THE CAST OF ITV’S SAFE HOUSE REVEAL WHAT TO EXPECT THIS SERIES 339

Safe House, produced by leading independent production company Eleventh Hour Films, returns to ITV with an all new cast and crime story.

The series stars internationally renowned British actor Stephen Moyer (True Blood, The Bastard Executioner, Shots Fired) as charismatic yet impulsive ex-police officer Tom Brook who runs this season’s police safe house, which stands at the edge of the sea on the rugged coastline of Anglesey, a wild and beautiful sanctuary.

Stephen is joined by actress Zoë Tapper (Mr Selfridge, Lewis) as his partner Sam. The drama has been written by Ed Whitmore (CSI, He Kills Coppers) and Tracey Malone (Born to Kill, Rillington Place) and directed by Marc Evans (Safe House S1, Collision).

Tom and Sam’s world is turned upside down when news of a shocking crime breaks. Years previously Tom investigated a series of abductions perpetrated by an assailant known as ‘The Crow’, who took wives away from their husbands as they helplessly watched.

On hearing breaking news of a crime bearing the same hallmarks Tom heads to the crime scene, revealing to the police that, terrifyingly, he believes the Crow is active again.

The 4 x 60’ series also stars Dervla Kirwan, (Injustice, Blackout), Jason Watkins (Taboo, The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies), Sunetra Sarker(Ackley Bridge, Casualty), Ashley Walters (Cuffs, Top Boy), Sacha Parkinson (Mr Selfridge, The Driver) and Joel MacCormack (Wolf Hall).

Eleventh Hour Films Creative Director Paula Cuddy (Strike Back, Wallander) is the Executive Producer alongside company founder and Chief Executive Jill Green (New Blood, Collision). Andrew Benson (Strike Back, Prime Suspect) has produced the new season.

ITV’s Controller of Drama Victoria Fea commissioned this second series.

“We’re delighted to be returning with a brand new series of Safe House with Eleventh Hour Films,” said Victoria. “The format lends itself beautifully to creating a suspenseful drama with a new set of characters in a new safe house. As always Ed and Tracey’s scripts are gripping and compelling with twists and turns that shock and take you by surprise.”

Jill Green at Eleventh Hour Films: “It’s brilliant to have enticed Stephen Moyer back to the UK for a completely new Safe House and thrilling story, proving the power of the brand.”

Q&A with Stephen Moyer, who plays Tom Brook

Q: What did you like about Safe House?
“Tom Brook on the surface is a solid, confident, happy man. But there is something lurking under the surface from his past that he has managed to hide. Having been a police officer, he’s now helping to run a safe house and has re-invented a new life for himself. That’s as close as he’s getting to police work. He and his partner are also running a little sailing school and that’s paying the bills.

“But he’s almost like a sleeper agent. He’s living his life and he’s fine. Then he catches a piece of news that brings something from his past back into his life. It’s almost like he’s been switched back on and he cannot stop himself from becoming active and alive again.

“I was really drawn to the idea that we have ghosts in our machinery. That we think we are somehow cured from. And yet along comes something that changes perception.”

Q: Tom is described as handsome, charming, impulsive and capable. Do you agree that most men would love to be described as capable?
“I don’t think as a young man I would ever have wanted to be called capable. I would like to have been impetuous, wild and free, with a little dash of the other three! But, yes, as I’ve got older I think that’s a quality to be admired.

“Tom gets himself into scrapes. We’ve tried to make him a slightly more thinking man as opposed to an impetuous one. He’s a little bit more studied.”

Q: Did you have any sailing experience before this?
“I lived on a boat for seven years in Little Venice in London. Although obviously that was not a sailing boat. My one bit of sailing experience prior to this was in Italy in 2008 where I went out to sea in a catamaran with my two older kids, got caught in a gale and had to be rescued.

“Everybody who was out that day, even the experienced sailors, were just all over the place. I was trying to get back to the shore and got caught in this thing. The kids were smiling and laughing and thinking I was totally in control. But actually we were careering out to sea.

“A speedboat was ferrying all the stragglers back and they came and rescued us. We then had a 50mph ride back to shore in the wind with all of us leaning on the side. The kids don’t remember anything about it. They don’t even remember getting on the boat. I’m quite glad they don’t remember this genius bit of parenting.”

Q: Safe House has a stunning opening sequence.
“Our director Marc Evans directs films so the opening sequence is not what you’d expect to see on a TV show. It’s like a film. I couldn’t believe what we did. I had a couple of sailing lessons, they put me in the boat with Zoë Tapper, who plays my partner Sam, and they set us loose… a drone followed us and filmed us as we sailed out to sea.

“I still pinch myself sometimes because what I get to do for my life, for my job, is such a privilege. And there are moments when you rise above yourself and look down and go, ‘I can’t believe I get to do this.’ We were in this beautiful 1920’s wooden sailing boat. That opening sequence is incredible.”

Q: You end up in the sea at one stage later in the series.
“Water has followed me around all my career. I had to fight underwater in full armourin Prince Valiant and dive into a sewage infested sea in The Lord of Misrule. In Waking The Dead I played a murderer who was obsessed with water. There’s a lot of water. So it was no surprise to see it in Safe House.

“The weather also behaved during filming. We had about four days of rain in nine weeks. That’s not bad. We had a lot of bright sunshine both in Liverpool and Anglesey. Pretty breathtaking.”

Q: Safe House was filmed in Liverpool, Manchester and Wales, including Anglesey. Do you have a particular past history with Wales?
“We filmed The Bastard Executioner in Wales in 2015. And 20 years ago my very first feature film was the one I mentioned earlier, Prince Valiant with Katherine Heigl, Joanna Lumley and Edward Fox. I was playing the lead and staying in a little cottage in Anglesey. So it was really lovely to be back there. It’s stunning.

“When I went back to Wales in 2015, my wife Anna and I moved the family into this cottage in a beautiful little village called Cowbridge. We brought my dogs Dave and Banjo over. We just had this extraordinary summer and fell in love with Wales. I can guarantee if that show had gone again we would have bought a cottage there. Because the people are just lovely. So the fact we were doing the second part of this shoot in Wales made me very happy. My dogs have also been here again for Safe House, they speak fluent Welsh now.”

Q: What did you make of the location for the safe house?
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s been in the real owners’ family for about 110 years. It’s a foreboding place. But it doesn’t feel like that when you’re inside. It has an almost 270 degree view because it’s out on this promontory and has its own cove. Anna asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said, ‘I want my own cove. Why haven’t I got one?!’”

Q: You’ve mentioned your actress wife Anna Paquin, who co-starred with you in True Blood. Was she able to come over to the UK during filming of Safe House?
“Sadly not. She has been busy being a Mum for the last few years after the birth of our twins but went back to work in 2016. We never intended to both be working at the same time. But I’d already said yes to this role. And then she got two roles, which she really couldn’t turn down, back to back in Canada. So I just said to her, ‘There’s no way you’re not doing them. It’s complicated but they are both great parts. We’ll work it out and it’ll be fine.’”

Q: Safe House comes after huge success in America as Bill Compton in True Blood. But when you are working over there do you vanish from the radar of UK producers and casting directors?
“I don’t know if that is the case, but it certainly feels like it! Out of sight out of mind very much seems to be the case. I’ve been very busy and continually doing stuff in the US, but I’m always looking for things in the UK.

“I’d worked with Jill Green and Eve Gutierrez of Eleventh Hour Films 15 years ago. We’ve looked to work together again a number of times. So every time they got something interesting over the years, they have sent it to me. There are a couple of times where we’ve almost collaborated but it’s not worked out. And then Safe House came up.”

Q: Although based in LA you also have a house in London. Can you feel at home in both places?
“We do, yes. It’s a really strange thing. When I get to London I put my feet up on the coffee table, I make a cup of tea and I feel like I’ve finally arrived home. And then when I get back to America I put my feet up and make a cup of coffee and I feel at home. It’s so strange, I never knew I could feel at home in both places. But what I’ve learned is, I drink tea in London and I drink coffee in America. That Sociology A-level didn’t go for nothing.”

Q: What’s the recognition factor like for you now when you are back in the UK?
“It’s really interesting. You find it in America too. SunetraSarker(DCI Jane Burr), Ashley Walters (John Channing) and myself were all standing outside having a coffee in Liverpool. Somebody walks past who doesn’t know who all three of us are. Has no clue. And then somebody else will come past and will know Sunetrafrom Strictly Come Dancing. Not from Casualty. Or somebody knows Ashley from Hustle. Not from Top Boy.

“I had an incident the other day where somebody had just seen my Waking The Dead appearance from 2005, saw me in a restaurant and was freaked out. They thought I was a killer or something. They couldn’t remember how or where they had seen me but they reacted to me like I was going to kill their puppy. Then you’ll have somebody walk past and can’t believe Bill from True Blood is sitting in a cafe in Anglesey.

“So it really is dependent on people’s watching patterns. It’s all about viewer habits. It becomes about what people watch and know you for. Sometimes you’ll have a day where you’re completely unrecognised and then another day where every single person recognisesyou. It’s absolutely random. If I go into a room of True Blood fans it’s amazing. You’d be mauled. But if I go into a room where nobody has got Sky or HBO then they probably haven’t seen it. It’s that simple.

“I went out for dinner in Los Angeles with a friend and sitting at the table next to us were a rabid bunch of True Blood fans. It was lovely because they just couldn’t believe it. And the table next to them are like, ‘Who the hell is that?’ they had no idea.”

Q: Has the advent of mobile phone cameras and the ‘selfie’ culture compromised privacy for those with ‘famous faces’?
“Yes. Anna and I are very private with the babies and my older kids. When True Blood was massive and still on the air, it was kind of nuts. People would come up to us in supermarkets or coffee shops, or wherever all the time. We’re fine with it as long as they don’t take pictures of the kids. Because they haven’t chosen this life. I’ll quite happily take as many pictures as people need. But not with the kids. It’s just as simple as that really.”

Q: Is it good for the soul when you get back to your roots in Essex?
“I miss it. When I go home I absolutely love it. I just don’t get to do it often enough. When people ask me what I miss about the UK, I always say winding country lanes. Because everything is on a grid system in America. You just drive straight and then you turn left or right.

“I miss Essex country lanes and the greenery and all my boys down the pub in Herongate, where I’m from. It’s really great to get back when I get the opportunity. I get very defensive of Essex. There are so many beautiful villages and places to visit and the people rock.”

Q: You acted with another former screen vampire in Safe House?
“Jason Watkins, who plays Simon Duke, is an old friend of mine so I was really chuffed to be working with him. We were two old vampires together. Jason in Being Human and me in True Blood. We laughed a lot.

“We’ve stayed in touch a little bit over the years, even though I’ve been away. But we’ve never actually got to work together. We had just such a lovely time. He is exceptional. It was an extraordinary cast right across the board. There wasn’t a weak link in this show.”

Q: What difference does a director like Marc Evans make to a drama like Safe House?
“It comes down to creativity. In television, because it’s a small box in the corner of the room – although less small nowadays, you usually cut to close ups of people. To see the expression on their faces you go to a tight close up as opposed to a wide. But in the cinema it’s different. You’re using big wide shots because the image is much bigger and people are watching it in a cinema.

“And what Marc Evans tends to do is he gives the television audience the benefit of the doubt. He likes to think audiences are cinema savvy, that the more filmic option is always more interesting. Marc tries to paint a picture of emotion as opposed to always cutting to the obvious.

“It was great for me because I love that kind of film making. To feel like I was in somebody’s hands who was making the kind of decisions I’d like to think I would make in that situation. When you get somebody like Marc you are trusting his vision. I think we did some really beautiful stuff.”

Q: You are no stranger to taking risks, having played Captain Von Trapp in The Sound Of Music Live! on American TV in 2013. How do you reflect back on that experience now?
“It was utterly terrifying. I’m very proud of it in that we were the first ones to do it. The first time anything like that had been attempted in 60 years, since Mary Martin did the famous Peter Pan Live. It has set the benchmark for what followed. It was quite an experience.

“We got into the studio after four weeks of rehearsal and it was like an aircraft hangar with five different sets. Cameras moving in and out of sets. It was really ambitious. By the time we set the show with the cameras we actually only got one real run at it. So then on that one performance you’re doing the tech, dress, final rehearsal, first performance, premiere and last performance all in one performance. Terrifying.

“But it got an audience of 23 million people who watched it live and nobody has touched those numbers since. Are there things I’d change about the performance? Yeah, for sure because it’s that first preview, your press night and last night all at the same time. It was an amazing experience. I was talking about it with my daughter just yesterday because she absolutely loved it.

“Radiohead did a snap gig for Haiti about seven years ago. They were in the studio at the time. They hadn’t played live for a while. But they did this one-off gig, playing to about a thousand people at The Music Box in Hollywood. It was just amazing because they were fallible, making mistakes and laughing about it. But there was a complete freshness to it. You didn’t know what was going to come next. It’s one of my favourite ever gigs.

“And yes, we had a mistake on that Sound Of Music Live! night. A wonderful actor froze. it happens, but we pulled through. We’re all small cogs in a giant wheel. There’s no individuals at that point. It’s a machine.

“Funnily enough when I was doing Chicago at the Hollywood Bowl, I’d been very nervous on the first night. The first time on stage in 18 years. Then on the second night I remember this particular scene with Ashlee Simpson when I had this wave of euphoria.

“I was standing there going, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like! This is fantastic. This is what you felt when you were a kid, when you first started doing this. It’s amazing.’ And as I came out of it I was looking at Ashlee Simpson thinking, ‘I wonder why she’s not speaking?’ Then I suddenly realised. I don’t know how long I’d been standing there looking at her feeling this feeling. But it was my line. I hadn’t even dried. I had just stopped in this moment. But, of course, I’d also stopped talking. Then I went straight back to being terrified again. Which I think is probably a positive thing.”

Q: Someone once told you to embrace the fear. What does that mean?
“I went through a period of crippling stage fright after I did a production of Romeo and Juliet in 1995, hence 18 years off stage. I was not looking after myself very well let’s put it that way. We were partying very hard and I didn’t credit what was happening on stage with perhaps the afterhours behaviour. Instead I kind of imploded.

“I should have ploughed on and used it.

“I didn’t heed any of my own advice. When I was much younger teaching kids I always talked about the fact that often some of the greatest things that happen on stage or in rehearsal happen out of a mistake. Or happen because of something not working and making you push through. If something doesn’t work in a rehearsal it doesn’t mean you have made a mistake. You can actually go, ‘Well that didn’t work so what was the feeling I was going through when that didn’t work? Or maybe I didn’t go at it hard enough?

“So that phrase is just something I try to keep in the back of my mind. To not go for the safe bet.”

“For me, when I’m directing there is no failure. Nothing is a failure. It’s all a path to something else. I try to make it a safe place where you can do anything. My favourite actors in the world have always been the people who aren’t afraid of how ridiculous they can sometimes look.”

Q: You touched on it earlier but what do you get out of being an actor, director and producer?
“For me along the way, it’s always been trying to satisfy some need, some artistic desire to produce stuff. As a photographer I find it very difficult to go through the day without seeing shots or an interesting line or lyric coming to me or humming a tune. And it’s not actually necessarily for anyone. It’s not necessarily for public consumption. It’s just how I’ve always been. So I just quite happily bumble through my life taking photos and writing little bits and pieces and humming to myself. I’m sure I look quite mad.

“I had started doing a lot of direction with True Blood and my eldest son said to me, ‘Do you think you’ll only direct now?’ And I said, ‘If that was something I felt I was able to just decide, then the answer might possibly be yes. But acting is vocational.’

“Acting chooses you. You can’t just not do it. It’s a very strange thing. I viscerally miss it when I’m away. And obviously acting pays the bills. And whenever I do theatre it’s the actual rehearsal process I love. It’s being in a rehearsal room and playing. It’s just the simplicity.

“What I get out of it is this creative flow which just fills you up somehow.

“There’s this old exercise you do at drama school where you throw a ball back and forward. And in order to do a scene, somebody has got to be catching the ball. So if I throw a ball, somebody has to catch it. And then they throw it back to you and you catch it. It all sounds very pretentious put like that, but really all acting is in the end, is playing catch.”

Q&A with Zoë Tapper, who plays Sam Stenham

Q: Why did you want to be involved in Safe House?
“It was my first job since having my second child and it felt like a good time to come back to television. Safe House is different from anything I’ve done before. I had been playing some quite psychologically torn, damaged and tragic heroines. While Sam is very strong, bold and self-possessed.

“I liked the relationship she had with her partner Tom (Stephen Moyer) in the story and felt she represented a strong core to what was also a very interesting psychological thriller. It was something exciting and going to stretch me in a different way than I had been stretched before.”

Q: Who is Sam Stenham?
“Sam and Tom are partners. You very much get the sense they are equal in all areas in life. They have decided to set up a life for themselves in a remote place in North Wales. Sam has inherited a beautiful big imposing house that looks out across the sea. They rear chickens, run sailing holidays and are very outdoorsy. They go out on the open water together, clearly love each other and work well together. They seem to be very self-contained.

“Sam is a real anchor for Tom. He has a past, which troubles him still. She doesn’t know the full extent of it. But when they are together they are happy and contented with this lifestyle they have chosen.”

Q: Was it fun filming the spectacular series opening, with Sam and Tom sailing on a boat?
“In the very first scripts I read we were supposed to be riding horses, galloping along the beach with hair blowing in the wind. I hadn’t had that much experience on a horse before so I ended up taking horse riding lessons to train myself for it.

“Until we actually arrived on location to see this beautiful house in an incredible landscape and realised horses were not going to be right for this setting. It had to be something to do with the sea and water. So quite rightly they changed it to sailing. Which is also something I hadn’t really had any experience of before.

“We were very lucky with the weather. That particular location is very exposed so when it’s windy it blows a gale. But fortunately the day we went out sailing it was beautiful weather and the sea was calm.

“We had a lesson with a local boat owner who gave us the basics and we were out in the water with him in the boat for a while. But for filming they just wanted Stephen and I on the boat sailing in the open water with these magnificent shots of us from above. Two people in the centre of their own world sailing out to sea.

“I wasn’t convinced we could do it but everyone was quite happy to send us both off. And we did have a great time sailing around on our own. It was idyllic.

“I loved it because it was a beautiful day and the water was calm. But I’m not sure I’d be very good if the conditions were any choppier than that. The wonderful thing about our job is you often get these experiences that otherwise you might not get to do.”

Q: What was it like working with Stephen Moyer?
“Stephen is such a team player with a real intensity to him that was ideal for this drama. He has a brilliant work ethic and is a lovely man to be around. He lives in America so he brought his two dogs with him and would take them out running along the beach at lunchtime. Stephen was great to work with and very strong in this role.”

Q: Tell us about the Trearddur Bay in Anglesey where the Safe House was located?
“When I first travelled to the location I arrived at night on the train and got a taxi from the station to the cottage in the village where I was staying. It was pitch black so I couldn’t see anything and I went to bed. Then when I woke up in the morning and opened the curtains I suddenly saw this incredible landscape stretching out for miles.

“I had never been there before. It really is spectacular. I totally fell in love with that part of Wales. Beautiful little bays, gorgeous sandy beaches – on a sunny, hot, bright day you felt you could have been anywhere in the Mediterranean.

“The house stands out in that community. A great big imposing stone house right on the rocks looking out across the sea. People in the village call it the spooky house and there are ghost stories about it. If you were alone in the house on a dark night with the wind blowing a gale outside, it would be genuinely quite eerie to be there.

“But it also has the most incredible views looking out across the sea. We had two weeks there and were so lucky with the weather. I loved the house. It was majestic and perfect for this drama. Being in the house when it was pouring with rain outside and the waves were crashing against the rocks was also brilliant.

“We had the range of weather we needed, which doesn’t always happen. It’s great sometimes to have very blustery, windy weather when things are getting a little bit dark, brooding and mysterious. There were lots of scenes where we were outside at night and it was dark with the trees swaying and waves crashing against the shore. It was very atmospheric.

“The other half of the job was filmed in Liverpool. A fantastic city. I had filmed there before and loved going back. It’s a special place.”

Q: How would you characterise the crimes at the heart of this story?
“There is an infamous and particularly chilling crime which occurred years previously and we believe the man responsible was caught and is behind bars. But then there is a copycat crime.

“I’m not very good with anything horror-inspired and this is a very spooky story. Once people are inside our safe house you do start to question who you can trust. You’re in a place were you are supposed to be safe. But are you?

“The way the drama is shot uses some of the rooms up in the attic at one point with long corridors. You’re not really sure what’s around the corner or in each room. The perfect location for this very spooky tale. I found it incredibly creepy. It does make for very taut, tense viewing.”

Q: What is Sam’s relationship with Dani, played by Sacha Parkinson?
“Sam takes on a caring role in the safe house for Dani, whose mother has been abducted and is missing. It’s more a big sisterly role for Sam. She doesn’t want to get too close but is quite good at guiding Dani. Putting a protective arm over her. Recognising Dani is troubled and vulnerable with other issues in her life. It was great working with Sacha. She’s a fantastic actress and very emotionally available. It’s a lovely partnership between the two women.”

Q: Did the cast know who the murderer was from the start?
“We didn’t find out who the killer was until we got the final script. We had our suspicions but we didn’t know. That’s both the brilliance and the terrifying nature of starting filming when you’re not sure what exactly is going to happen at the end. It was exciting. It really keeps you on your toes. The reveal was unexpected for me. So I hope everyone else will be left wondering as well.”

Q: What was it like working with the director Marc Evans?
“There is so much going on in a production like Safe House in terms of the shots, the location, telling the story and making sure it has all the twists and turns that make it so compelling. The brilliance of Marc is he remains calm at all times with a very level head.

“That generates an atmosphere on set that filters down to everybody. Despite having time constraints and lots of night shoots, having Marc at the helm was fantastic. He had a very clear idea of how he was going to shoot everything. I really enjoyed working with him. Marc is a master of what he does.”

Q: And with Dervla Kirwan, who plays Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Elizabeth Ellroy?
“Elizabeth Ellroy, is someone from Tom’s past. Sam is very much his present and Elizabeth his past. With some real twists and turns. We have a great scene where the two characters are having a heated debate. It was great to get the chance to work with Dervla.”

Q: Sam faces a race against time in one scene. What does she have to do?
“Sam has to access classified files on a police computer when an officer steps out of his office to make a cup of tea. That’s my worst nightmare. I genuinely got quite nervous filming that. There was a real sense of being against the clock. We filmed it all in real time with procedures I had to type in to the computer on camera. It was very tense and I could feel my heart beating. Safe House is full of moments like that, making it a really exciting watch.”
Q: Aside from home, where in the world would your ‘safe house’ be?
“My husband’s family are Swiss and they have a beautiful chalet in the mountains of Switzerland. It’s been in their family for generations. A very simple house overlooking a beautiful valley. It feels like going into a time warp. You can’t use your mobile phone, there’s no television. Just the landscape and fresh air. It’s a really beautiful place. I love it there and I always feel very safe. It’s a very peaceful place for me. I’d choose that.”

