From soap star to cover star - Jonny Labey models for popular national magazine

From soap star to cover star - Jonny Labey models for popular national magazine
  • Jersey soap star Jonny Labey is on the cover of August's GT magazine

  • The EastEnders actor plays Paul Coker in the BBC soap

  • What is GT magazine? Find out more below

  • Video: Watch a behind the scenes video from the shoot

  • Read quotes from the magazine interview below

JERSEY'S soap superstar Jonny Labey can now add model to his CV after he appeared on the front cover of the gay and bi-sexual magazine GT.

The EastEnders actor, who plays gay character Paul Coker in the soap, has posed topless and given an exclusive interview to the magazine which sells around 68,000 copies a month across Britain.

The August 2015 cover featuring Jersey actor Jonny Labey. Picture courtesy of GT magazine. Photographer: Leigh Kelly

The former Grouville and Victoria College student appears in the August edition, which is available in shops from tomorrow, and has told the magazine about his time in the soap and what the future holds for his character.

Mr Labey's on-screen persona is currently embroiled in a love affair with character Ben Mitchell and his first episode, which involved a much-publicised gay kiss, led dozens of viewers to lodge complaints with broadcasting watchdog OFCOM.

The magazine's editor Darren Scott said he was delighted to give Mr Labey his first cover article.

'He made the shoot especially easy by being one of the nicest people we've ever worked with,' he said.

In the interview with GT Mr Labey speaks about issues such as the homophobic comments he has received as well as what it was like to kiss another man on screen which would be watched by millions of viewers.

He said: 'It doesn't faze me in the slightest and I know a lot of gay men, so it doesn't bother me.

'A kiss is a kiss.'

A teaser for the interview, which has been published on the magazine's website, also alludes to Mr Labey's comments about some of the complaints his scenes have generated.

The actor added: 'No matter what the storyline is, there'll be a backlash.

'It was all very positive I thought but it wasn't until I got curious and started nosing around that I found the negative ones.'

Mr Labey was contacted for comment but was unable to speak at this time.

The full edition can be downloaded at gaytimesmagazine.com.

Jonny Labey's EastEnders character, Paul Coker, is having a relationship with Ben Mitchell

On homophobic comments being made about him kissing another man on screen:

'No matter what the storyline is, there'll be a backlash.

'It was all very positive, I thought, but it wasn't until I got curious and started nosing around that I found the negative ones.

'But it doesn't matter if it's a rape storyline or a murder; there's always people that are affected by them.

'It doesn't matter if it's gay or not, there's people that don't agree or aren't comfortable watching.

'There were fans writing stuff like, 'It's 2015, you need to move on from this stupid discrimination against gay men!'

'People would've been fine if it was a guy and a girl kissing.'

On kissing another man on screen in front of millions of viewers:

'It doesn't faze me in the slightest, and I know a lot of gay men, so it doesn't bother me.

'A kiss is a kiss, it doesn't really matter if it's between a man or a woman.'

On being a part of the EastEnders cast:

'It's massive, it's so huge, it's COLOSSAL!

'EastEnders is something that's been going for years, and has such a phenomenal following.

'But it wasn't until I'd been there a while and it started going on screen that it was weird watching it all back again.

'Thinking about the millions and millions of people watching it… That's when you start to realise the size of it all.'

  • GT published its first issue in 1984 when it was known as the Gay Times

  • It re-branded from the Gay Times to GT in 2007

  • The magazine produces thirteen issues each year and includes celebrity interviews, news, features, music, film, style and travel

  • In recent years, GT cover stars have included Hollywood star Sir Ian McKellen, diver Chris Mears, magician Derren Brown and actor Matt Smith

  • Last year the magazine celebrated 30 years on sale, and included interviews with Tom Daley, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Courtney Love, RuPaul, Jared Leto and Cher

  • It sells around 68,000 copies a month

  • In 2004 the magazine ran an advertising campaign on the London Underground which featured a gay kiss. It attracted only one complaint that was later thrown out by the Advertising Standards Agency

The JEP's Anthony Dearie interviewed Jonny Labey in September 2011 as he prepared to head off to the Doreen Bird College of Performance, having won the Jersey Arts Trust's Olive Brown Bursary

Jonny gives Steve Moore a split nose during a performance of Guys and Dolls at the Jersey Opera House in 2010

IF the majority of children told their parents that they wanted to embark upon a career as a performer, they would probably receive a fairly cautious response.

But for Mark and Colette Labey, the news that their son Jonny had a burning desire to tread the boards can't have come as too much of a surprise.

Both well-known faces among the Island's thespian community, it was perhaps inevitable that at least one of their three children would pursue a life on the stage.

And, having followed in his parents' footsteps by making a name for himself on the local arts scene, last week Jonny left the Island to follow his dreams.

The 18-year-old has just started a three-year BA course at the Doreen Bird College of Performance in Sidcup.

Before leaving the Island, he received the news that he had been chosen as the recipient of this year's Jersey Arts Trust Olive Brown Bursary.

The bursary will provide Jonny with £1,000 a year towards the cost of his three-year degree.

Speaking before leaving, Jonny said that performing has always been in his blood. 'From a young age this has always been what I've wanted to do,' he said.

'All the decisions I've made over the years have been geared towards going to college and making a profession out of performing. I've never had any other aspirations really, so it means so much to me to have received this bursary.

'My friend Ben Talbot was last year's bursary winner and he was the one that told me about it. I was so excited when I found out I'd won, they obviously saw how important this was to me and how hard I'd worked.'

Educated at Grouville School and Victoria College, Jonny first took up dancing at the age of five and has never looked back.

