British teen actor and singer, Robert Madge, performs in Corvallis
This week, Corvallis has played host to British actor and teen singing sensation, Robert Madge, who is here filming “Cosmonaut,” directed by Alsea Film Academy’s Davey Porter. The crew has spent the past week filming at various Corvallis locations including Oregon State University and the Benton County Fairgrounds. The film is scheluded for release through Redbox and Netflix next summer.
“Cosmonaut,” set in Russia, unfolds in two parts. In the first half, Mischa and his friend Boris go to school to learn about astronomy. Mischa is given a job that involves traveling to space — and unfortunately, his trip goes terribly wrong.
The second half takes place 10 years after Mischa’s death and focuses on his son, Yuri, as he tries to find a way to meet his father.
“The second half of the film is about trying to get Mischa back to life,” Madge said.
Madge plays Sasha, Yuri’s best friend. “I’m kind of a bit cheeky,” Madge said about his character.
“Cosmonaut” is Madge’s first film. He has mostly performed on stage and for television, which takes a different kind of acting. While at theater school in England, he learned that this key difference is exaggeration of delivery.
“On stage, it’s much more that you have to project. One thing you always learn is to make your movements slightly bigger than natural, just so the people in the back can really make out your emotions,” Madge said. “With film, you have close-ups and it’s much more withdrawn, much more natural.”
Madge said he has taken a liking to film. “I prefer acting naturally, actually being the character,” he said.
Madge began acting when he was 4, after a family trip to Disney World. “When we got back, I was always pretending to be Peter Pan at home,” he said. “And that was where I started acting. I know every kid does that. Every kid dresses up and pretends to be a Disney character, but for me, I actually stood back and realized this was what I wanted to do.”
He performed his first job — and first audition — when he was just nine years old, as Michael Banks in “Mary Poppins” at The West End theater in London. Since then he has been in “Oliver!,” “Matilda the Musical” and “Les Mis,” in which he played the street urchin, Gavroche, alongside Nick Jonas and Samantha Barks, who reprised her role as Eponine for the 2012 film.
“‘Les Mis’ was incredible in the sense that it really got me out there as an actor,” Madge said. “People recognized me and I suppose you could say it got me a fanbase — I don’t really have a huge fanbase, but the ones that I do know me most from ‘Les Mis.’”
Over the course of his stage career, Madge has played very different characters, from the street urchin Gavroche to the well-off Michael Banks. To get into character, Madge said that after receiving each night’s notes, he maps them out and goes through the scenes to get as much of the character as he can.
He also uses his pre-show warm up to help prepare him for the stage — despite the occasional odd looks that he gets.
“In ‘Oliver!’ I was surrounded by about 10 boys who are in my gang, and I have to sing ‘Consider Yourself’ as soon as I go onstage,” Madge said. “I was always really nervous and always warming up my voice doing these weird warm up routines, and I’ve got all of these guys like, ‘What are you doing, Robert? That’s so weird.’ I always kind of the weird kid that was focusing. But that’s what I tend to do. That’s my ritual before the show.”
Madge has also performed with the likes of Rowan Atkinson and Patrick Stewart.“I learned so much from how they act and how they stay in character and how they interact with other characters on stage,” he said. “Even when they don’t have lines they’re still there.”
Madge said that he had been told never to ask celebrities for autographs; it makes them feel awkward and above their fellow actors rather than equal to them.
“One of the most valubale things I’ve gained is that we’re all in the same boat as actors,” he said. “As amazing actors as they (Atkinson and Stewart) are, you have to remember that they’re nervous as well, they still get scared... they’re just normal people like us.
Madge will hold a concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library. He plans to perform a range of music styles, including pop standards, Disney favorites and musical theater, including songs from “Les Mis.” The Heart of the Valley Children’s Choir will also join Madge on stage for part of the program.
One of his favorite songs that he will sing during the concert is “With a Song in My Heart,” from the 1929 Rodgers and Hart musical, “Spring is Here.”
“It was my nannie’s favorite song, who passed away, sadly,” he said. “It’s dedicated to her, and it’s just a great song to sing.”
Madge, who is 17, currently attends college in London — the first two years of college in England are the equivalent of the last two years of high school in the U.S. — and balances his professional life with his personal life by taking breaks and spending time with his family.
“When I’m with my family, I just take a big rest,” he said. “As soon as I’m off the stage, I’m at home. I just want to rest and feel like we’re all the same again... It’s an easy balance to make, really.”
This is Madge’s first trip to the West Coast — a dream come true, he said.
“I love it here. ... We took a two-hour drive across the coast — me and my dad. We went in the Pacific Ocean, which was just a tick off the bucket list for us. It was just amazing.” •