Q: Can you sum up what you get out of doing the work you do?
“I’m so lucky to do this job and am reminded of that all the time. What I’ve found as I’ve got older is being lucky to have the balance of doing something I love and being at home as well. Safe House came after I’d had quite a long period of time off work with my children. Everyone finds it hard to balance those two responsibilities. But it’s wonderful to go into something where every day you are doing something different, meeting new people, getting to tell brilliant stories. Absolutely engaging with what you’re doing using your brain and heart. I just love it so much.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else. It fulfills me. I love being on set and with the people involved in this business. Such an extraordinary mix of talent both in front of the camera and behind. It is a real buzz and I hope I get to do it for a long time to come.”

Q&A with Sunetra Sarker, who plays DCI Jane Burr

Q: What attracted you to Safe House?
“What drew me to Safe House was the scripts. Having worked on Casualty in one role for so long it was different to read a four-part stand-alone story. I read the first five pages and felt goosebumps on my arms. It was like a book where you know within the first few pages this is going to be good.

“I started reading the script at night and didn’t know if I could read it to the end. I didn’t know if I wanted to be alone reading the script because I felt a chilling thrill. I don’t do ghost stories, I don’t watch horror films, but with thrillers like this there is something else about the suspense and the unknown. It makes me jump but I’m OK with it.

“It takes a lot in television today to try and grab an audience very quickly without shocking them too much. It’s getting harder and harder. And the opening to Safe House really held me. It did make me feel like this could really happen. A realistic nightmare. But at the same time it was an unusual story, which makes you feel curious. A really good combination of thrilling, curiosity and ambiguity.

“I can’t liken this to anything else I’ve seen on TV recently. In terms of it being about trying to trace a serial killer, especially one whose motivation is so warped. That’s a very interesting angle. It just makes you feel uncomfortable. But we want to know what’s going on behind closed doors.”

Q: Tell us about DCI Jane Burr?
“I enjoyed Jane’s seriousness, her professionalism, the fact she is a woman in a man’s world and totally in charge. Jane is a Scouser, a woman who we maybe don’t see regularly enough on screen at the DCI level.

“Jane is caught between talking to former detective Tom Brook (Stephen Moyer), whose wealth of knowledge could help the investigation, and the red tape of policing. She uses her genuine instinct but is torn between Tom telling her one thing and the police rules telling her another. Her colleague DI OllyVedder(Gary Cargill) hates Tom. It was good fun working with Stephen and Gary. Two really strong men.

“Every case must bring out a different detective in each police officer. Because I played a doctor for so many years I think I can say that. Different reactions come from different experiences. I’ve brought years of experience to this role. I was joking with someone recently, saying since being in Casualty I only play roles beginning with a ‘d’ – as in doctor, detective and a dinner lady in Ackley Bridge.”

Q: You played a police detective before?
“I have on an ITV drama in 2007 called Mobile. I played DI Lorraine Conil. She was a great cop all the way up until the very end when you found out what the twist was. So I have played a more junior version of a detective way back.”

Q: Did you know from the start of filming how the story would end?
“No, not at all. We had to wait until we got the script for the final episode. I didn’t know who had done it until then. I was walking around going, ‘Is it you? Is it me? Is it them?’ I didn’t get it right. There was a lot of care and collaboration to make this story as gripping as possible.”

Q: You filmed in your hometown of Liverpool. That must have been a bonus?
“We filmed in Liverpool, Manchester and Anglesey. I got to see my mum and dad and take my son Noah with me. For a working mum, especially an actress, a lot of the jobs are all around the country. Because I’ve got family in Liverpool and filming was around some of the summer holidays I could take Noah along with me and see my mum and dad on my days off.

“It also meant seeing Liverpool in a working light again. Since Brookside I hadn’t really been back to Liverpool for work. I did an episode of Puppy Love over on the Wirral but that was a one-off and a bit different. I hadn’t seen Liverpool as a working environment for a long time. There is so much going on there.

“The locations in Liverpool were brilliant. There’s so much new stuff been built since I last worked there, it was great. I loved working in Liverpool and I’m really glad the production saw the benefits of the city.”

Q: What difference does a director like Marc Evans make to a production such as Safe House?
“I would work with Marc every day if I could. He showed me a type of director I didn’t know existed. He was so interested in collaboration and really listened. So he then computes any problems you might be having and gives you great alternatives. He also makes you feel comfortable with uncomfortable stuff.

“Marc is so modest and self-deprecating. He gives all the credit to everyone around him. By making the actors and the crew feel they have been heard and are part of the piece, we all gave a lot more. It really energisedme. I was braver than I would have been. He really was exceptional.”

Q: You’ve been very busy since leaving Casualty. Has that surprised you?
“I filmed Broadchurch, Who Do You Think You Are?, Death In Paradise, Ackley Bridge and Safe House in the year after leaving Casualty. In terms of the dramas, what’s really lovely is for people to believe in me as an actor outside of Casualty. That’s a huge compliment. I don’t think I could have planned it better.

“I was in Casualty for a long time and I’m very loyal to the series and very grateful to Casualty for everything it gave me. But there was a moment where I knew I was comfortable and used to playing the same character day in and day out.

“It was seeing shows such as Broadchurch and the original Safe House which made me feel I’d like to see what was out there. I didn’t know they were going to be making another Broadchurch or Safe House. In my head I thought if I could do a couple of guest roles here and there, a little radio and theatre, I’d be happy. The variety is what I’m so excited about.”

Q: Did filming Who Do You Think You Are? change the way you approach work now?
“I had just filmed it before Safe House so I had all this historical knowledge in my head. When you find out what I found out about my family history, the fact they were so strong-minded with connections to Gandhi, women’s rights and so on, they tried to do a lot of right things – getting that sort of validation does give you a slight shield to feel you have the right to be braver, more courageous and speak up when you feel you should.

“If you met the Sunetra aged 19 compared to the age 42 version, there’s a lot of bravery that comes through the years of experience. Especially because I’m lucky enough to have worked regularly a lot in my career.

“They say the more hours you put into something the more you do get to know what your art is. And I think making a show like Who Do You Think You Are?, finding out that I come from people who believe strongly and tried to stand up rather than shirk away, I’m more up for trying new things.

“Safe House got me first. I thought I would be a stiller, calmer, less of a happy person in this role than maybe the way some people might have thought I would play it. I chose that because I felt I was in a strong place. I feel like I’ve got a lot of invisible support from ancestors who are all cheering on the sidelines.”

Q: Can you sum up what you get out of doing the work you do?
“It really taps into a part of me that I feel excited and passionate about. Doing a job I’m lucky enough to do. A job I fell into without realisingit was going to become my career. I am constantly surprised at how much I want to explore different characteristics.

“I’m excited by good writing. This job is an avenue for me to experience different highs and lows. I’m very fortunate that I get the chance to tap into different colours of my own personality. Not every job allows you to do that. I can be more expressive. I think it’s made me a better person.”

Q: If you had the choice, aside from your own home, where would your ‘safe house’ be in the world?
“My safe house would be somewhere in Italy. Possibly by one of the lakes. There’s an energy and a spirit in that part of the world. I feel really safe there and very happy and content. So my safe house would be a beautiful cottage overlooking the lakes in Italy.”

Q: How do you reflect on your Safe House experience?
“If you said the words ‘safe house’ to different people, they would have different interpretations of what it means. But I think we all know there is an element of danger for any one having to need a safe house. A safe house can come in lots of different guises depending on the circumstances

“We had such a wonderful cast. I was excited to sit around a table and look around at the standard of actors I was working with. I hadn’t worked with any of them before and they were such a nice bunch of people. The cast made me feel brave. It was the most grown up job I’ve done in a long time. Meaty, thought-provoking work. It was great to be part of that team.”

Q: What’s next?
“The whole point of me taking a break from Casualty and leaving the show was to get balance back in my life. Instead of doing 48 weeks a year working, I want to do 50-50. So I’m planning on trying to spend some time at home to be around my family and life that I’ve missed. We’ll just have to see if that plan works out!”

Q&A with Ashley Walters, who plays John Channing

Q: What attracted you to Safe House?
“When I get a script like this I’m trying to go against what people expect me to do and the characters they expect me to play. I’ve played some dark characters. Some troubled people. So it was nice to play someone who seems to be the good guy. At heart, genuinely trying to do the right thing.”

Q: Who is John Channing?
“When we first meet him he is marking the first year anniversary with his partner Julie (Lynsey McLaren) and her daughter Dani (Sacha Parkinson). John is quite a successful man and has made a definite decision in his life to have a family and all of the things a family brings. But nothing goes to plan.”

Q: He experiences a nightmare event. What happens?
“As a man he has to watch as his family is attacked and partner abducted. He wants to protect them but is helpless. It is a nightmare. I’m married and a father and I can’t imagine going through what Channing goes through. It’s crazy.

“It is very disturbing. You don’t imagine there are people like this out there. But the fact is there are people who do this sort of thing. It’s scary. It was pretty intense when we were filming.

“John has this huge guilt because he was unable to do anything to stop it. Moving forward you have to accept what has happened. That’s really hard for John. He always feels he could have done better. He could have done more. Which leads to the mistakes he makes in trying to protect his family.

“The pace of the police work for someone in that position with no patience is frustrating. So he feels he has to act. He makes decisions I think we can all relate to.”

Q: John says he is not good at doing nothing. Does the same apply to you?
“You’ve caught me at the wrong time for that because at the moment I’m up very early exercising every day for the last few weeks. Trying to inspire people as well on my Instagram to get them to do the same. I’ve very much at the moment about making things happen.

“I also have a big family and have to make sure I juggle things well. My addiction is work, producing and making things happen in life. But it’s also my children and family and you have to balance your time.”

Q: Tell us about the location used for the safe house in Anglesey?
“It was an amazing house. The only thing I can compare it to is something similar to the house in The Addams Family. It gives you that eerie, scary feeling.

“There were times where there wasn’t a lot of crew inside the house. We’d be filming small, intimate scenes and the house would be quiet. That’s when you would hear a lot of house noises, creaking and stuff like that. On late nights filming it was quite scary.”

Q: Was it a bonding experience for the cast?
“It was. We all clicked together as a cast. Working with Stephen Moyer, who plays Tom, was great. I learned a lot from him. He’s a seasoned actor who has done so much in his career. I got a lot of tips from him throughout filming.

“Sacha Parkinson as Dani was so cool. A brilliant performer. I’m very happy to be consistently surrounded by people that are really good at their craft.”

Q: Does Julie’s daughter Dani feel resentment towards John?
“It’s a difficult situation. Dani’s mother has been taken and Dani is left with John. They are not blood related and her mother was the reason why they knew each other in the first place. She was the person holding all three together. Now she’s a missing link and that creates tension.

“Both Dani and John are basically good people. In a way they are quite loyal to each other, regardless of everything else.”

Q: How does John react to being told what to do by ex-police officer Tom, played by Stephen Moyer?
“John takes it quite well considering. There are moments when you feel there could be a real conflict between them. But they have a mutual respect. This whole thing is a big journey for John and he is still learning. He looks up to Tom and does take some advice, even though he is hard-headed with it.”

Q: If you could choose a ‘safe house’ anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“Where would I feel most content? I’d have to say in London. I love London. I hate going away. The minute I’m taken out of my comfort zone I get really funny about it. But if I had to make a choice of another place, somewhere I’ve always said I’d like to live is Toronto in Canada. I had an amazing time there. It’s close to what I’ve got in London but slightly safer and cleaner.”

Q: Can you sum up what you get out of doing the work you do?
“I love what we as actors and drama producers produce and how other people react to it. I feel the energy and purpose of what I do when I meet people who have watched my work or were inspired by something in it. Just as I was inspired by other people.