'My whole family is really very performance orientated. My Dad is a singer and my Mum has done loads of shows over the years,' he said. 'I started tap dancing lessons with Valerie Guy when I was about five. Then, when I was about nine, I started doing modern too. I took up street dance as well, aged about 12. When I started thinking about going to college I knew it would be vital to learn ballet, so I began taking lessons in that about four years ago.'

While many boys may have shied away from the femaleorientated environment of dance classes, Jonny said that this was not something that ever deterred him – nor has he ever let the fact that he is diabetic hold him back.

'My diabetes has been a problem over the years, but it's quite a manageable thing and I'm confident that it won't stop me from succeeding,' he said. 'The fact that my dancing classes were a predominantly female environment didn't put me off at all – if anything that encouraged me later on. I was always drawn towards dance regardless of that.

A 17-year-old Jonny working on the Grouville Juniors Battle of Flowers float in 2010

'At a very young age there were a few other boys in my class, but they didn't take it seriously and gave up. One guy joined our tap class after moving over from Australia and we became really good friends, but I was on my own for ages before that. I was quite lucky though, because the year group I had at Victoria College were really supportive – they saw my dancing as something individual, as opposed to different.

'I think that, now, there is a big market in Jersey for boys wanting to learn to dance. With more examples of men dancing on TV, more boys are taking up performing, younger than ever. I recently helped Emma-Jane Cole by teaching a few classes and there were more boys than girls. Also, the boys seemed to be enjoying it more than the girls – perhaps because they had someone like me to look up to.'

Jonny already has a string of performance credits behind him, having spent a decade on the local stage.

'I was in my first show, a JADC production of Bugsy Malone, when I was eight,' he said. 'I played Fizzy, having been put forward because of my dancing. I remember thinking "the best way to sing is by making it really loud", so I used to scream the notes out – although at the time that was probably seen as quite cute.

'After that I played Benjamin in Joseph and a pickpocket in Oliver. I was in a string of JADC shows when I was younger and, more recently, I've been involved with the Green Room Club.'

In recent years, Jonny has taken on the role of Toby in Sweeney Todd and Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Samarès Manor. He has also performed locally in professional productions of The Buddy Holly Show and Cats, and in school shows Les Misérables and Sweet Charity.

'I really enjoyed the earlier shows because it was a new experience and I met so many new friends. In terms of professionalism, the more recent shows I've done have been fantastic,' he said. 'It's hard for me to choose a performing highlight to date, as there have been so many. Having the chance to perform in Les Mis was a real honour and doing Buddy Holly was an amazing experience as I was on stage with the professional touring cast.' A keen guitarist, Jonny also regularly goes out busking and this summer won a Teenage Cancer Trust competition to perform at Jersey Live, on the JT Recharge Stage. He has also represented Jersey at the Dance World Cup.

'For the last four or five summers I've also had the privilege of working in a professional cabaret at the Merton, which has taught me about interacting with crowds, which is a good skill to have,' said Jonny, adding: 'Going out on stage is such a big confidence booster. You feel like you can do anything and the bigger the crowd the better you feel.

'I don't really get nerves anymore, although it's different with every stage you perform on. For example, at the Opera House or Fort Regent you are blinded, so a big audience isn't a problem, whereas performing at Jersey Live the other week was a completely different experience because I could see the audience clearly and there were lots of my friends there.'

Despite dedicating so much of his life to performing, Jonny – who has two sisters, Rachael (20) and Katie (15) – has also found time in recent months to work at Pizza Express to earn extra funds for college, and even to pursue other interests.

'I've been quite sporty over the years. I played rugby and football and I'm quite a big golf fan,' he said. 'I've also been involved with the Grouville Battle of Flowers all of my life. I had the role of head carver this year and made the big snake heads at the front of the senior float.'

No stranger to Doreen Bird's, Jonny has attended five summer schools at the college.

'It's going to be really intense,' he said. 'I'm going to be dancing every day so it's going to be hardcore. I'm going to be living with a host family because of my diabetes. 'It's a tough course, but if I get into a show then I'll be performing seven nights a week, so it's about preparing your body to cope with that.'

Jonny playing Oscar in the JCG production of Sweet Charity in 2010, alongside Gigi Neil as Charity

And looking ahead to when he has finished the course, Jonny said he definitely sees his future working in dance. West End

'It would be amazing to work in the West End and I would love to see the world as well, so it would be great to do something like working on a cruise ship or as a touring artist,' he said. 'However, it's such a massive business you can only really hope to get a job – you have to take what you can get.

'The best thing about the business is that if you get a decent part then you can really make a career for yourself. Although it can, of course, also go the other way. I'm well aware that in this industry you can go a year without work. That doesn't really bother me because I've had so many jobs like waitering before, so I know I'll always be able to get a job of some sort. I'm happy doing that sort of thing, as long as I know I'll be able to pick my career up somewhere along the line.

'The role I'd most like to play is Billy Elliott, but I'm too old for that now. I'd also really like to be in Jersey Boys – the music and story are amazing and, being from Jersey, I would be the real McCoy.'

Jonny, whose favourite dancing style is commercial street dance, added: 'Growing up in Jersey there have been so many opportunities. It is such an amazing Island and I have been so lucky. There are so many directors, funding initiatives, theatres and performing opportunities. I don't think that will ever change.

'It is every performer's dream to one day be able to come back to their home town and set up a performing school, so I would love to do that if I could make a reputation for myself first. I think there is maybe even scope for a dance college over here.'

What advice would Jonny offer other budding young performers?

'Keep your head focused,' he said. 'If you know it's what you want to do then don't ever deter yourself from it – plan your life around it. You have to be 100 per cent dedicated and you also have to be fit. The hard work for me is really yet to come. 'You have to want that and want to enjoy it.

'In recent years I've been going to school, then doing two hours dancing every day, then going to work.

'It's not been easy, but I've never wanted it to be handed on a plate – I want to earn it.'

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