YOU wait two million years for a Mackem Jesus, then two come along in a matter of months.
First, Millfield 31-year-old Ben Forster landed the lead role in Jesus Christ Superstar, after winning the ITV talent show.
Now James Baxter, from Ashbrooke, has appeared on TV as Jesus in the new series of cult sci-fi comedy Red Dwarf, on channel Dave.
“It was amazing,” said the 22-year-old, who went to Farringdon Community College.
“It was scary filming in front of a live audience, but I’ve wanted to film in Pinewood Studios – where it was shot – since I was a child, so that was really exciting.”
James stars in the Red Dwarf X episode alongside original cast members Craig Charles (who plays Dave Lister), Danny John-Jules (The Cat), Chris Barrie (Arnold Rimmer), and Robert Llewellyn (Kryten).
He said: “It was really exciting to play alongside all the guys, who have been doing this for years, and they were all really welcoming.”
James plays Jesus in the programme, and says the only problem getting into the character was deciding what his accent would be.
“I couldn’t really prepare for the part because I was playing Jesus.
“I did some voice training on my own before the audition because the character had an accent, so I just practised and practised, then when I got the part they sent me for voice training.
“Then, they asked me to try the part with the practised accent, and then with my normal voice, and decided they preferred a Mackem Jesus.”
James is making a name for himself on screen, having starred in ITV1 dramas including period film Joe Maddison’s War in 2010, and Love Life earlier this year, after his successful run on Emmerdale from 2008 to 2009.
James was also appearing at London’s famous Old Vic Theatre yesterday.
The Old Vic Theatre company runs under the leadership of artistic director Kevin Spacey, and The 24-hour Play is a theatre highlight of the year with people queuing to see up-and-coming actors.
James, who lives with his wife Dominique, 22, auditioned alongside 1,800 other people to get his part.
“They could only pick 21 actors,” he said.
“We got together on the Saturday with the writers, producers and directors and devised the play over 24 hours, then performed it on Sunday.”
They play was a perfect opportunity for James, who is hoping to make a move back into theatre.
“I would like to do more theatre because I’ve been doing TV work for the last three years.
“That’s why I wanted to do the play at The Old Vic.”
James and Dominique, an artist originally from Sydney, Australia, have recently bought a flat together in London.
“We’re just waiting to move, which is great,” he said.
“But London isn’t home, it’s where I live – Sunderland will always be home.
“I miss the North. I took Dominique up to meet my family and I warned her that it’s nothing like London, and that it’s smaller, but she loved it.
“I think she was born in the wrong city.
“I haven’t taken her on a night yet though. I don’t think she’s quite ready for that.”