Meet Poldark stunt rider turned Voice auditionee Mike Collin

Game of Thrones, Victoria, Merlin and now The Voice, Collin talks to us about leaping from the saddle to taking on those spinning chairs...

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Tonight, actor, stunt rider and singer Michael Collin took to The Voice stage with a gorgeous rendition of George Ezra’s Budapest. It wasn’t enough to see those coaches’ chairs spin. But, after coach Ricky Wilson joked he should keep trying and (ba-da-dum-tssh!) “get back on the horse” we wanted to find out just what tempted him from the saddle to the spinning chairs. From his part in a stunt rider performing team to what it’s really like doubling on Poldark, Victoria, Merlin and more, Collin spills…

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What was your the Voice audition like?

“It was a bit surreal. Bit of an out-of-body experience. It all happened really, really quickly. Getting out there and doing it seemed to go like a click of the fingers.”

Which coach were you hoping would turn?

“I was hoping for will.i.am or Ricky Wilson. I think they’re both great. Big fan of Will’s producing. Ricky’s got a lot of presence when he’s performing.”

Why The Voice?

“I had gone for The Voice a couple of times before and not got through the preliminary stages. I absolutely love performing and I love singing as well, I just thought if it’s an opportunity to make performing my career then that’s an avenue I’ll go down. Why not?

“The Voice audition process is one of the nicest ones, I’ve noticed. I’m not one who goes out for every possible TV audition you can go for. It was just, in that process, it is a very friendly atmosphere, very supportive.

“They try to be as encouraging as they can to encourage people to keep going, rather than just being a little bit more dismissive, saying ‘What the hell are you doing?’”

Do you gig?

“I do musical theatre every now and again for a local community choir. I go in as a soloist and do different bits when they need it. A few years ago I was doing a lot more. When the filming and stunt shows got busier I had to prioritise that because there’s more money in it, basically.”

Are you working on Poldark as a stunt rider?

“Yeah, we’ve been working on Poldark. Just after Christmas I was doubling on Poldark for one of the leads, Dwight (Luke Norris). I was doubling for Colin Morgan’s character in The Living and the Dead too, which is coming up soon. I’ve also been horse mastering on them too, running the horses on that and Victoria [the up-coming Jenna Coleman drama]. It’s been really interesting to work so closely with the actors on that.”

Have you doubled for Aidan Turner?

“No, I haven’t had the honour of doubling for Aidan [in Poldark]. He can do a lot of his own stunts now. He’s been doing it for a good two years. He’s had a lot of lessons and had a lot of time in the saddle.

“I’ve only met him once or twice but I can imagine [he likes to do his own stunts]. He does love riding Ross Poldark’s horse, he loves him to bits.”

When are you called in to double for an actor?

“A lot of it is down to scheduling. If that particular character needs to be in the studio and they also need Second Unit getting some scenes of them doing stuff on the horses then you’ll cover for them. It’ll be like long shots and back shots where you can’t see the face.

“Then there are safety aspects as well. If it’s an area where it could be potentially dangerous for a less experienced rider, or for insurance purposes – ie. they’re not allowed to gallop near a cliff face – then they’ll stick us in to double for them. Mainly it’s scheduling and safety.”

I hear you can ride more than one horse at the same time while standing up…?

“Yeah, it’s part of the stunt riding we do, something called Roman riding which means standing on two or more horses at once. I started doing that a few years ago. I’ve worked up to riding three at once now. One of the lads that I train with can now do six at once. Quite a bit further ahead than me..!”

What kind of stunt shows do you do?

“One of the main teams I ride with – Atkinson Action Horses – we ride individual shows for live events and county shows. Something like the Horse of the Year show, we did a performance there in 2012. We wrote that with the organiser of the show and we performed it. That was the biggest show that we’ve done. The company started off in re-enactments and supplying horses for training for re-enactments, so we train and teach the actors and the horses for jousting, teaching them to fall, teaching them to let us do tricks on the back, teaching them to work with other horses.”

What does your stunt team think of you auditioning for The Voice?

“They think it’s great. We’re very open and very encouraging of people doing different things. We’re all very ‘perfom-y’ anyway. A lot of the lads on the team have done musical theatre or some sort of drama in the past and the people that we’ve pulled in to work on the shows have all been actors or people who have done that kind of thing in the past. They think it’s really good that we get out there and do stuff.”

What’s the ultimate dream?

“The ultimate dream for me is to be an actor. I absolutely love singing and I went for The Voice because if it were to kick off then that’s something I could see myself doing. I can quite happily see myself singing for my career. I really do enjoy it, I like performing in any kind of arena. The stunt riding is absolutely amazing and I love doing it, when I’m performing and doing the stunt performing you kind of forget about anything else in your life and you come back with a giant smile on your face. But acting is something I’ve always loved doing. Like anybody else, I want to have a successful career and make as much money as I can, so I can have an easier life. I think if it’s possible to do that through singing or acting, that’s got more longevity to it than stunt riding because in stunt riding you either end up old and broken or young and broken…”

You’ve worked on some huge shows and films, is there one you’d like to do, or one you’d like to do more of?

“I rode on Game of Thrones with a different team last year. I did six weeks on it and I’d absolutely love to be a character in that because I could just see it’s everything that I love already – it’s medieval fiction, it’s got the horses, the battle, the blood, guts and glamour, it’s all there in such a great franchise. If anybody were offered a role in it, you’d be silly not to take it.”

The Voice continues Saturdays on BBC1

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Stunt picture credit mikecollin.com