“SOCIAL media sensation” Jonny Weldon is the latest addition to York Theatre Royal’s pantomime cast for All New Adventures Of Peter Pan.
Although he would if he could, he can’t say too much about his character other than his name – Starkey – because writer Paul Hendy is working on the script.
“I know Paul quite well and have worked with him before,” says Jonny. “I don’t doubt we’ll sit down soon and work out the character.”
He can reveal little about his imminent television role too. “It’s very frustrating. I’m not allowed to tweet about it,” explains the actor and sketch humorist, whose videos went viral on Twitter.
He does confirm he will be appearing in the highly anticipated Game Of Thrones spin-off House Of The Dragon, but the series is being kept a closely guarded secret in the run-up to the first episode premiering on August 22 on Sky.
Jonny has “a little part” in the series but that is all he is saying. Even his character is a mystery, although rumoured to be called Samwell.
This summer, he can be found playing one half of Cruella de Ville’s comic henchman double act Casper and Jasper in a musical version of 101 Dalmatians at Regents Park Open Air Theatre in London.
July’s record-temperature heatwave took its toll on performers acting outdoors under the sun. “It was far too hot!” says Jonny. “We were doing shows with heat spaces for ice packs and dressers throwing cold water over us to cool us down.”
Nevertheless, doing the show has been “interesting but fun”. “I’ve never worked before at Regents Park, which is just down the road from where I live. It’s nice to work near where you live. It’s a big family show and that kind of theatre is great to do,” he says.
Jonny, who has 16 years in the business to his name, owes his entry into performing to his parents. Not that he had a stereotypical pushy stage mother. “I was a terrible show-off and my mum decided to see if she could harness my need to show off,” he recalls. “She took me to a big national audition – and I got the part.”
At the age of 11, Jonny had landed the role of Michael Banks, one of the children under the care of a flying nanny in the stage musical version of Mary Poppins.
Another West End musical role followed: Gavroche, the boy who dies on the barricade in Les Miserables. Next stop was the National Theatre for Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s musical, Caroline, Or Change. Soon a place at the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School, in Marble Arch, was his.
His local paper wrote a story championing his acting success with the headline Well Done, Weldon! “I loved doing Mary Poppins. I found school boring and it meant I didn’t have to go into school,” Jonny says.
“At that point, I didn’t really have a real understanding of what I was doing. It was just play and fun. I got to die on the barricade [in Les Miserables] – what kid doesn’t like a gory death?
“At no point have I found what I’m doing strange or lost my enthusiasm for performing. I’ve always enjoyed it. There are ups and downs but I’ve never found myself wanting to do anything else.”
Jonny has done theatre aplenty but the past two years have seen him branch out into television with roles in Stephen Merchant’s BBC One series The Outlaws, Channel 4’s Stath Lets Flats and now House Of The Dragon.
Along the way, he has become, more by accident than design, a “social media sensation”, on account of a succession of viral videos on Twitter. “As with every actor, I was bored and fed up in the lockdowns and decided to create my own sketches about the uphill battle of the life of an actor,” says Jonny.
“I didn’t do much on social before but decided to put it on Twitter. 100,000 people watched and shared and laughed.
“This week I put one out about the Edinburgh Fringe. There are always things like that – an actor has an audition, an actor gets cut from a TV programme or an actor tries to socialise.
“I started to film ones on Zoom with celebrities coming in to play themselves. The likes of Russell Tovey, Tracy-Ann Oberman, the cast of Ted Lasso. It’s just been a very fun and unexpected thing.”
Jonny will carry on making videos but, given that he is busy with work, he will do it “as and when I want to”. Long term, he hopes to work on “something bigger than just social media”, explaining: “I want to try and create my own stuff and a vehicle for myself in television. I write relentlessly and am constantly trying to make bigger work for myself and having meetings about that.”
After 101 Dalmatians concludes, he will film a TV show, and once more he has to be hush-hush over what lies in store. “I’ll probably be in trouble if I say anything as I don’t think the show is going out until next year,” he reasons.
Come November, Jonny will start rehearsals for creative director Juliet Forster’s third York Theatre Royal pantomime, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, joining the already confirmed Maddie Moate, from CBeebies, and three returnees Faye Campbell, Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard. The actor playing Peter Pan will be announced next.
Playing Starkey will be Jonny’s latest panto credit after such roles as Will Scarlett in Robin Hood, Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk and Muddles in Snow White twice. Add to that a week in Canterbury in the comic role after an asbestos-related problem forced his show at St Albans Arena to close mid-season. But that’s another story.
Jonny Weldon will star in All New Adventures Of Peter Pan at York Theatre Royal from December 2 to January 2 2023. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Follow Jonny on Twitter: @jonnyyweldon