You could take the mickey out of him and he'd take the mickey out of you
I've always wanted to be a singer and dancer, probably from the age of about four. I grew up in south Devon and my first school was Decoy primary, but we moved to Ipplepen village when I was seven, and that's where it started. Although it wasn't a theatre school, we were always doing plays. I joined a drama club and later did amateur dramatics - I was always singing.
I moved up to Coombeshead college, a comprehensive, where arts and drama were encouraged. They built a huge drama wing with a dance studio, and even a recording studio.
My parents were hugely supportive, driving me to and from drama club, and whenever I had an audition in London they'd drive me up. I'm one of four and my older brother was a champion gymnast. They drove him all over the country so he could take part in competitions. It's thanks to them that I'm here.
At 13, I won a scholarship to the Sylvia Young theatre school in central London, a private school with about 150 kids. My family left Devon and settled in the south-east. We're all close - my younger sister Cassie is my publicist.
My English teacher, Mr McIntyre, was my favourite teacher. We did Macbeth for GCSE and he brought it alive. For a class of 14 to 15-year-olds it can be quite boring, but he kept it fresh and interesting. His class was fun.
We did lots of short stories and poems, especially William Blake, which was inspiring. I'd never heard of him until that class, and now I'm a fan.
Mr McIntyre was young at heart, but I guess he was around 50 with grey, wispy hair, which made him look as if he'd been in a storm. He was a bit scatty, always late for class. He'd come in with his hair all swept around, clutching his books, and say: "Sorry I'm late. Sorry I'm late." Then he'd plonk his books down and get straight into it. He was quite a character. We used to love his accent - he was from Yorkshire - and we'd mimic him.
He was one of those teachers who you could have a laugh with, and he made us laugh all the time. You could take the mickey out of him, and he'd take the mickey out of you. It never got to the point where it was disrespectful. We'd never cross the line, but we could push it a bit.
Mr McIntyre didn't put on plays, but he encouraged us to read in front of the class. That was never a problem at Sylvia's because everyone always wanted to get up and read. We all enjoyed an audience.
We did normal lessons on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and wore a uniform - blazer, V-neck jumpers and ties. Our lessons were an hour each and we had to get through a lot of coursework. The rest of the week was devoted to acting, dance and singing classes.
I was quite a good student, I always did my homework, and I passed my eight GCSEs, but I wish I'd paid more attention in maths because I'm terrible at it. I didn't concentrate enough - I'd love to do it again. English was my best subject, thanks to Mr McIntyre. I got an A in English language and a B in English literature for GCSE. I didn't do A-levels because I started S Club 7 when I was 15, and that took up all my time; in fact, it took over my life.
That meant I didn't keep in touch with anyone from school - I'd love to see Mr McIntyre again, and I'd love him and Sylvia Young to come and see Les Miserables. I'm playing Marius, and I hope I can be as inspiring a teacher as Mr McIntyre when I meet the kids who come on backstage tours and theatre workshops.
Actor and singer Jon Lee was talking to Judy Parkinson. The Miz Kids Club runs at the Palace Theatre in London's West End twice a month. Children are taken on a backstage tour, learn a song, improvise a key scene from the show and can ask questions of a cast member. In advance of their session children receive a CD synopsis narrated by Sir Ian McKellen. To book tickets or for further information contact John Scarborough at the Cameron Mackintosh Education Office on 020 7439 3062 or email email@example.com
Portrait by Peter Searle
THE STORY SO FAR
1982 Born in Surrey
1987 Attends Decoy primary then Ipplepen primary, Newton Abbott, Devon
1993 Coombeshead secondary school, Devon
1995 Lead role in Oliver! in the West End; scholarship to Sylvia Young Theatre School
1996 Appears in TV commercials; appears in TV adaptation of The Mill on the Floss
1997 Plays Josh in EastEnders; joins S Club 7, who have four number one singles, five chart-topping albums, two Brit Awards; TV series - Miami 7, LA 7, Hollywood 7, Viva S Club; and sell more than 13 million CDs worldwide
June 2002 Performs at Queen's Jubilee Concert
April 2003 Stars in film, Seeing Double
July 2003 onwards Plays Marius in Les Miserables, Palace Theatre, London