Today I am joined by Leah Hocking who is currently touring with Billy Elliot playing the role of Mrs. Wilkinson. Leah performed with the original Broadway cast of Billy Elliot as Billy's Mum. This time, she goes out on the road playing the role of Mrs. Wilkinson. Leah has also been part of the original Broadway cast of All Shook Up, Dance of the Vampires, The Wild Party, and Jekyll and Hyde. Other Broadway shows include Mamma Mia and Hairspray. She has also done Film and Television which includes the movie Across The Universe, "Law and Order", "Whoopi". As a principal artist with Broadway Pops International, she has sung with symphonies across the country. Leah is the very proud mother of Mabel.
You are a veteran of the stage and you have done so many great shows like Mamma Mia, Jekyll and Hyde and a list of great shows you have done over the years. How did you get your start? What made you want to be onstage?
I just always wanted to be an actor as far back as I can remember. I can say I was four when I remember wanting to do it. I just did. I made it happen. I performed in high school. I did musicals and then I studied acting in college and then I moved to New York City.
And how long have you lived in New York City?
Twenty five years.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Ohio and then I grew up in Meadville, Pennsylvania. We lived there about seven years. We moved to Binghamton, New York and we lived there for about five years. When I was twelve we moved to Michigan to Marquette, Michigan so that is kinda where I call home. My brother is still there. My sister and my mom are in Minneapolis. My dad is still in upstate New York. My other sister lives in Pennsylvania right now.
What is the best thing about working onstage?
I think the immediacy of the response of the audience; having that relationship with the audience.
Do you find that the audiences vary from state to state in how they react to the show?
Not as much state to state, I think city to city. I don't know if it's as much of a state thing as a city thing. The Ft. Lauderdale audiences were very subdued. But the Orlando audiences were the craziest audiences we ever had. So it's definitely city to city.
What city are you in right now?
We are in Columbus, Ohio.
Are there any shows that stand out as the most rewarding role you ever played?
I just enjoy my work and what I do but the first show that I originated a role on Broadway was the Wild Party. That was thrilling to be because I got to be the first person to play the role. That was pretty exciting plus it was an amazing cast.
I know you've done a little bit of TV and some movies. You have done Whoopi and had a part in Across the Universe. Do you think that acting differs from being on stage than from being in front of a camera?
Stage acting is a little bit bigger. You have this great divide especially musicals with the orchestra bit and we are also playing to these huge houses. Everything is just a little heightened. It takes a different kind of craft. Film and television is a much more natural and it's just smaller.
Do you enjoy being onstage more than being in front of a camera?
Oh, no, not necessarily. I don't have that much experience on camera. I'm kind of at this point a little more interested in doing that only because it would be learning something else. The stage thing I've done for many many years. Film and television is something where there would be more of a learning curve there. It would be more of a challenge to do film and television because it's something different than what I've been doing for twenty years.
Let's talk a little bit about Billy Elliot. I know that it's a very emotional show and gives a great message. While you're doing this show do you find yourself wrapped up in the story onstage? Does that make your performance harder or easier?
I'm always wrapped up in the story because you are kind of there in the thick of it. It makes it much easier to just go with it. I don't think as much about what I'm doing. I totally get lost in the show. She's (Mrs. Wilkinson) is a completely different person from me so it's really fun to just go there and get lost and be in her world.
What is it like working with the young actors who portray Billy and is it sometimes hard to keep up with the young children you are surrounded with onstage?
No because I'm the old lady. They have their job and I have mine. The Billys are all great. They are all so different and so great. It's fun. They're so talented and my daughter's ten and she's out on the road with me. They keep you on your toes.