Grant Almirall: Life as a jobbing actor

Singin’ in the Rain lead actor GRANT ALMIRALL survives on $70 a day here...but carries just $2 cash when he’s back home in Johannesburg

moneymaker almirall

The Moneymaker
: Grant Almirall, 36. If you find the South African actor familiar, you probably remember him from the production of Jersey Boys which was staged here two years ago, where he played The Four Seasons frontman Frankie Valli. Grant made his professional debut in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats 12 years ago. “I was fresh out of college, joined [a theatre] company and went on tour in Korea. I can’t remember how much I was paid, but I spent it mostly on action figures,” says the avid toy collector. He returns this month to star in the musical Singin’ in the Rain.

His home is: When he’s not on the road, Grant lives in a “small rented flat with one bedroom” in Johannesburg. “It’s hard being away from home ’cos I love staying in to draw and play video games.”

His ride is: A 2006 Ford Fiesta. “It was the cheapest car I could find. My friend’s mother was selling it at a good price. Everyone drives in Johannesburg ’cos we don’t have a great subway system — the only way to get around is by car.”

What’s in his (TRAVEL) wallet: Grant stuffs in this Typo wallet currency from various countries he’s toured, an air ticket stub from Manila where he performed, his passport, hotel room access card and an iPhone 4. “I get an allowance of US$50 ($67) a day here, which is mostly spent on coffee, food, transport and laundry. It’s easy to save when I’m on tour ’cos of this allowance — I don’t even need to use my salary. My wallet back home is very boring. I carry my debit card instead of cash, and some change of about 20 rands ($2). Plus loyalty cards for clothing stores, my driver’s license and some business cards.”

8 DAYS: What’s life like as a jobbing actor in Johannesburg?
GRANT ALMIRALL: Work isn’t easy to come by. The [theatre] industry back home is small and we have maybe two big productions a year. It’s a struggle competing with all the other people who are trying to find work. At this point in my career, I’m earning more than what I used to. The more you work with a producer, the more negotiating power you have for your salary. My recent roles were the most lucrative. As performers we live month to month. I try to save at least 10,000 rands ($1,098) whenever I’m doing a big show so I have money for the down months. There isn’t a big show [in Johannesburg] next year and I have [no jobs] planned, so it’s going to be an ‘interesting’ 2016 for me. (Laughs)

Do you take on side jobs when you’re not performing in musicals?
Yes. Before I did Jersey Boys, I was doing a lot of tap dancing and singing for corporate gigs like year-end functions. As a South African, I have to be able to do a lot of different things like radio and voice ads or TV commercials.

What would you do if you got a windfall of a million bucks?
I’d probably buy a house since I don’t own one now. It’d come with a nice studio where I can do some song recording and artwork. I’d also save some money for my mother and myself.

What would you not do for a million bucks?
Eat durians. I haven’t tried it, but I’ve smelt it. It was so bad. (Guffaws)

As a toy collector, what’s the most you’ve splurged on toys?
It’s a figurine of Christian Bale as Batman from The Dark Knight Rises. I bought it for about 4,000 rands ($439). It’s got all these gadgets that Batman uses, a proper rubber suit and a real cloak. You can even change the expressions on his face. It’s super detailed! Some people resell their action figures at a good price, but I don’t think I can part with mine for any amount of money. I own a pretty big collection — I can’t count them all. If I’m doing a big show and have constant money coming in, I’d spoil myself with at least one new toy.

How about setting up a shop importing and selling action figures?
That’s a cool idea, but I’m not very business-minded. I’m more of an artist. I don’t invest in anything other than a savings account that I try to put some money into.

What’s the most valuable thing you’d grab from your house if it caught fire?
My laptop. No, wait. It’d have to be the Christian Bale figurine!

Catch Grant in Singin’ in the Rain, Jul 9 to 26, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands. Tix from Sistic. 

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