“I do appreciate the fact I’ve had that opportunity to be there, to also inspire other people and to help create the scene.

“If you look at things happening now, the movies coming out, there are writers and young black directors that have been inspired by what’s been happening before. That’s the main purpose, really.”

Q: How do you reflect on your Safe House experience?
“It has some amazing actors, which is always a great reason to watch something. The story is really intriguing. There are so many twists and turns. People will be on their toes. There’s some really scary moments.”

Q&A with Jason Watkins, who plays Simon Duke

Q: What drew you to Safe House?
“I liked the first series and I very much like the director Marc Evans. The writing and story were good. Simon Duke’s wife has been murdered several years before. You discover what has happened at the outset of the story through the eyes of his son Liam, played by Joel MacCormack. It’s very disturbing.

“I liked playing this damaged person who has been through trauma in his life over a long period of time and is struggling, as a single parent, with the care of Liam, who is having his own problems as a result of what happened to them. Simon has to try and move on, get on with his life.

“Despite what has happened he’s trying to get his son a job. But, of course, he is aware of what Liam has been through. They are great scenes to play. Simon can’t be too hard on his son because of what has happened.

“Both characters are struggling with the loss and are not dealing with it very well. Then another woman is abducted in similar circumstances and there are fears Simon might also be in danger.

“Joel was excellent as my son. It was really great to work with him. A young actor starting out. That was a joy. Along with working with the whole team. It was a very focused job.”

Q: Simon is reunited with former detective Tom Brook, played by Stephen Moyer. Had you worked with him before?
“I hadn’t worked with Stephen Moyer before but we did know each other. Stephen and I are similar ages and we bumped into each other in Soho in the 90s doing plays and things. Then I bumped into him in the gym just before he went off and did True Blood in America.

“We hit it off really well and kept tabs on each other after he shot off to the States. It was really nice to finally work with him. He’s such a great guy and a proper leading actor. He encouraged everybody and was very active and committed in the making of it. A nice person to have in the centre of your job.

“We were also, of course, two old vampires together and did a little something about that on Twitter, with Stephen having been a vampire in True Blood and me in Being Human.”

Q: Simon says Tom is good at ‘manly pursuits’ and is very capable. How are your ‘manly’ DIY skills?
“I used to be a bit more hands on in terms of painting and decorating. But my wife said it took such a long time, I used to take forever doing it. It would take days to paint a bathroom because I worked really slowly. But I do try. Although with work I don’t seem to have enough time to do manly pursuits. I do cycle. I get on my road bike every morning. Is that manly?

“I can understand Simon feeling slightly threatened by Tom’s alpha male and the fact he is so capable at doing things. Perhaps I like to think I am like that. But I’m actually not.”

Q: Were you able to bring any real life skills to the role of professional photographer Simon?
I love photography and have a couple of cameras myself. In Simon’s world, he would like to take pictures of landscapes, people and be a proper photographer. But like a lot of people you have to earn a living. So he’s taking photos of people getting married. They are all happy and everything is great. Which is good writing because it contrasts with his own life. He’s not really engaged with it. Simon is trying to be happy but is just going through the motions. It’s rather joyless for him.”

Q: Simon’s house is very distinctive. Was the interior a set or in a real house?
“It was a real house but they did lots of magic with it. An avocado green coloured seventies’ house. Very distinctive. It was shot so brilliantly by our director of photography BazIrvine. He did some great work. It shows Simon hasn’t moved on. It’s almost like he’s living in his parents’ house. He’s a little stuck and trapped.”

Q: You also filmed scenes at the ‘safe house’ in Anglesey. Tell us about that?
“Anglesey has a particular atmosphere to it. There was one fantastic day where you could see the coast of Ireland. I think it only happens on certain days in the year and in certain weather conditions. It was an incredible view. It happened on the day my character was out taking photographs of that area with scenes in and around the beach.

“It’s a strangely magical place. You feel you’re at the end of the country, as it were. And the house we used for the safe house is on a headland. So in some of the rooms you can look out to the sea on three sides of the room. It was a very striking house in an amazing location.”

Q: During filming you tweeted about passing through Rhyl and training there with the Wrexham Youth Team as a youngster. Did you have ambitions to be a footballer?
I was quite good at football when I was about 16 or 17. One of the teachers at our school in Hounslow, west London was from the North Wales area. So we had an exchange visit where our Hounslow borough went over to play Wrexham area boys and they also came to London.

“While we were at the Wrexham end of it we played against the Wrexham area. Mark Hughes – who went on to play for Manchester United and Wales and is now the Stoke manager – was playing for Wrexham area and I was playing for Hounslow. It was one of those mad games that finished something like 7-4. He scored about five. I scored about three. Then they asked me to come and train with them.

“So a couple of months later me and another lad from our team went training with Wrexham. Part of the training was running up the sand dunes in Rhyl, which was hard work. I went back again the following year. But after that they didn’t ask me back. My dream was over. I played semi-pro for a bit after that in London. I suppose I wasn’t quite good enough in the end.”

Q: Was the Safe House shoot a busy time for you?
“My filming on Safe House overlapped on a couple of jobs. My resolution is to try and do less and fit less jobs together.

“Safe House has a lot of appeal with a great format. A single story but with a history to it going back. There is so much good, tight, intriguing drama about at the moment. And ITV has always excelled at crime dramas.”

Q: Would you say you are now coming into your prime as an actor?
“I was lucky because Roger Michell, the director of The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies in 2014, really wanted me to play the part. I’d done lots of work with ITV before. But that really sent me on my way. And I’m lucky I won that award (BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor) at a time when there is so much good drama about. It’s a golden age of television. It’s a good time to be in television. And Safe House is another example of that.”

Q: Did turning 50 in 2016 make any difference to your acting outlook?
“I found the day a bit difficult. I know it sounds a bit weird for an actor but I didn’t like the attention. I should have really gone for it and had a massive ‘do’ with everybody I’d ever worked with. It was great but I wasn’t crazy about having all that attention.

“However, I do quite like being in my 50s. One thing about it is you think, ‘Well this is me now. This is roughly it.’ I think you can spend a lot of your life, quite rightly, thinking, ‘I can be a better person and do things differently.’ Striving to be better. And maybe I’m a bit like that anyway. My work has got to be better and all that.

“But really when you get to your 50s you think, ‘OK, here we are. I’ve got a beautiful family and this is me now. I just have to try and be a bit more gentle with myself.’ I rather like that. To realistically view one’s successes and failures and just be a bit kinder to yourself.”

Q: Aside from home, if you could have a ‘safe house’ anywhere in the world, where would it be?
“It would be lovely to have a little place out in the countryside that we could escape to. In Suffolk or somewhere like that. And in terms of a fantasy house, I’ve just been working with Terry Gilliam on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in Spain and Portugal. So having a big villa in the middle of Majorca would be pretty nice. Near a beach.”

Q: How do you reflect on your Safe House experience?
“Viewers may not often realise how crews often work very long days. While actors turn up and do scenes every now and again in the middle of it. There are very early starts, getting up sometimes at 5:30am with lots of days, one after another, moving around from location to location and from city to city.

“So it’s so nice where the whole crew really cares about the project, everybody appreciates everyone else’s work and you’re all moving together to make something you are really proud of and that people will like to watch.

“That’s one of the privileges of working in this field. It’s a collaborative thing. When you get a good group of people and a lovely script, as on Safe House, it’s a very special thing.”

Q&A with Sacha Parkinson, who plays Dani Delaney

Q: What attracted you to Safe House?
“I really enjoyed the first series of Safe House. So when a role in this second series came up, it wasn’t even a question of whether I’d do it or not. I loved the story. And the director Marc Evans is great. I love thrillers, crime stories, psychological dramas and everything like that.

“Reading the scripts, I love nothing more than when something makes you jump and catch your breath. That feeling you get. I didn’t get any warning signs at all when I was reading Safe House. So when things came at me in a scene I was just as shocked as an audience member would be. That’s a really good sign.”

Q: Who is Dani and what happens to her?
“When we’re first introduced to Dani you can see how close a relationship she has with her mother Julie (LynseyMcLaren). They could even be mistaken as sisters. That’s how close they are.

“You can also see Dani’s dislike of her mother’s boyfriend John Channing (Ashley Walters) because of how different she is towards him. In some ways it’s a protective thing about her mother and in other ways she can be seen as a typical teenager who is no longer the focus of her mother’s attention and feels pushed out.

“Her mother is abducted in a nightmare crime and Dani is then forced to live in this confined environment in and around the safe house with people she doesn’t necessarily like or trust. Especially John. With no contact to the outside world.

“It’s a really strained situation for her to be in. It’s quite sad because she is still really young and worried about what has happened to her mother. It’s a bit of a rollercoaster for her.

“Dani is feeling numb and devastated after her mother has been taken. It’s almost as if it’s not real. She has seen her mother in terrible danger and telling her to run away. But she carries that guilt about whether she could have done more.

“Could she have stopped it? She knows deep down there is nothing anyone could have done. Dani is traumatised by what has happened.”

Q: What was it like filming at the safe house location?
“It was an amazing location in Anglesey. I’ve never seen anything quite so beautiful. But the house was also scary at the same time. Like a maze with dozens of bedrooms. All on its own on a headland. With so much history to it.

“The house really did set the tone for the drama because of how beautiful, eerie and very isolated it was. You didn’t have to pretend about just being a small dot in this environment because you really did feel like that.

“There was definitely one room with a strange feeling. Stephen Moyer, who plays Tom, had felt it earlier. He didn’t say anything but wanted to see if anybody else felt the same thing. So we walked in and I said, ‘I feel like someone is sitting on my chest.’ Apparently that room is haunted by a young boy’s spirit. So that was really strange.

“I’m a bit of a wuss anyway so I only allowed myself to go into certain rooms. One of the rooms on one of the floors was used as a dressing room and a bit of a Green Room. And if you were waiting in there, having a bit of space to look at your lines, and the others were shooting, say, in the kitchen, so no-one was around, it was really creaky. So I would just try and stay as close to other people as possible. Especially at night.”

Q: Was it a bonding experience for the cast?
“It was a bonding experience for the cast who were filming in Anglesey. It’s so beautiful but the location is also remote. Ashley had shot something there before so he knew all the little places to go to. He’s such a nice guy and made it so much easier on set. The whole cast were lovely and so easy going.”

Q: Dani has to cut herself off from the outside world and do without her mobile phone and computer. How would you cope?
“I think I would struggle. I’d like to think after maybe a week the withdrawal would go and I would be able to cope. But your whole life is on there. Especially for someone like Dani, who is a teenager. That’s mostly the way people communicate at that age. I’m really bad. I annoyingly spend my free days sometimes just constantly refreshing Twitter and Instagram. I try and give myself days off. But I only last so long.

“I’m actually quite a lazy person. I can quite happily spend days hibernating. But that’s through choice. If I was forced to do that I think it would be a different story. I’d find that hard. It really is hard to just sit with your own thoughts, as Dani has to.”

Q: Dani is underwater in a bath in one scene. How was that to film?
“I was sat in a really warm bath, so I couldn’t complain. Dani is immersed under water and then hears something that makes her come to the surface. It’s really eerie. There’s nothing more vulnerable than someone in a bath, completely exposed, not knowing what’s going on in that room.

“I was all right being under the water. At least for the number of times we filmed it in the first hour. But you can’t hold your nose. So after a while it was difficult to say my lines when I came up for air. But it was fun to do.”

Q: If you could live in a ‘safe house’ anywhere in the world, apart from where you live now, where would you choose?
“I love Paris. It’s my favourite place. So probably there. First because it’s so beautiful and secondly because I could eat croissants every single day.”

Q: You obviously love the job you do. What do you get from being an actor?
“It’s indescribable the feeling you have when you get a job and the whole process of doing it. It’s just so exciting. There’s so much to investigate about the world and the people in it. No other job allows you to step into someone else’s life, into that role, for a short time.

“That’s why I am an actor because I want to be so many different types of people and have so many different personality traits. I literally change from one day to the next and my job allows me to do that and understand that person. And then put it to bed. I then feel so satisfied, knowing I’ve done that and I can move forward.

“I get excited when I read scripts, especially when the character is so far removed from you. It’s exciting to act out these characters. There’s nothing quite like being able to be somebody else. And you never know what’s around the next corner. It’s so unpredictable.”

Safe House begins on Thursday 7 September at 9pm on ITV

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X FACTOR UK: JUDGES HOUSES INTERVIEW SPECIAL 6

The route to the live shows draws tantalisingly closer for the remaining 24 X Factor contestants as they jet off to Judges’ Houses in a bid to land a coveted place in the live shows.

Offering a glimpse into the jet set lifestyle that The X Factor winner could have, the four categories travel to glamorous destinations across the world and with just one more chance to impress their mentor, each act will be hoping to convince them that they have the star quality required to reach the live shows.

This year the Boys will jet off to Istanbul to perform for Louis Walsh, Simon Cowell invites the Groups to the South of France, the Girls fly out to San Francisco to sing for Sharon Osbourne and the Overs category travels to South Africa hoping to impress Nicole Scherzinger.

With crucial decisions to be made, each judge has help at hand from guest judges who know all about what it takes to make it in the industry – Simon reunites with former X Factor judge and singer Cheryl, Nicole is aided by Mobo award-winning, BRIT nominated and man of the moment, grime artist, Stormzy; Sharon makes it a family affair with son Jack and daughter Kelly; and Louis is joined by Brit Award winner and Grammy nominated singer songwriter Mika.

As ever, X Factor host Dermot O’Leary will be on hand to congratulate the lucky three, and console those who fall at the final hurdle


Interviews with the Boys Catergory (Mentored by Louis Walsh with guest judge Mika)

AIDAN MARTIN (27 YEAR OLD BARMAN AND EVENTS HOST FROM LONDON)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I’ve been writing music for a very long time, music is all I’ve done. I think the writing side is something I am really proud of and I’m really pleased that this year I’ve been able to show myself through my original songs. I think that sets me aside from the others.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Louis is smart, creative and hilarious.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I would say that I have a John Legend/Sam Smith kind of vibe. I play the piano and I feel at home sat behind one. So I would say I am mainstream pop.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Grace Davies’ album. Like me, she’s doing original songs. When I heard the first song she did I was blown away, she’s really talented. I guess we share similarities so I really relate to her.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I feel like this is part of my path and because of that there’s a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I’ve always dreamed of this moment so to be honest, it’s all been tough. But that’s pressure I’m putting on myself. I did X Factor ten years and got to bootcamp, but I wasn’t ready. I was only 17. I was very young and thought I knew it all. I’ve learnt a lot along the way, I’m definitely ready now.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to be standing up in the charts against people like James Arthur. I hope to be working with lots of big names, have my own stuff out and really be appreciated as an artist.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I love Anne-Marie, I think she’s amazing. The tone of her voice is insane, her music is amazing. Sam Smith is someone I absolutely adore. If I can give people like John Legend and Sam Smith a run for their money then that would be amazing!

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Finally doing something for myself and working really hard, I’ve put my all into this. So to be recognised for my talent and the hard work I’ve put in, it would be amazing. I think it would help me accept myself for who I am. It’s an affirmation from someone else that makes you feel empowered.

JACK MASON (18 YEAR OLD BUSKER FROM ALDERSHOT)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I stand out because I have quite a different range to most male vocalists and I try my best to perform like I want this. I came from busking so I’ve had a lot of practice in really showing an audience what I mean. So all the performance techniques that come with that has made me more comfortable on stage than perhaps some of the others are.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Nice, strong-willed, and frankly, he’s just awesome! He was the person I was hoping for because he’s given me a lot of praise and confidence through the show so far.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I don’t like to compare myself to any other artists but if I had to describe my style it would be a soul singer, an R&B type vocalist. I love all styles of music. Being a busker opens you up to all sorts of music.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d definitely buy Grace’s album. She’s a lovely person and frankly, I love her songs, they are really great. We met and when I said I was leaving, she was the only one who got up to give me a hug. She’s really sweet. I love Aidan’s original songs too. I think it’s good this year because we’ve got a lot of people opening themselves up as artists, rather than cover artists.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
The toughest part was Six Chair Challenge. You’re sitting backstage seeing people go on and off the stage, getting a seat or not. You’ve got to know them through bootcamp, they’ve become your friends, so when they get sent home it’s upsetting. It’s really tough this year.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to be a recording artist making my own albums and selling out arenas. My main goal for my music is to hear my song on the radio and have people listen to it and say, ‘I bet you anything that’s Jack Mason’. That’s my dream.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I’d say people like Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith because of their music. But I’d also say Frankie Valli. He had a tough life, he got involved with a lot of bad stuff but he still focused on the music. It sounds cheesy but I believe in music the way kids believe in fairytales.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
I could never put it into words. It would be the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had. Even if I don’t make it through, just getting to Judges Houses, the last 24, is an accomplishment. But making it that extra step further and being able to show the nation what I can do on stage and who I can be as an artist, that would be great.

LEON MALLETT (22 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM NORWICH)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I have an urban edge with the style of music I do and I don’t think the other lads have that. Spencer has a little bit I guess, but I rap, so that makes me different.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I think he’s experienced, invested and honest.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I think I am pop with an urban twist. It’s something I have always done since I was 13 and where I see my career going.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d say Rak-Su. I think they are sick! I love their song in their audition. They are very my style, I like them a lot.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I think it was splitting up with my brother. We auditioned together and at bootcamp they asked us to separate, they said we should be soloists. So when I got a seat and he didn’t, it was really difficult. He’s my younger brother and I always want to look after him, so that was tough. He’s very supportive though.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I suppose it depends on how Judges’ Houses goes! I’d love to be touring the world, going to places I’ve never been before and people knowing who I am because of my music.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I get inspired by loads of artists; it’s difficult to say just one. The most obvious one is Ed Sheeran, then there are people like Stormzy.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would be insane. I’ve been doing music for years, spent a lot of time and invested money into it. So it would feel like it’s all clicking into place.

LLOYD MACEY (23 YEAR OLD GRADUATE FROM THE VALLEYS, SOUTH WALES)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I feel like I’m a different artist. Simon has said I’m in a category of my own which is musical theatre/pop. That’s completely different to the rest of the boys and I don’t think X Factor has had that on the show for a long time. Not since Rhydian has anyone on the show spoken Welsh, so I’d love to do that. The reaction since my audition has been amazing and I think I stand out because I’m not following anyone else; I’m doing my own thing.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I’d say he’s determined, hard-working and honest.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I think I’m sort of like a Josh Groban for the UK. Simon said it to me in my audition and that’s really where I see myself. I think mixing musical theatre and pop is a good thing.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Sam’s album. I know he’s a bit like the rat pack style, which is quite close to me and the music I like. So I would buy his stuff. I like the fact he’s a little different.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
The Six Chair Challenge, not just because I was the first to sing but also because I really needed the toilet! I was like, ‘Oh my god, I really need to go!’. So that was the toughest bit for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to have sold records and maybe even cross over to the West End. I’d prefer to be a recording artist first though. Louis has said that I might not be a pop star but I will sell records. Look at people like Michael Ball, he’s not a pop star but sells a lot of records.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Before Simon said it, I’d never really looked at artists like Josh Groban, it was more artists like Michael Ball and Alfie Boe. So it’s all those kind of artists who have had the guts to combine the two fields of music and have been successful.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean the absolute world. To have come this far and then go home would be awful. I feel like this is a journey and you want to fulfill that. I want to make Wales proud of me. The live shows are that extra step, the people who have got there, regardless of whether they have won, they’ve always gone on to do something, they’ve had a career after. So it would mean I can follow my dream and have a career.

SAM BLACK (27 YEAR OLD PLASTERER FROM ISLE OF MAN)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
To be honest I don’t know! I think everyone has their own talents. I’d say I’m the least experienced, I’m just a plasterer. I’ve never done a gig in my life but I’m here so I must be doing something right.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Louis is Irish, funny and lovely.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I think I’m old-school with a little bit of swing. I like the 60s vibe. It’s something I’ve always done. My grandad was a singing waiter back in Liverpool so I grew up with that kind of music in the house and it kind of stuck.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d probably buy Aidan’s album. I’ve listened to his song from his audition so many times. I don’t know what it is, he’s obviously an amazing singer but the song sticks in your head. The chorus of his song is like a screen saver in my brain, whenever I start thinking about something else that comes into my brain!

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
To be honest it was bootcamp, I let it get to me. I stopped enjoying myself, put too much pressure on myself and nothing seemed to be going right. I felt like I kept messing up, my voice was going and I stressed myself out. I wish I had enjoyed it more.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
To be honest, I can’t think that far ahead. Every day in this industry is a blessing because it’s not something that I’ve done before. Every day I seem to be doing something different. I see myself singing no matter what happens.

Which artist inspires you the most?
There are so many people. I love music and try to take bits from everyone. I listen to a lot of old school music.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean everything. I’m shocked I’m here anyway. It’s pretty intense and crazy but getting through would help me to support my family.

SPENCER SUTHERLAND (25 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM PICKERTON, OHIO)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Well, the fact that I’m American makes me stand out. I think I have a vocal tone and abilities that are different from everyone else. I think its original, the tone in my voice.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Fun, regal and respected. How would you describe your own musical style? I think it’s pop/R&B with a twist of soul. It’s vocal driven.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Oh wow, Kevin Davy White. I have a soft spot for blues music and also I love him as a person. He’s the sweetest guy in the world, so I’d buy his album.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I think without a doubt it was Six Chair Challenge. I had to sing for my seat against two people, oh my god, it was insane and the scariest thing ever but honestly, it’s helped me. I went back to America afterwards and it made me so much stronger as a person and a musician. I played a couple of shows when I was home and wasn’t nervous at all. I’d just done the most intense thing ever so doing a show was fun! So it helped me a lot.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see myself touring the world, playing shows everywhere. I’d like to have had three albums out by then, at least. I want to do everything. I’m getting into a little bit of acting but touring is my favourite thing in the world. Travelling and touring, I love hotels and living out of my suitcase.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Bruno Mars. I think he’s the best vocal talent that we’ve had, maybe ever. He’s an amazing entertainer, every time I watch him I get goosebumps. Only a handful of people do that, Bruno, Michael Jackson, Elvis, Prince, Stevie. They are people who mesmerise me.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean everything to me. It’s been an incredible experience and I have gained a lot already but coming back and forth from America, I want it to be worthwhile. I hope Louis sees how much it means to me that I’ve been flying back and forth so much. I never went to college because music is all I’ve wanted to do; I’ve been fired from like 11 jobs because I always put music first. So this feels like a baby light at the end of the tunnel, it feels like this could be my big break.


Interviews with the Overs Catergory (mentored by Nicole Scherzinger, with guest judge Stormzy)

BERGET LEWIS (45 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think we’re all different so everybody stands out. I’m a soul singer, I’m powerful. I think that’s my strength in the competition. I’m here to learn, even though I am 45, I’m still open to learn.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I think Nicole is beautiful, experienced and sweet.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I’m a soul singer but I can sing lots of genres. But I grew up with Motown, those are my idols, so I consider myself a soul singer.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Oh Kevin! I’m a musician, all my brothers, uncles and my dad are all musicians. So I relate to Kevin, he brings me back to home. I love his voice and his vibe.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I think the toughest part of the competition for me has been Six Chair Challenge. It was really hard because I tried to get out of my comfort zone because that’s what Simon had told me. I gave it my all and then Simon told me it was the wrong song, I couldn’t believe it and was so disappointed in myself.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope to be performing, making people happy with my voice.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I remember when I was eight I got my first single, Chaka Khan. She was a beautiful black woman with big hair. I wanted to be just like her. So she inspired me from a very young age.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean a lot. I’m in a difficult position because I am a known singer and people already know me so they think I don’t need this. But I see X Factor UK as a gateway to the rest of the world, to give me a boost and a new challenge.

KEVIN DAVY WHITE (29 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM LONDON, ORGINALLY PARIS)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I’m doing the competition in my own way, my own style. Everyone is unique and I am always trying to be the best version of myself.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I’d describe Nicole as charismatic, soulful and crazy!

How would you describe your own musical style?
Music for me doesn’t have any borders. The soul is the beginning of the music, so that’s where I start whether I’m doing something with soul, rock or funk. I can’t really compare my voice to anyone else because I try not to copy what anyone else is doing, I bring my own sound.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
It would be who I call ‘handsome man’, Matt Linnen. I would buy his album because I love his voice, it’s gravelly. Even the way he speaks, I love.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
The whole competition has been intense. I’ve managed to control the level of stress in every stage but it’s all been intense. The Six Chair Challenge is something I never expected in my life, that was something else! I arrived on stage and everyone was booing already and I hadn’t even said hello. But they were upset about a decision made before me. Nicole sent me off because she said it wasn’t fair and asked me to come back when they had calmed down.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I really see myself touring, that’s my goal. I’ve always wanted to play at the Stade de France in Paris. I’d love to play at the O2 in London too, that would be amazing.

Which artist inspires you the most?
It’s not necessarily the music that inspires me, it’s their life. Ray Charles inspires me because he never gave up. He shows me that no matter how hard the music industry is, if you believe in yourself and love what you do, then something will come one day.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean that my hard work has paid off.

MATT LINNEN (28 YEAR OLD PLASTERER FROM SOUTHEND-ON-SEA)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think everyone stands out in their own way, but I think I’ve got quite a distinctive voice that separates me from the other singers. I don’t think I have the most brilliant voice in the competition but it’s quite distinctive, I hope that will make a difference. I’ve also done loads of gigs so I like to think I have good stage presence.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I’d describe Nicole as beautiful, American and a great vocalist. That’s four but hey, I never actually realised how great a singer she is until I did this show. I was never into the Pussycat Dolls but have gone back and looked at all her stuff and she has an amazing voice.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I think my style is quite soul/pop with a rock twist. I don’t think I am like anyone but if you had to put me in a category with someone then I’d say I’m like Paolo Nutini and Ray LaMontagne. I’ve got quite a husky voice. I sound incredibly arrogant saying I sound like them, but it’s to give you an idea of how I sing!

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Kevin’s album. I think he’s brilliant. He’s got a nice blues style and I have listened to a few of his own songs and they are wicked.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
The toughest was probably the first audition, I didn’t know what to expect. I was so nervous, playing to just four people, be it anyone, let alone some high profile celebrities, that’s a scary thing. Judges’ Houses will be as nervy, because again, it’s just me singing to a couple of people, it’s an odd thing to do, it makes me feel a bit awkward.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
If all goes well I’d love to be selling arenas out. I’ve always said to myself that I want to be the first person to do a gig on the moon. If you set the bar there and you come half way then you’ve done alright.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I get inspired by all sorts, from local music where I live, to club nights in London where no one has ever heard of the bands, up to great artists both dead and alive. I listen to as many types of music as possible, from classical to rock. I take inspiration from everywhere.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would be incredible. The exposure from doing this competition is insane. I think I’ll be able to sustain a career regardless of what happens but getting to the live shows is that massive jump from being a local guy who gigs to being a massive artist.

SLAVKO (31 YEAR OLD PERFORMER FROM MONTENEGRO)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think that I stand out because, observing all the other contestants, I am the only one bringing the whole package in terms of showmanship. This is X Factor, this is more than just the voice and that’s what I bring. I am a one man show.

Describe your mentor in three words?
With three words – My pocket venus!

How would you describe your own musical style?
I like R&B music, up tempo songs because I am the kind of artist who likes to show I can dance and sing at the same time. I’d like to bring some R&B that makes me crazy and makes me move.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Oh Berget Lewis! Honestly, I like big voices, massive voices. I don’t want to compare her but she’s like Aretha Franklin. I’d like to see her go through to the live shows.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I don’t think anything is tough but the moment when my braid fell off during bootcamp was shocking. But after ten minutes I realised it was great. When it happened there was five seconds of shock, but of course I continued. That was a tough moment because everyone was laughing but I showed I am an artist you can count on, I continue my performance no matter what. The show must go on.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see myself touring the world putting on the most spectacular shows that everyone talks about.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Beyonce is my inspiration. I am a fan but I see myself as her colleague, she’s an artist and so am I. I find inspiration in her for over ten years because I recognise that dedication to business, to art and hard work. I’ve met people who have worked with her and they say she’s an amazingly talented woman but she’s hardworking. I can compare myself to her in that way.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean one more dream has come true. It would mean a new life for me, if I go through to the live shows I know exactly what I am going to do. I’m going to bring fire, water, wind – it will be like nothing you’ve ever seen on the show before.

TALIA DEAN (32 YEAR OLD AIRPORT VIP CONCIERAGE FROM LONDON)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I have more versatility. I’m more willing to go into pop, soul, or sing things I wouldn’t normally sing and the others definitely don’t want to sing. I think I am very able to adapt.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I. Love. Her! I always have. In my eyes I’m already a winner, she gave me this push and now I’m off to South Africa. I’ll never be able to repay her for that.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I want to go down a soul/pop road but I don’t think I sound like anyone. There’s no one I particularly think, ‘Oh, I am just like her’. I’m just me. I don’t go out of my way to be anyone.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Oh wow, I couldn’t pick one! I’d definitely buy Tracy-Leanne’s album. I haven’t heard a voice like hers in a long time. Matt and Kevin make my heart sing when I hear them. If they put an album out I wouldn’t think twice about buying it.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I think it’s just finding out who I am. I’ve never really had to think about myself so much before. It’s really hard; I sing pop, rock, funk, all sorts. I desperately need some mentoring. The others in this category know who they are but I feel like a lost little lamb, I don’t know what to sing. I know I can sing but I don’t know what direction I should go in. That’s been tough.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully I am on my path to recording my second album, I’m touring, people are buying my music and know who I am. I want to be able to support my family, I would love to earn from something I can do and love.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Oh my gosh, loads. I grew up with Madonna, then I found Oasis, then Joss Stone and Lauryn Hill taught me about soul. So many different artists taught me about different genres.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
I feel like my entire family’s future is relying on this. It would mean success to me, it would mean I can prove that when everyone told me to stop singing that I was right to carry on. It would mean I have finally showed everyone.

TRACY-LEANNE JEFFORD (34 YEAR OLD MOTHER FROM MIDDLESEX)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Well, in this category everyone has beautiful voices but I am different to everyone else in the competition. It’s my time to shine and I am going to make it happen.

Describe your mentor in three words?
She’s beautiful, amazing and feminine.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Sometimes people say that I sound like Amy Winehouse, she’s fabulous, god rest her soul. But I think you can tell the difference in our voices.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Grace’s because she’s amazing and I’d also buy Matt and Kevin’s. They are my rivals in this category but they have beautiful personalities and they send out positive vibes. I’m a very positive person, I don’t like being around negative energy.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
There hasn’t been a tough part for me, I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Six Chair was a little bit challenging for me because I had to sing a few songs, but I give it my all and I’m here today. I enjoy every minute of the show because I am living my dream.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see my name splattered everywhere and everybody listening to me around the world. I’m not going to stop until I make it to the top. I’d love to perform at the Grammys! I will make a better life for my children and I will live my dream.

Which artist inspires you the most?
From being a kid I’ve always loved a lot of old music because my dad and his twin always sung. But I don’t listen to just one artist, I listen to soul music, hip hop, reggae, grime – everything and it all inspires me.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean more than anything in the world, that’s the dream. At this point you can’t be negative about anything, I’m getting out there and I am going to make sure I make it to live shows. I’m going to be true to who I am, what you see is what you get with me.


Interviews with the Girls Catergory (Mentored by Sharon Osbourne with guest judges Jack & Kelly Osbourne)

ALISAH BANAOBRA (22 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM PHILIPPINES)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I can sing from the bottom of my heart. It’s all really me. That’s how I have to fight my dream.

How would you describe your mentor in three words?
She is lovely. That’s three words

How would you describe your style?
As for my musical style, I can sing Ballads, Soul and R&B, Pop, Broadway and Jazz.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition whose album would you buy?
I love Berget. Her voice is very nice, all the rifts. All the overs style is very, very good.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
The Wall of Songs, where we had to run. I had watched it but I had no idea. When everyone started running, I was left and then trapped in the middle.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Doing many albums, and selling out. I want to have my own sanctuary, so with money from my music I can set one up. And then I hope to be able to bring my family to the UK to live. I love the UK.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I like listening to Beyoncé and Jordan Sparks. All their music is so appropriate to me – that’s my genre.

What does it mean to you to make the live shows?
It’s so important to me. This is the battle of my life. I have to do this for all the people who have supported me in the Philippines and who are all praying for me to get to the live shows. I just want to give all my friends the chance to vote for me.

DEANNA MUSSINGTON (22 YEAR OLD MUSICIAN FROM ANGUILLA)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I stand out because I come from the Caribbean and from humbling beginnings. I also come from a house filled with women, who are all very honest with their opinions. Everyone that I’ve been in contact with on The X Factor has been so humble though. All the girls are.

How would you describe your mentor in three words?
Honest, caring and fun.

How would you describe your style?
I’m a pop artist, influenced by R&B, Soul and Caribbean sounds.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition whose album would you buy?
I would definitely buy an album from Grace. She is absolutely amazing. I’ve heard her originals and I’m like, ‘Wow’. She is amazing and very deep

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
My first audition was the toughest. My nerves were like a rollercoaster. It was very nerve wracking at first. I didn’t know how I would feel in the room but as soon as I got in there it wasn’t that bad. I just had to be myself.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I definitely see myself touring the world, getting everyone to know me as an artist and getting everyone to buy my music. I will just be being me.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Fantasia inspires me a lot. How humble and how hard working she is. She has also been on a show like this and she continues to remain positive moving forward in her career. She’s so positive. I actually once met her by accident. She stepped on my foot and she was like, ’I’m so sorry’ and I was like, ‘yes, step on my foot, please!’ She’s amazing.

What would it mean to make the live shows?
It means everything to me to get to the live shows, because I feel like I’ve worked hard, but not as hard as I would work in the live shows. This whole show has been challenging for me, but I feel like it has helped me grow as an artist. I’m definitely ready for the live shows and I really want to be there!

GEORGINA PANTON (20 YEAR OLD MOTHER FROM BIRMINGHAM)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I have my own lane. My personality seems to override. I just like to be myself. My personality is bubbly and I don’t like being in the shadow. I like to make people happy. I’m down to earth and I feel like my outfit and the things I wear show my personality – bright and colourful.

How would you describe your mentor in three words?
Honest, motherly and open.

How would you describe your style?
I would describe my musical style as being rock soul. I love using my gospel roots to control people’s emotions and convince them to feel what I’m feeling spiritually.

