31-year-old Lewis Griffiths stars as Johnny Castle in the touring production of DIRTY DANCING - THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE. We caught up with Lewis at our Tottenham Court Road gym, where he revealed his favourite foods, chatted about the workout regime keeping him fit for the role - check it out elsewhere on this site! - and why he believes in professional karma…
Johnny Castle is an iconic role. Do you feel the pressure to look a certain way?
Not really. My predecessor started off in the role with a naturally slender physique, but by the time he left he’d got a much sturdier frame and bulked up, just from playing Johnny. Besides, it’s not so much about how I look - I’m more concerned with developing the strength and stamina that I’ll need for the show.
How do you warm up for a show?
I start with shoulder rolls and chest stretches before moving on to my legs. I’ll always do quadricep and hamstring stretches, and as many ankle rolls as I can to help mobilise the joint. I stretch out the Achilles too, and the arches in my feet. Everything from the waist down needs to be limber because the entire show involves bent legs, hip rolls and thrusts - it’s Dirty Dancing after all, you can’t do it with locked knees and straight legs!
What’s your usual gym routine?
I tend to do six exercises, each for three sets of twelve repetitions (six sets if I’m using light weights) in a circuit format: back squat, barbell push press, bicep curl, weighted lunges, tricep dips and chest flys. To finish off I might throw in some handstand press-ups, or pistol squats, often including some back-bending to help further strengthen my core.
Is there anything you’d never do in the gym?
Yeah - the adductor machine! It’s awful, just strains your groin!
Any weak spots?
Ha, yes, pull-ups! Actually, I need to work on my upper body strength in general…
What are your top health and wellbeing tips?
Beyond sleep, water and green veggies, I’m a fan of wheatgrass. I’ve heard one small shot of wheatgrass is the equivalent of a kilo of green vegetables, so I recently started taking them. The results are amazing: I’m more energised and have better skin. Also, massage is a must for me - sometimes I’m so tight I can barely stretch; I need a professional to loosen it off and remove the lactic acid. I’ve had a couple of reflexology treatments recently, too - and I practise Tai Chi about once a week.
How do you keep fit when between jobs?
Not brilliantly… when I’m on a job, I go full throttle and when I’ve finished, I let go a bit. Before Dirty Dancing I was eating too much chocolate and not going to the gym! I had just four weeks before rehearsals to wake my body up, so started doing something every day, be it five-a-side football, weightlifting or jogging.
Do you exercise between shows?
Not much; the show itself is physically intense. When my engine is running, I like to keep it ticking over - so if I’m doing both a matinee and an evening show, then between the two I’ll jog to a local gym and do some very light weights.
What about food? Do you follow a special diet?
Not strictly, no. The biggest issue I have when I’m working is keeping weight on! On the last job I did we were all in suits and the wardrobe mistress kept telling me off for losing too much weight! My metabolism was so ramped up from all the movement that I had to supplement my diet with protein and mass-building products. In terms of meals, I always force myself to eat breakfast, something like porridge, blueberries and banana on Weetabix, or marmite on toast with a green tea. If I have time to cook, it’s scrambled or poached eggs on toast with spinach and asparagus. And when I’m rehearsing or performing? I’d like to say I snack on dried fruit and nuts... but I’d usually put a bar of chocolate in there, because I’m a chocaholic! Lunch is usually whatever I can grab - nothing too heavy - and for dinner I often eat steak - medium rare with loads of English mustard.
Lastly, do you use mental techniques to keep yourself on form?
If I’m feeling tired and lacklustre, I’ll remind myself that one audience has paid the same money as the next one, and so it’s not fair to let the standards slip. I’m not really a very religious person, but I do appreciate a lot of Buddhist practice and am fairly philosophical in my approach; I believe in instant forgiveness, karma and that you reap what you sow. I remind myself that it’s live theatre, I’m only human and everybody makes mistakes - but if I put in the time, effort and nurture, and make the most of every opportunity, then I’ll get the best out of it - and, ultimately, my life.
DIRTY DANCING - THE CLASSIC STORY ON STAGE has been touring the UK since 11 August.
TICKETS AVAILABLE FROM www.dirtydancingontour.com
Photography: Michael Wharley Photography www.michaelwharleyphoto.com