From nurturing an early love for acting in musical theatre, casting heartbreak, landing the role of a career and rooming with a Jedi. NIALL GRIFFITHS speaks to Caldicot actor Ian Virgo.

"I was born in Glendale, California, after my mum and Dad, Stan and Sue, had moved over there from Wales.

I lived over there until I was four-years-old before me, my parents and my sister Cerys moved back to Caldicot, where I grew up.

I went to Caldicot Comprehensive and did amateur dramatics at the Dolman Theatre, Newport, before going on to being cast as Joseph in Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat at school.

I was playing rugby at the time, and I wanted to be a rugby player but I had a problem with my ankle. I was doing well with it, I was playing for Newport Schools and had trials for Wales, but it didn’t go any further.

When I finished at Caldicot I got enough GCSEs to do a two-year BTEC at Crosskeys College in performing arts. I went there, did two years which I loved and that was where I started thinking that I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

While at Crosskeys, I did stuff with the National Youth Music Theatre (NYMT) and did a show called The Kissing Dance, which starred Sheridan Smith who played my mother.

The cast of the Kissing Dance in the NYMT have gone on to fantastic things and remain in the industry.

I’d come runner-up in a talent competition and won a year’s free scholarship to a Stagecoach weekend school where the head teacher asked if I was going to pursue this as an adult as she really thought I should.

I was in the position where I didn’t think my parents were going to afford to send me to drama school, which would have been a three-year course in London and cost thousands of pounds.

I auditioned for a one-year postgraduate course at the Royal Academy of Music but I was told I was too young at the time as I was only 16-years-old.

But low and behold I got accepted and received a full scholarship. I ended up being the youngest person still to this day, to have done the academy course and completed it.

I came out of the course and in my final show I played the part of an American soldier in a show called Little Me.

Luckily at the time two of the biggest casting directors in London – Suzanne Smith and Gary Davy – were casting Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers and looking for young Brit actors who could play American GIs.

I ended up auditioning for three different parts and got one of them.

I was doing a show in Chichester waiting for the dates for Band of Brothers and I finished the show, went down to Wales.

While I was there visiting my mum and dad I got the call saying that they’d be picking me up tomorrow from London for Band of Brothers.

I couldn’t get there so they recast me - it was possible the most heartbreaking moment of my career. I know that a couple of the parts I went for went to James McAvoy and Tom Hardy.

I got paid for the job, credited for the job but never did it and never got to step on set, although I did get to meet Tom Hanks.

I thought that was it for me but luckily Suzanne Smith was then assigned the job of casting Black Hawk Down but I had no idea about the scope or how big Black Hawk Down was when I auditioned for it.

I went back to Wales and was in the Haywain pub in Caldicot with my mates when I got a call from America saying I got the part.

My mum’s on a night shift, and my dad’s at home, but I buy a round for my mates, tell them I got the role.

My agent told me I’d be flying to Fort Benning, Georgia, tomorrow morning and would be picked up from my London house and I thought 'Oh God, here we go again'.

But I got there, flew out first class and found out that I’d be working with the likes of Ewan McGregor and Ioan Gruffudd - some other incredible names.

It’s only when I was sharing a room with Ewan in boot camp that I realised the enormity of the film.

When I landed in the US I was worried that my mum would be worried, as she was going to be wondering where the hell I was as she had been working when I left.

I had no money and one of those rubbish phones that couldn’t ring back to the UK but Ewan said I could use his phone to ring my mum.

When I told her that I was calling off Obi-Wan Kenobi’s phone she didn’t believe me and told me to bugger off!

He got a lot of Star Wars comments the whole time as the first of the new films had only just come out.

Boot camp was seven days of hell but I thought it was awesome as I’d been playing soldiers all my life. Some of the actors hated it but I loved every second.

We the filmed for five months in Morocco and that was that - it was an incredible experience and the highlight of my career by a country mile.

I came out of that a mess, I honestly felt like I’d been at war experiencing explosions everyday and seeing people covered in blood, but obviously it’s nothing like what those boys actually went through.

I’m still friends with a lot of the boys on that film I think because of what we want through to build up a camaraderie of soldiers and meeting the people who were involved in that conflict.

After Black Hawk Down, I moved to Los Angeles only to land on the morning of 9/11. I remember watching the second plane hit on the news.

I stayed for a week when my agent left and signed for an agency called ICM and auditioned for a role in a film called Extreme Dating before flying back to London.

Within a week of being back I was told I’d been offered the role and had to fly straight back. I met an ex-girlfriend on that film, fell in love and ended up staying in LA for five years doing bits and bobs.

To be honest in that five years it was a time where I could have done with a bit more guidance I was very young, only 18, I had quite a lot of money in the bank and I was just enjoying the LA lifestyle.

I should have really come back to the UK looking back in hindsight, but I have great memories from that time.

After Black Hawk Down I’m mostly known for my part in Rise of the Footsoldier but obviously the two are completely different in terms of budget and scope. I reprised my role in Rise of the Footsoldier 3.

I’ve moved back and since then I want to say I’ve gone from strength to strength in that I’m more grown up, more of an adult, I’m married now to my wife Naomi and we have our daughter, Laiken-Avara and my step-son Logan.

I was recently made an associate of the Royal Academy of Music which was a nice honour and I had a film which I played the lead in that was selected by Cambodia for their Oscar film selection.

I was recently a film in Wales called The Lighthouse which is up for five Baftas, and I’ve also been asked to present an award at the Baftas myself so there’s a lot going on at the moment.

With acting, I think the highlight for me is when I get to not be me again, I enjoy becoming different characters it’s a release for me. I like to be able to forget about life and become somebody else.

I’ve had a lot of sad times recently in my life, lost my dad, my gran, my grandad and my mum, but acting takes me away from that.

I also love it because my mum and dad had a passion for it as well, they loved watching me on stage and seeing me perform.

I loved to make them proud. I wasn’t great with the school, I was really naughty and that is probably why I got into acting.

Currently I’m about to start rehearsals for the part of Arwyn Jenkins in a musical called Tiger Bay which is being performed at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

There’s an array of talent in Wales, I’m just one of many people in the industry who are lucky to get these jobs in Wales.

If I can be here and doing the thing I love that’s great, perhaps the worst thing for me when I stated was having to leave Wales to find work.

The stuff that I have done in Wales has been fantastic, I did Crash for the BBC, The Lighthouse, The Lost Viking, and lots of different shows and concerts.

I love being there – it’s the hometown, it’s where the heart is.

Wales is definitely getting more prolific and a lot of people are wanting to shoot down there so I think it’s on the up."