Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

Jason Donovon

Guy Pewsey talks Neighbours, drugs and kilowatt smiles with Jason Donovan
When we sit on our sofas and watch television, it’s often clear that the image presented to us of our favourite celebrities are just a façade. When the cameras stop rolling, they call the entourage, make some demands, and move onto the next booking in their ultimately miserable lives. This however, is not the case with Jason Donovan, who has just spent more than an hour signing copies of his new autobiography for the many adoring fans who lurk in an orderly yet undoubtedly intimidating queue. When they have finally dispersed, we retire to the staff area at the Magdalen Street Borders. Before the interview can start, he has to sign a stack of seventy more books, and as he makes light work of the imposing pile, he’s still smiling. His new autobiography, Between The Lines, charts his eventful life, focussing on his pop career and hasty decline into class A drugs before eventual comeback via ITV reality show, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. It might not make the list of books to read before you die, but it’s an honest recollection of how things can go wrong when the ugly side of fame rears its head.

When Jason finishes signing the last book on the trolley, he puts the pen down and tells me to sit down. He’s clearly eager to move onto the next event, but he’s still smiling. I ask him if he finds such events laborious, whether he finds it difficult to switch on the ‘kilowatt smile’ (which, consequently, is the name of chapter three). The answer seems to be the usual response from a seasoned performer such as Jason, but the delivery is so pristine it’s difficult not to believe him. ‘To an extent it’s programmed into me, but it’s not easy. When people have queued up for an hour though, it’s only fair that I give them my respect. I’m really very grateful for the loyal fans I have in this country and I’m always happy to maintain that’. And maintain it he does, as in the last couple of years he’s appeared in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang on the WestEnd, done a tour, and reminded millions of his existence through the last series of I’m A Celebrity. His fame was initially established in Britain after his debut on Neighbours in the late eighties, and so it wasn’t long before opportunity knocked in the form of pop svengali Pete Waterman. Twenty years and 3 million records later, he’s still known by many as Scott Robinson off Neighbours, and is forever united with Kylie Minogue due to the shameless publicity stunt that was their completely artificial relationship. On whether or not he minds such an eternal connection, he is adamantly content; ‘I don’t mind’, he says, ‘I can certainly think of worse things to be associated with. Neighbours was a great time of my life, so I can’t complain that people are still asking about me now.’ When I assure him that the student population of Oxford show no signs of letting the Australian soap opera be forgotten, he gives a wry smile, and I move on.

Jason is also famed for his incredibly successful run as the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat. His career has gone from acting, to pop, to mixing the two on stage, and he’s eager to establish that he loves it all the same; ‘I’m all encompassing,’ he insists with just an air of conceit. ‘I’m very happy to move between all mediums. I love the variety.’ His experience with Joseph led to him being invited to join Donny Osmond and Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead for a musical medley at the recent Concert for Diana. ‘I was honoured to be part of the Lloyd Webber line-up, and it was a wonderful day with great atmosphere, both onstage and backstage.’ For a moment he pauses, appearing to word the response correctly before he answers. ‘It was great to be celebrating her life, celebrating something good rather than all the bad surrounding it.’

The release of a celebrity autobiography is usually timed to follow a reality television win or to benefit from the Christmas rush, and so I ask why he’s chosen now as his time to write the book. According to the forward, despite the many offers that he’s received for book deals, this was the first time that he felt mature enough to make a decent go of it. I suggest that, perhaps, it corresponds with what is potentially the final peak in his career. He is quick to deny such a theory; ‘I would hope that there is more to come, highs or lows’ he replies with another cheesy yet earnest smile. ‘I’m in a good place right now, but it’s about learning to work with life’s curve-balls.’ The curve-balls which he refers to are mostly to do with the severe drug problems which he has dealt with during the height of his career, and then again in the late nineties when a very public cocaine-induced seizure led to the disappointment of his family and a multitude of ‘whatever happened to Jason Donovan?’ comments in the national press. While his memories of such experiences litter the book, I am eager to ask for more on the topic, but Jason Donovan seems happy to dwell on the present; ‘I have two gorgeous kids, and a wonderful wife, so I’m happy.’

I had of course prepared myself for Jason Donovan, cheeky and cheesy pop star, but it was impossible to anticipate just how perky he would be even when greeted with questions on his past problems. ‘Regret is a cancerous word. It leaves you nowhere. The lows that have fashioned my life have given me all the ups I have now.’ He is clearly referring once more to his wife and children, who he clearly adores. When security guards at the concert for Diana refused to let anyone other than him through to the backstage party, he dutifully decided that he came as a package, and left with his family. ‘What ifs are hypothetical, so no regrets.’

Towards the end of the book, Jason informs his fans that there could be more to come for those who like his way with words, a book which he’d like to call Be Careful What You Dream Of. This, he says, would be a warning to young people of the hazards of fame, using his own experiences in the limelight as a stark example. I ask him if this ambition is inspired by the people you see plastered on the covers of the tabloids such as Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, people who became rich and famous at a young age and are now having difficulties. He is quick to show his disdain for anyone who would judge such individuals. ‘The thing is, you don’t vote your pop stars to be politicians. Creative people are creative people. These girls at the moment, they want to rebel against their own fame, doing what I call in the book ‘Searching for cool’. I can tell that he thinks he’s come up with an amazingly insightful phrase, but he’s just so visibly gleeful that I am unable to even show a hint of an eye roll. I move on, and ask if he was nervous about how the book would be received, both by his public and the family and friends who helped him through his problems. ‘Look, I’m nearly forty and I’m not a child anymore. I have an opinion.’ He is clearly proud of the autobiography, and dispels any suggestion of the ghost writers frequently used to assist the less literate stars; ‘It’s always my take on things. It’s all subjective and it’s not there to criticise. It’s just very honest.’

The time-limit which was established beforehand is coming to an end, so I finish with the obligatory question; ‘What’s next for Jason Donovan?’ He seems relieved that I didn’t try something a little more demanding, and mentions his new show ‘Echo Beach’, an upcoming show from the makers of Spooks and Hustle which he describes proudly as ‘Extras meets The O.C.’ And after that? ‘If that goes well, which I predict that it will, I’ll continue with that. We’ll see. It’s all good’. The interview ends, and I am hurried away as he and his publicist get ready to leave. Unsurprisingly, he’s still smiling.

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles