In the latest in our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to Mark Curry.
A performer ever since he was a child in Yorkshire, Mark Curry had his TV breakthrough in the late 1970s, co-presenting Saturday morning show ‘Calendar Kids’, before his star rose with ‘The Saturday Picture Show’.
He became one of children TV’s most familiar faces in 1986, joining the ‘Blue Peter’ team, where he joined Janet Ellis and Peter Duncan, and later Caron Keating and Yvette Fielding. History was his speciality, but his most glorious blunder involved knocking the head off a Lego man.
Serious acting roles followed, and he has appeared on stage as well as screen throughout the last two decades. Now, he’s taken to the stage on London’s West End, playing The Wizard in the lavish production of ‘Wicked’. To mark his return to the West End, Mark talks to Huff Post UK about the sadness he regrets that he caused his friends, what his partner brings to his life, and the value of listening…
What do you do to switch off from the world?
Playing tennis whenever I can. If I'm concentrating on hitting that fluffy yellow ball then my mind can't wander to all the other stuff going on. Watching tennis is the next best thing.
How do you deal with negativity?
The self help books I've read have made me realise that negativity is something the mind creates. If negative thoughts come into my brain, I just try really hard to alter my thought pattern at that moment and think of something more positive. Not easy at times. It's important for me to avoid negative people and situations as much as possible.
When and where are you happiest?
Several situations. In Spain, at the house I share with my partner looking at the wonderful view or on my terrace in Eastbourne by the sea. I'm very happy on stage too or on a tennis court. Also in a coffee shop!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Stay in the NOW. Don't think ahead, don't think back, give this actual moment your full attention because this is where it's at. I try to do this in my work and in my life generally.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
For a long time I wasn't honest with some of my best friends and colleagues about my sexuality. Some of them were disappointed that I hadn't trusted them when they had been confiding in me about their innermost feelings. I've learned to be myself now and I'm so much happier.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
Be honest with yourself and others and be who you really are. Be a bit calmer and not too noisy. Don't talk too much, listen a lot. Don't let performing take over your whole life. Don't show off, EVER ! ( I think I have sometimes over the years). Don't wear ridiculous shirts and big blue glasses on telly because you'll never live it down!! ( I still do this though!) You're a good person, be proud of yourself.
What 3 things are at the top of your to-do list?
Travel to the places I want to see because life is short.
Play more tennis and do yoga, especially now I'm over 50!
Learn to speak better Spanish.
What do you think happens when we die?
I just can't believe that's it, otherwise what has all the learning been for? The Buddhist belief is that we learn and return with more knowledge about how to be. That's what I'm hoping for and hanging on to.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I'm often in a situation, not always good by the way, where I think to myself, "this was meant to be, you were meant to be here." Its almost as though I've been guided to a place or person without planning it. I find there is always a reason why something has happened. I've either honestly asked for it or was meant to experience it in some way.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Asking questions and LISTENING. Finding out what's happening in the lives of the people closest to me. Mine is a selfish business and I try really hard to tune into other people rather than tuning in to me !
What keeps you grounded?
My partner Jeremy. He's not in show business, he understands it and appreciates the pressures etc but we live a pretty grounded life together where what I do isn't the most important thing.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
I just love watching Wimbledon either on telly or actually there if I can. The men's final takes place on a Sunday, the only day in the week we get off from, "Wicked" in London. My great friend has a ticket for the final this summer but she can't go, so she given it to me as a gift.
Mark Curry stars as The Wizard in the West End musical 'Wicked', playing at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre.