CONSIDERING Jon-Paul Bell didn’t even think about becoming an actor until a couple of years ago, the South Shore lad isn’t doing too badly for himself.
Bell has just landed a role in a new comedy on Sky called Kitten Chic. A pilot airs on April 11 and if it goes down well, a series will follow.
Not bad news for a 20-year-old who freely admits that while he was at Arnold School and Blackpool Sixth Form College, this acting lark wasn’t really foremost in his mind.
“My passion was music and the drums. I studied music and English at college and all I wanted to be was a session drummer and to work in a studio,” he said.
“All the while, though, I was doing a bit of drama on the side at Scream Theatre School. I’d go there on Saturday and it’s a great place where they teach kids to dance and sing and act.
“One day a couple of years back something just clicked inside me and I suddenly knew acting was what I wanted to do. It went from there and I’m really pleased with how it’s going.”
Bell applied for and landed a place at the well-respected drama school Arts Educational London and is now in his second year studying for his degree in acting.
He must be doing something right because he’s already done a Radio 4 drama and starred in three episodes of Emmerdale.
“That was a great experience,” he said about landing a brief part in the soap. “I met a lot of the cast and lots of people that had been there for a while, which was great. It was my first real experience of professional acting. Did I watch it before I appeared in it? Erm, not really, but my nan does!”
Next came an audition for the Sky comedy. Once again he landed a part – and it somehow seems appropriate given where it was filmed.
“It’s set in Blackpool so it was great for me,” said Bell. “I live in Chiswick now because of my degree so filming this gave me a chance to get back to my home town.
“That meant a lot because I always think it is so important to remember your roots. It is a massive cliché but home really is where the heart is.”
It is clear Bell is close to parents Tracey and Paul, sister Jessica and brother Jaymie, who he says have played a major role in his early success.
“They have all been so supportive and my parents are so hard-working that it has always given me drive and motivation,” he said. “I owe them a lot and they are all delighted for me … though I’ve done nothing yet really. Acting is very up and down and so I have to be persistent and keep things going. But it’s good to get TV work so early in my career and I am delighted with the start I’ve made.”
He’s also about to be a magazine cover star too. Pick up a copy of the next edition of Gay Times and Bell, not wearing too much, will be staring back at you. He isn’t gay but…well, we’ll let the lad explain. “It is a bit odd that it’s happened really but the reason is because in this new Sky comedy I played a gay character,” Bell said.
“The whole idea of the show is a 17-year-old girl falls absolutely head over heels in love with a lad but then she finds out this lad is gay and going out with another man. I’m that other man, the boyfriend, so she then tries to get me out of the picture.
“Off the back of that I got asked to do a photoshoot for Gay Times and then they phoned and said they wanted to put me on the front cover.
“I thought, ’right, interesting,’ but it is great publicity for the show.”
Easy to talk to and a grounded down-to-earth lad, Bell looks set to be the latest youngster to emerge from Blackpool and do the place proud.
l Scream Theatre School (where Bell trained along with other local talent including Shane Richie’s son Jake Roache and Kelsey Beth Crossley, Scarlett in Emmerdale), which offers weekly classes in all areas of performing arts, is holding an open day on Saturday from 2pm- 4pm, for children aged two to 18.
For more information go to www.screamtheatreschools.com or, alternatively, call 01253 309060.