Of the remaining acts in the competition whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Grace’s album. Her first audition was very good. When you write songs, I write songs too, depending on what you’re going through at the time, that’s what you write the song about. When she explained that people had told her that she would be singing in a pub for the rest of her life, that made her create a really good song that could possibly be a hit.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Bootcamp. Simon said at the end of my performance, ‘First of all, that was not perfect’ and I was like, in my head, I knew it wasn’t perfect. Because I’m a perfectionist, I know where I’m going wrong before I even make the mistake. But because it was so tense, I just did it. So when he said that, I was like, ‘I understand’ but that was tough.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself almost creating a legendary stamp on my name if this goes well. I see myself being, not just an artist but a legend. I know what I have to offer, I just need the correct people around me. The things I have in mind, one, make a lot of money, two, change people’s lives with my songs, and three, create some of the greatest songs. I just want to make a big impact, especially fashion wise as well. I consider myself a trend setter, so I’d create various styles I know people would want to wear. I have a lot of ideas about what people like if I had a fashion brand.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Beyoncé, Rihanna, Fantasia. I love Lana Del Ray. She has an edgy side and I always dream about doing collaborations. If we did a collaboration I’d bring out her edgy side. Beyonce is just fierce. Performance wise, I’d love to be on that level, or even close.

What would it mean to make the live shows?
It means everything. I’ve always dreamed about it – about going to the live shows, about showing what I can do. As a young mum as well, I want to show my son. I don’t want to let him down, I want to show him I’m up to scratch with superwoman. I want to be his hero.

GRACE DAVIES (20 YEAR OLD SINGER-SONGWRITER FROM BLACKBURN)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
As far as I’m aware none of the other girls have sung original songs or played an instrument. I think that’s how I stand out. But at the same time all the other girls are such massive, powerful singers, which I’m not. So that scares me because Sharon might be looking for big vocalists.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Oh I love Sharon! I’d describe her as a mummy, lovely and cute. She’s just so cute. I want to squeeze her all the time because she’s just so nice!

How would you describe your own musical style?
I’m an emotional singer; I try and concentrate on portraying things I feel in a way that others can interpret in their own way, if that makes sense? I want people to listen to my music and relate to it. I wouldn’t like to compare myself to other artists but if I had to describe my voice it would be like London Grammar.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Oh my god, Aidan Martin. As soon as I heard his first audition I was crying my eyes out. I’ve had it on repeat all week. That song hit me, the way he laid all his emotions out on the table, it’s what I do, so I love that.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Without a doubt the Six Chair Challenge. It was the most insane thing I have ever done. It was that moment of realisation where you’re looking at six chairs and know there’s 20 of us left. I was so scared because I was surrounded by amazing singers.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’d love to be writing music every day, recording, releasing albums and touring with my music. My absolute dream is to play the Royal Albert Hall, it’s such a prestigious venue, so beautiful. I’ve watched people perform there and it just has this mesmerising feel to it.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I take inspiration from so many people. I love people like Ben Howard, London Grammar, Coldplay and of course Adele. I listen to a lot of chart music so I take inspiration from all over the place.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Literally everything. Performing on a stage in front of as many people as possible is my home, that’s where I feel my best. It’s what I adore to do so to get through to the live shows where I’m not only performing for that studio audience but also being streamed into people’s living rooms around the country, it’s what dreams are made of.

HOLLY TANDY (16 YEAR OLD PUB SINGER FROM BARNSLEY)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think I stand out because I am the full package. I’m very ambitious, I’m very driven but I’m also quite versatile, I can handle any kind of genre of music and really make stuff my own.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I’d say Sharon’s maternal, fabulous and caring.

How would you describe your own musical style?
My musical style is a bit of everything really. I wouldn’t like to put myself in any category. I know that I want my first album to be quite acoustic that takes you on a bit of a journey, not all the same kind of stuff. It’s all about the vocals.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Aidan Martin’s and definitely Grace Davies. I also really love Jack and Joel, so whatever they do, I’ll listen to.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
I think the hardest part was Six Chairs because even if you got a seat you were sitting there thinking you might get replaced at any moment. I felt I’d done my best but it was up to Sharon to decide if she thought I was good enough. So that was a really intense situation to be in. I’ve never felt that nervous before.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see myself selling out arenas, making music and working with other artists. I’d love to write my own songs, I’m passionate about music and want to make it my career.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I absolutely love Dolly Parton, she’s fabulous, everything about her is amazing. Right from when I was young I’ve been singing Nine to Five, I love that song. I love people like Alicia Keys, Miley Cyrus, Stereophonics, I listen to a wide range of music and they all inspire me.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It’ll be that self-belief; it’s a platform for me to grow as an artist, to find out who I really am and what I am capable of. Hopefully I can make a career out of this and people will enjoy listening to me. I want to inspire people, especially young girls who may have a dream but don’t know if they can make it come true.

RAI-ELLE WILLIAMS (16 YEAR OLD STUDENT FROM CROYDON)

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
I think that my age because I am one of the youngest in the entire competition. But also I think that I bring a new vibe to the show, I’m true to myself – I don’t try and be anyone that I’m not.

Describe your mentor in three words?
I think Sharon’s motherly, sweet and fun.

How would you describe your own musical style?
I think I am quite soulful and sassy. I mix reggae with R&B and a bit of pop, that’s what I hope to have on my first album.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
I’d buy Grace’s album. I think her voice is so emotional and the lyrics to her songs are really relatable. It was so touching, I’d love to buy her album.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
For me the toughest part of the competition has been bootcamp. It was really difficult working in a group with people who all had different musical styles to me. I had to figure out how to work as part of a team but also make sure that I stood out to the judges because we were there on our own, not part of a group. So that was tough.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I want to be writing my own music, travelling the world and performing for fans. I’ve always dreamed of performing at Madison Square Garden in New York. I would love to be up on that stage looking down at my fans.

Which artist inspires you the most?
I really look up to Lauryn Hill and Stormzy. Lauryn sings, she writes and she acts, which I do a bit of too. And she always tells a story through her lyrics, I love that about her. Stormzy is from Croydon like me and he’s a huge star but he hasn’t changed who he is, he’s still the same as when he started. I want to be like that.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
It would mean the world to me. I’ve wanted this since I was young. I’ve always watched the show and wished it was me, I just hope I can make it.


Interviews with the Groups Catergory (Mentored by Simon Cowell with guest judge Cheryl)

JACK & JOEL
JACK: 22 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM LONDON
JOEL, 22 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM LONDON, ORIGINALLY GAINSBOURGH

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Joel: We’re quite a unique act.
Jack: I think we stand out because of Joel’s beat-boxing and the way we re-work songs. We put a creative twist on things. I think it’s a case of the unexpected with us. You look at us and don’t think we’ve had the background we have and the fact we’re friends, it’s a surprise every time we perform. You never know what you’re going to get.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Joel: I think he’s honest and intimidating.
Jack: And supportive.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Jack: I’d say we’re very pop based but we’re vibrant, we like to have fun. I feel we’re smart with what we do. Our main focus is always making people smile.
Joel: It’s all about getting people to smile. When we go on television we want people watching at home to know they are going to have good time watching us.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Jack: That’s so hard because we’ve made some really good friends on the show. We love Holly’s voice and she’s such a great person as well.
Joel: I’d also say Rak-Su. I can’t get their audition song out of my head!

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Joel: I think it was the second round of bootcamp, we were overwhelmed by just how many people Wembley Arena can hold. It was the first time we had performed to a crowd like that and we both had nerves get the better of us.
Jack: Joel’s being polite, it was on me! I don’t know what happened, I don’t really get stage fright and I always feel so confident when I’m with Joel, but then I got out there and the judges were so far away from us, I couldn’t tell what they were thinking and it all got a bit much for me.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Joel: We love what we do, making people happy, so we want to perform to as many people as possible. We’ve always said we would love to play main stages at festivals. That would be incredible and so much fun. Also, we very much want to do videos online.
Jack: I think the key thing for us is the videos because it’s so nice to get your music to everyone, no matter what their location or social beliefs. I’d really relish using the platform to do some sort of social good.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Jack: I’m the biggest Beyonce fan in the whole world. I’ve seen her nine times, I’m actually obsessed. I think she’s an amazing entertainer. She’s a master at anything she puts her hands to.
Joel: I’m very inspired by Bruno Mars because I think he’s a sensational performer and a master of so many instruments, including his voice. He’s very smart with what he does.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Jack: It would mean so much. We feel like if we get there we are one act that would thrive so much. The idea of performing to millions of people is exactly what we want to do with our lives. We’re so far into the competition now and we never thought we would be so invested in it, but we so want this now
Joel: It would mean everything.

LEMONADE
SHANIA, 20 YEAR OLD SALES ASSISTANT FROM LONDON
SAFFRON, 19 YEAR OLD SINGER FROM LONDON
YEMII, 17 YEAR OLD STUDENT FROM LONDON
CHILEE, 17 YEAR OLD STUDENT FROM LONDON
MYA, 16 YEAR OLD STUDENT FROM DERBY

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Shania: I’d say our direct competition is the new girlband, but I think we’re completely different, especially styling.
Saffron: We go for the cool, TLC like, chilled out 90s R&B vibe.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Shania: Caring – every single time he’s spoken to us, he’s cared so much about making sure that we’re the best we can be.
Saffron: And inspiring. Look at him, he’s literally the boss of music. He’s very intelligent and everything he says to us really does inspire us and makes us feel more confident.
Chilee: And driven. He makes us want to be the best version of ourselves.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Saffron: We’re focused on harmonies. It’s not all about individual singing, we’re a harmony group, as well as original singers with a 90s R&B vibe to it.
Chilee: We want to inspire young girls and women to be themselves and be comfortable with who they are.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Shania: Rak-Su. Purely because we’ve heard one of their singles and we can’t stop singing it. It’s our style of music. Our vibe. I can hear it being on the radio. It’s so good.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Yemi: It has to be Six Chairs. We had to do a sing off and the competition was so good. It was really hard to see them go.
Shania: Spending so much time with the acts at Bootcamp and then pitting against each other in something so intense as a sing off, it was really emotional.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Shania: Five albums.
Saffron: Arena tours. World tours. Number 1s.
Chilee: Our faces on mugs (laugh).
Saffron: It would be amazing if in those five years, we could have moved someone or changed someone’s live with our music. If someone was having a really hard time, know that our music made someone feel better.
Chilee: We all wouldn’t be here without the music we listened to growing up.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Mya: It’s quite hard to say, there’s so many. We kind of want to put our own marks on things.
Shania: I feel like artists such as Miley Cyrus or Ariana Grande inspire me – Miley has her own charity and Ariana does so much as well. They’re so inspirational, not just with their music, but who they are as people.
Saffron: And also artists like Stormzy, who’ve come from nothing and worked so hard to get to where they are now. They’re so appreciative and humble. They’re such good people and make sick music as well.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Mya: Absolutely everything.
Shania: The world.
Saffron: Literally our lives. Every waking minute we’ve been going over things. It means everything to us.
Chilee: It’s all we dream about.

