old Neighbours actors.
“But I try to see a panto every year anyway just because I love it.”
We are briefly interrupted as panto Wicked Queen Lesley Joseph pops her head around the door to say hello to Owen but, realising he has company, disappears quickly; there was no puff of smoke.
“I’ve got my wicked side,” he said, referring to his screen-break in the advertising campaign for alcopop WKD.
“But Lesley Joseph is a wonderful Wicked Queen.
“There’s good banter going on and we are really winding each other up.”
When I asked if he ever fancied her character Dorien Green in Birds Of A Feather he let out a gut laugh. “No, no, no, no .. well ... maybe just a little bit.”
In playing the hero at The New Theatre’s panto Owen is following in the footsteps of his Torchwood co-star John Barrowman, but Owen didn’t manage to see his friend in Jack And The Beanstalk last Christmas.
“We had just finished the first series of Torchwood so I went away with my fiancee but I was also a bit laid up because I broke my ribs,” he says with a sheepish grin.
“How did I do it? I fell over at the wrap party for Torchwood. No WKD was involved.”
Spool on a year and Owen finds himself in a similar position having wrapped the second series of Torchwood in November.
“It was seven months of filming for me this time because it’s a lot bigger show this year and I’m more heavily featured,” said the North Walian, who lives in London’s East Finchley with fiancee Sarah; they plan to marry in 2009.
“In the last series my character Rhys didn’t know what (his screen fiancee) Gwen’s job was but this year he finds out all about Torchwood and he becomes, not quite one of the gang, but he does get a lot more involved.
“I’m in a car chase which is good, there’s some fisticuffs, I even get shot and then there’s the big wedding scene ...”
One of the series’ major moments is the wedding between Rhys and Gwen, played by Eve Myles, which is gatecrashed by alien invaders.
“It’s a spectacular episode but just because there’s a wedding it doesn’t mean they get married,” he teases.
“It turns into a proper Valleys wedding, scrapping in the car park with aliens.”
The wow factor of series two has been upped as Torchwood makes the move from BBC3 to BBC2 and continues on BBC America.
“It’s been a huge hit over in America,” said Owen.
“I think they are enjoying the Britishness of it, even the Welshness of it, because Cardiff looks fantastic and there is just nothing like it being made in this country.”
In a bid to capitalise on a growing audience the show, billed as ‘Dr Who for adults’, is going to become more family friendly, going as far as to have a “pre-watershed” cut of each episode on earlier in the evening.
“They have cut down on the swearing and the sex but it’s still adult, still violent, and the scripts are better, too.
“I hope it draws the crowds it deserves because it is bigger, better, classier and slicker.”
Series two of Torchwood is on BBC2 in mid-January.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at The New Theatre, Cardiff until Saturday, January 26. Tickets cost £7.50-£20 from 029 2087 8889.