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Be inspired every day with Living North
Chelsea Halfpenny in Waitress. Photo by Matt Crockett
February 2022
Reading time 5 minutes

Before Waitress heads to Newcastle Theatre Royal, local TV favourite Chelsea Halfpenny shares her love for musicals, and the North

From Byker Grove to Emmerdale, Chelsea has switched her TV roles for the West End, and has fallen in love with the world of musicals.
Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna in Waitress. Johan Persson Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna in Waitress

Tell us how you got into acting.
I always enjoyed singing, dancing and acting. I was one of those kids that like to show off! In the local newspaper they were advertising that Byker Grove were looking for kids who were born in 1991. They did open auditions at that time (they don’t really do them so much now), so I went along to the local community centre and five rounds later I ended up getting the role. I was only 10 at the time and was a part of the show for four years. On Saturdays I was attending a local stage school to keep up my singing and got myself an agent. I’ve never had the thought or opportunity to do anything else. This has always been my path. I moved onto Emmerdale and Casualty but always continued my singing lessons (which is what I love).

Why musicals?
Quite honestly, being in musicals came as a real surprise to me. Although I’ve always loved singing, I hadn’t really been to many musical theatre auditions. I thought it might have been a pipe dream. My West End debut was a pretty big highlight because it was so unexpected – it was an amazing feeling. And playing Jenna in Waitress has been a dream role of mine since it was made. This is pretty special.

Tell us a bit about your character in Waitress.
Jenna is a waitress in a diner and an expert pie maker, but you very quickly realise that she doesn’t tend to face her problems. With support from her friends, who also work in the diner, and a new doctor who comes into town, you follow her journey to build courage. It’s a funny rom-com about love and friendship and it’s a heartwarming show.

People are looking forward to seeing the show in Newcastle. What do you love most about the North East?
The people. Everyone loves a Geordie accent but when you are a Geordie, it brings you so much comfort to hear that. Everyone is always so friendly. I love being at home. I love Newcastle as a city as well; all the gorgeous buildings. When you’re on the train and you see the Tyne Bridge, it’s always such a lovely feeling.

Is there a Northern actor or actress who inspires you?
This is going to seem really biased but my aunty Jill [Halfpenny] is an actress and she has always given me invaluable advice. She’s done it all: musicals, film, TV, comedy. She has always been amazing. I really look up to her and the decisions she’s made in her career.

What are you watching right now?
I’m loving Cheer on Netflix. I love that show and admire all their hard work. They’re total athletes.

An actor or actress you’d love to work with in the future?
I feel like everyone says this, but I love Olivia Colman. I also love Maxine Peake. They’re similar in their raw acting style.

Do you have a quote that inspires you?
‘If your nerve deny you, go above your nerve’ – Emily Dickinson. That quote tells us to just go for it, and ignore the little fearful voice inside of us all.

Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna. Johan Persson Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna
Sandra Marvin as Becky, Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna and Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn. Johan Persson Sandra Marvin as Becky, Chelsea Halfpenny as Jenna and Evelyn Hoskins as Dawn
Waitress. Johan Persson All images Johan Persson

Waitress plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from 8th–12th March. Tickets are available here or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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