RAK-SU
ASHLEY, 25 YEAR OLD RECRUITMENT MANAGER FROM LONDON
JAMAAT, 25 YEAR OLD NHS WORKER FROM LONDON
MYLES, 25 YEAR OLD RECRUITMENT MANAGER FROM LONDON
MUSTAFA, 25 YEAR OLD HOTEL RECEPTIONIST FROM LONDON

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Ashley: I’d say, one, that we’re doing original songs. We’ve done originals so far and it’s gone quite well, so we want to carry on doing that. And I guess also the fact that we’re friends. We never really got round the table and said ‘You know what? Let’s make a band’. We grew up with each other, spend a lot of time with each other and love making music. It kind of just grew into what it is now – Rak-Su. It happened naturally.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Mustafa: Honest. Knowledgeable. And humble.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Jamaal: I feel our style is very relatable. When it comes to music, we make music that we feel happy with and that we can all connect with in some certain way. Whether that’d be from an emotional point of view or whether that’d be from an honest point of view.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Myles: It would be Sean and Conor Price’s. They’ve just got amazing vocals. They’re very humble people, a lovely group of lads and I just love their whole vibe. I just love that whole Irish guitarist acapella vibe.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Jamaal: I’d say the toughest thing for us was probably Bootcamp. Just because everything was so full on and we had to learn and develop on the go. It brought out the best in us, so that’s a good thing that came from it. We had to learn a lot really, really quickly. We’re better for it and we feel like we’ve developed as artists, as well as friends.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Mustafa: In about five year’s time… It’s very hard, because we’re all learning so much and we’re finding ourselves as artists at the same time, so it could be from anywhere to doing a global tour as Rak-Su, or..
Ashley: Fourth album and a world tour!
Mustafa: Yeah, in five year’s time, that’s the target – fourth album and a global tour.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Ashley: I think between all of us we probably have a few different ones, but for me I would say Kanye West because he seems to set himself goals. At the time people tell him that it’s something that is unrealistic and he just manages to go ahead and do it anyway. I feel like for us, we’re probably not the typical band or group you have on The X Factor, but we’re going to give it our all and try to be successful anyways.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?

Myles: It would mean everything! It would honestly mean so much to us. We’re in this competition for a reason. We’re not just here to have fun. We do take it very seriously. IT would mean the world to all of us. Doing the journey with my brothers and with my family is honestly a very emotional situation to be in. We all want to get there and show what we can do!

SEAN AND CONOR PRICE
SEAN, 17 YEAR OLD STUDENT AND CONOR, 15 YEAR OLD STUDENT FROM BLESSINGTON, IRELAND

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Sean: I think we stand out in our category because obviously, we’re both very young and I think that we can bring a lot of energy.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Conor: Top dog. Genius. Tough and fair.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Sean: We’re very raw. Obviously, we come from busking on the street, so we like to just keep it acoustic, raw and original.
Conor: Because we’re very young, we’re not set to a certain style, category or genre at the moment. We’re both very raw and original.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Sean: Rak-Su have promised us their EP.
Conor: Yes, I think it would have to be Rak-Su.

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Conor: I think for me personally, Bootcamp was the toughest. It was really intense. It was a lot of long days, a lot of long hours. It was pretty tough, especially performing in front of 4,000 people for the first time.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Sean: Selling out arenas, hopefully (laugh).
Conor: Hopefully happy and successful.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Sean: We’re quite inspired by low key Irish acts, like Kodaline and Hudson Taylor.
Conor: Obviously a cliche one, but Ed Sheeran is an influence as well.
Sean: It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s true.

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Conor: We worked so hard to get to where we are now.
Sean: It would be the cherry on the top! We both don’t want the dream to end.

THE CUTKELVINS
JAY, 24 YEAR OLD SINGER, KYLE, 23 YEAR OLD SINGER & SHEERAN, 20 YEAR OLD FROM LANARK

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Jay: I think the fact that we’re family plays a part. I don’t know if it makes us stand out, but it makes us different that we’re coming in there as brothers and sisters.
Shereen: I think everyone is trying to do their own thing, so we’re just trying to concertante on us as people. Even though it can be easy to get distracted with what everyone else id doing, you just have to concentrate on what you’re doing.
Kyle: Stick to who you are really. You got to stick to who you are as an artist.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Kyle: Boss man.
Jay: That’s two words.
Shereen: THE boss man.
Jay: I think he’s a cool cat.
Shereen: And chill.

How would you describe your own musical style?
Shereen: We come from a soul, Motown background of music. We like to, even if it’s just with the vocals, inject that in a new style of music. Having that old-school sound on a new track.
Kyle: We’re starting to find out a bit more about ourselves and what we can do musically and where we can take it.

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Shereen: There’s a few.
Jay: Tracyleanne has a sick voice. She’s sick! And Sean and Conor – I like their voices. They’re sick. And Rak-Su – they’ve got the beats.
Shereen: We would listen to them before a night out
Kyle: Good vibes! And our own. I’d buy our own album (laugh).

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Jay: Six Chairs was brutal.
Shereen: There was a lot of tension.
Jay: Obviously Judges’ Houses is the hardest, because you’re getting closer and closer each time, but the tension at Six Chair was unbelievable. It was mad. When everyone started doing battles. We got the third seat and after all six chairs were filled, that’s when it really gets tough.
Shereen: When Simon looks around, you think you could be next.
Kyle: Don’t make eye contact with Simon. I was hiding behind Shereen’s hair!

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Shereen: Selling records.
Kyle: In this house [Simon’s Judge’s House]
Jay: Fingers crossed we can get by this stage first.
Shereen: One step at a time.

Which artist inspires you the most?
Jay: I like Wiz Khalifa. Each time he brings out a mixtape or an album, he comes out with a completely different sound. It’s so different from the last and the albums get better and better each time.
Shereen: For me, it would be Smokey Robinson. He’s 76 and he still looks banging. His style of writing makes it sound so simple, but it’s genius! You just get it right away. And he uses old school ‘baby’ and ‘honey’. I love it!

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
Shereen: To be honest, we just take it one step at a time. We try to visualise beyond it and being artists and to get through..
Kyle: …would help a lot!
Jay: It would mean a lot, not just for us, but for our family as well. It’s not just us we’re doing it for.

NEW GIRL GROUP (PUT TOGETHER AT SIX CHAIR CHALLENGE, NAME TBC)
ASH, 21 YEAR OLD DANCER FROM WATFORD
CHARLIE, 22 YEAR OLD GRADUATE FROM HULL
IMAGEN, 17 YEAR OLD BEAUTICIAN TRAINEE FROM STOKE
KELSEY, 20 YEAR OLD CATERING ASSISTANT FROM LANCASHIRE
LYDIA, 20 YEAR OLD INSURANCE BROKER FROM BEDFORDSHIRE
SKY, 19 YEAR OLD WAITRESS FROM CHINGFORD

What makes you stand out from the rest of the contestants in your category?
Lydia: We’ve all got really individual personalities and big personalities as well.
Charlie: And different styles and voices.
Kelsey: That’s what makes it work and makes it special.
Imagen: We’re not really a typical girl band.
Kelsey: There’s something for everyone in this band.
Charlie: A bit like the Spice Girls.

Describe your mentor in three words?
Kelsey: Top lad.
Charlie: Boss. He’s just the boss.
Lydia: Powerful and understanding.
Ash: Chilled.
Kelsey: Very genuine.
Lydia: He wants the best for everyone.
Ash: He wants everyone to smash it.
Kelsey: He has your best interest at heart.
Charlie: And he pushes you, but does it in the nicest way possible.
Ash: This is now about 30 words.

How would you describe your own style?
Charlie: We are very versatile. You could give us a ballad and we’d smash it. You could give us a rap and we’ll do it! Give us an R&B tune and we’ll do it! We’re really lucky!
Lydia and Sky: Charlie is a tomboy, chilled out person. She lives life for life and is very 90s. She doesn’t care and just does what she wants.
Ash and Lydia: Kelsey is just cool. A bit edgy, a bit sexy / cool. She can pull off anything.
Charlie and Ash: Sky is bohemian chic. Our little hippy.
Kelsey and Lydia: Ash is sexy, a bit ghetto, a bit out there and urban.
Charlie: Imagen is our little quiet girl next door.
Sky and Charlie: Lydia is our little fire cracker. The Essex Glam! She’ve very chic and always ready to turn up!

Of the remaining contestants in the competition, whose album would you buy?
Kelsey: Rak-Su – we like a bit of rap, a bit of R&B, something that sticks in your head.
Charlie: They’ve bossed their style. They know what they’re good at, which is nice to see in an artist.
Ash: And the Cutklevins!

What has been the toughest part of the competition so far?
Sky: Six Chair Challenge.
Charlie: It was when we had less than 24 hours to meet, get to know each other and learn the song.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Kelsey: Hopefully smashing it on tour.
Sky: A Number 1 album and loads of platinum singles.
Charlie: We’ve got to dream big.
Sky: The sky is the limit!

Which artist inspires you the most?
Lydia: Little Mix with a TLC vibe.
Ash: But at the same time Spice Girls, they just did what they wanted!

What would it mean to you to get to the live shows?
All: Literally, it would mean everything! We can’t even put it into words. We’re not going home. We don’t want this to be over yet!

X FACTOR UK: JUDGES HOUSES PICTURE SPECIAL 4

We can hardly contain our excitement for Judges’ Houses, with Simon, Nicole, Louis and Sharon set to decide which lucky three contestants they’ll be taking to the Live Shows!

Judges’ houses will decide as, offering a glimpse into the jet set lifestyle that The X Factor winner could have, the four categories travel to glamorous destinations across the world and with just one more chance to impress their mentor.

But, with such a BIG decision to make, Guest Judges Stormzy, Mika, Kelly & Jack Osbourne and of course, X Factor fave Cheryl, will be on hand to help!

Check out these first look images of Judges’ Houses NOW…


GIRLS

The final six girls through are Alisah Bonaobra, Deanna Mussington, Holly Tandy, Georgina Panton, Rai-Elle and Grace Davies.

All six acts in the Girls category will be seen flying out to San Francisco in America this weekend as they perform for mentor Sharon and her special guest judges, Jack and Kelly Osbourne, hoping for a spot in the final stage of the competition.

Alisah Bonaobra
Georgina Panton
Deanna Mussington
The Girls
The Girls
Grace Davies
Holly Tandy
Rai-Elle
Sharon with guest judges Jack & Kelly Osbourne
Sharon and the Overs with guest judges Jack & Kelly Osbourne

BOYS

Those put through to the next round were Lloyd Macey, Leon Mallett, Spencer Sutherland, Aidan Martin, Jack Mason and Anthony Russell.

However, it’s since been revealed that Anthony quit the competition during filming and will be replaced by Sam Black, who was axed at bootcamp.

Louis said: “We missed a trick not putting him through at Boot Camp. He has that retro Sixties style viewers will love.”

All six acts in the Boys category will be seen flying out to Istanbul, Turkey this weekend as they perform for mentor Louis and his special guest judge Mika, hoping for a spot in the final stage of the competition.

Aidan Martin
Jack Mason
Leon Mallett
Lloyd Macey
Louis and the Boys
Louis Walsh with guest judge Mika
The Boys meet guest judge Mika
Sam Black
Spencer Sutherland

OVERS

They are Kevin Davy White, Matt Linnen, Slavko, Berget Lewis, Tracy Leanne Jefford and Talia Dean.

All six acts in the Overs category will be seen flying out to South Africa this weekend as they perform for mentor Nicole and her guest judge Stormzy, hoping for a spot in the final stage of the competition.

Berget Lewis
Kevin Davy White
Matt Linnen
The Overs
Slavko
Nicole Scherzinger with guest judge Stormzy
Nicole Scherzinger with guest judge Stormzy
The Overs meet guest judge Stormzy
Talia Dean
Tracy Leanne Jefford

GROUPS

The groups through to judges’ houses with Simon are The Cutkelvins, Rak-Su, Sean & Conor Price, Jack & Joel, Lemonade and the still unnamed New Girl Band.

All six acts in the Groups category will be seen flying out to Nice, France this weekend as they perform for mentor Simon and his special guest judge Cheryl, hoping for a spot in the final stage of the competition.

The CutKelvins
The Groups
The Groups
The Groups
Jack & Joel
Lemonade
New Girl Group
Rak-Su
Sean & Conor Price
Simon Cowell with guest judge Cheryl