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7 Questions with… Dynamo: The TV magician on his battles with illness, his superpowers and driving blindfolded
Back with his first TV show in six years, the enigmatic Bradford magician has overcome illness to create his most jaw-dropping tricks yet. The full Box Set comes to NOW TV this Easter.
Dynamo: Beyond Belief - Watch on Sky One with NOW TV
Three years ago, the last thing on Dynamo’s mind would have been promoting a new TV show.
The Bradford magician had lived with Crohn’s disease since he was a teenager, but after suffering from food poisoning, his health took a dramatic turn for the worst.
Dynamo ended up in hospital, developed chronic arthritis and became almost unrecognisable in videos he posted on social media to keep in contact with his fans during a two-year hiatus from TV and showbiz.
After years of performing for Hollywood celebrities, selling out arenas and transforming the image of TV magic to make it cool again, Dynamo suddenly couldn’t even hold a pack of playing cards - his arthritis was that painful.
But rather than give up, the magician used the toughest moment of his life to inspire and redefine his act. “I took my disabilities and turned them into superpowers,” says Dynamo, talking to BT TV.
Dynamo: Beyond Belief, his first TV series since Magician Impossible in 2014, charts the Yorkshireman’s journey back to somewhere close to full health.
We caught up with the magic man to ask 7 burning questions about the series…
1. How nervous were you about making this series after the long break from TV?
I stopped making Mission Impossible in 2014 and at that point I had been doing TV for five years straight. I had lost a bit of the passion for it; I felt like a bit of a performing monkey, making magic to fit into a schedule given to us by a TV channel. I didn’t really enjoy it any more.
I started making this show three years ago, but because of my illness, I had to take a two-year hiatus and get back to full health. I’m about 85% back to normal now. But that gap has made this TV show have so much more meaning to me. I put so much of my heart and soul into it.
A lot of the ideas came when I was in hospital. I’ve taken positives from a negative time in my life. In the first episode you’ll see that I share a lot of personal videos, videos where I don’t look great or in good shape and I hope people can take from that how we all have to go through trials and troubles. It’s about what we take from those experiences and tribulations that’s important.
In a weird way I think a lot of people will be able to relate to my experiences even more so now, because we’re all going into isolation. I think this show will resonate with people. I also think this is the best magic I’ve ever done.
2. You talk about how your time in hospital inspired you. Has it made you a better magician?
I’ve always felt like a student in magic. Standing on the shoulders of giants, great magicians like David Blaine, David Copperfield, Siegfried and Roy, all these people came before me and I look up to them and admire them. All this time off gave me a chance to look at what I was doing, reflect on it and improve it.
Having arthritis is one of the worst things that could happen to a magician, but it was a blessing and a curse. It made me revaluate magic from a different way, because I couldn’t even hold cards anymore or do any of the physical things I was used to. I had to find a whole new avenue for magic. Luckily by working with physios I have got a lot of my old skills back.
3. You say you were becoming complacent. What would you have done next if you hadn’t fallen ill?
There was always talk of a new TV show. But the show I started to make would probably have been Magician Impossible 2.0. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people loved that show, but it wouldn’t have had as much heart or meaning. I think having the negative experience, it caused me to find a purpose in what I was doing.
I did feel invincible when I was doing those big lives shows and it’s very easy to get caught up in the adulation and end up in a bubble. I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people. I have lots of friends in the music industry and it’s easy to get caught in the trappings of fame. I’m not someone who has ever been particularly comfortable in the public eye.
I’ve always been quite a shy guy and I like to let the magic speak for itself. The area I grew up in was bit too dangerous to go out and play football with my friends so I spent a lot of time on my own, in my bedroom, playing with cards and reading books. Having the food poisoning and putting everything on hiatus, I think it happened for a reason and it gave me a reason to love magic again.
4. You perform an incredible driving trick in Russia, where you speed around the streets blindfolded, backwards. How did you make that?
If I wasn’t a magician, I've always loved the idea of being a stunt car driver and doing a James Bond driving sequence. That’s a passion of mine ever since I first past my driving test. In Mission Impossible, I did a few versions of driving blindfolded, there was one with David Coulthard where I was driving through fire hoops. I looked through a lot of the comments on that one and people were saying, ‘Oh he can see through the blindfold’ and they all had their theories on how this was possible.
So with this new series I wanted to make sure every single theory and explanation could be quashed. Irrespective of whether the blindfold is fake, I’m going backwards this time, which rules that out. It was a crazy experience.
5. Which trick are you most proud of in this series?
My favourite bit was doing the trick with the kids in Mexico. They couldn’t speak English, I could speak a little bit of Spanish, but seeing the smiles on their faces was incredible.
Another thing I’m really proud of is the trick with the American Footballers, where I guessed the number of cards based on the weight. At one point in hospital, I lost the ability to play with cards and I had to work up one card at a time and that’s how I learnt how much each card weighed in my hand. I was taking my disability and turning it into a superpower. That was a massive breakthrough for me.
Also, the finale to the whole show is the riskiest thing I’ve ever attempted. I can’t say too much about it because it’s still under wraps, but I think people are going to love it.
6. How long does it take you develop these stunts?
When I first walked across the River Thames that stemmed from an idea when I was 12. There were kids who used to throw me in the dam in the estate. All the cool kids hung out at the dam and when I got invited down there, they threw me in. I couldn’t swim at that point and it was only a mate pulling me out that saved me from downing. But that inspired the idea of walking on water. That trick was 15 years in the making.
I came up with some of the ideas for this series in my hospital bed and then I performed them one year later making this show. It all varies. A lot of it is trial and error. A lot of the nurses in the hospital saw me practising my magic and I think that kept me entertained.
7. You show the doctors and nurses who treated you – was it important we saw that in the series?
You do see the incredible support I got from the NHS. They are all the real heroes. Right now, the whole country is appreciating what they’re doing and I was on my balcony on Thursday night clapping everything that they were doing. This show is dedicated to all the frontline hospital staff – the people doing the real magic out there.
The NHS and my doctors, they did such an amazing job, even the cleaners. I remember in hospital, I became friends with the cleaners and they’d bring their kids in and I’d do magic tricks from my bed for them.
It was amazing in hospital to be able do tricks and take people’s minds off anything they were suffering with, even if it just for a moment. Now more than ever, we’re in a world where we need a little bit of magic in our lives.
Dynamo: Beyond Belief starts at 8pm on April 9.
Watch it on Sky One with the NOW TV Entertainment Pack.
The full Box Set will be available on NOW TV.