Singer was inspired to Britain's Got Talent glory by childhood hero Wolverine

With his retractable claws and ferocious fighting skills, Wolverine was the childhood hero of Britain’s Got Talent finalist Travis George.

He says the character, played by Hugh Jackman in the X-Men movies, was the “ultimate outsider-turned-superhero”.

Travis, who was diagnosed with autism as a boy, says: “I could look up to Wolverine, like every boy who felt he had nowhere to go in the world could.”

So when he saw that Jackman was starring in a film called Les Miserables, he was “desperate” to watch it – and it was then that the 13-year-old Travis discovered his hero could sing.

He says: “Watching Hugh play Jean Valjean, I just fell in love with musical theatre and how songs can convey emotions so powerfully.

singer was inspired to britain's got talent glory by childhood hero wolverine

Ant and Dec announce Travis has beaten Harry Churchill

“I thought Les Mis was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen… even better than Wolverine.”

Travis, 22, paid tribute to his hero by singing Stars and Bring Him Home – both numbers from Les Mis – in his successful BGT auditions and semi-final appearances.

He says: “Being on stage gives me a freedom and self-acceptance I’ve never felt before. I spent too much time in my life trying to change myself to try to fit in and it’s exhausting.”

Travis spent years of his childhood “despising” his autism. He says: “If you ask me what my dream is, I would say to perform in the West End but growing up, my only dream was to have friends. My school years were very tough.

“I was an easy target for bullies, partly because I was big. The other children didn’t ‘get’ me. They didn’t know I was autistic or what autism was.

singer was inspired to britain's got talent glory by childhood hero wolverine

Wolverine star Hugh Jackman

“I spent the majority of my playtime and lunchtime by myself. It was really difficult feeling so isolated all the time.

“Experiences with autism vary greatly but for me, it affects my emotions to an extreme degree. I feel things very deeply. If I feel happy, I am elated. If I feel sad, I’m going to jump out a window.”

Travis recalls one dark moment during his school years.

He says: “It was so bad… one of the worst days of my entire life. I walked out of the gates and had a proper meltdown.

“The teachers phoned my mother and said, ‘We can’t do anything to help him, and he’s gone’. My mum was looking for me for a long time, and she eventually found me. It was very scary but I was overwhelmed, trying to run away from the autism but not knowing where to run to, as I couldn’t run from it – it was in me.

singer was inspired to britain's got talent glory by childhood hero wolverine

Jackman in Les Mis

“I felt trapped and confused. I was hurting so much but I couldn’t see an escape. I was 11.”

Travis came through those frightening times with the unfailing support of his mum Debbie, who he still lives with.

Travis, who has two older brothers, says: “All my family have been very supportive, but Mum has been the one constant throughout my life.

“She has always been by my side and it makes me the luckiest human being on Earth. My mum knows me and gets me more than anybody.”

As a speech and language assistant with experience in dealing with autistic children, Debbie picked up that her son may be on the autistic spectrum early.

But it was only when a teacher also expressed concerns that she sought an official diagnosis.

Debbie, 64, says that as Travis got older, his autism became more challenging, but music seemed to help.

She says: “I found Travis would be calmer when music was playing so he had a tendency to go off in his room and listen to music.

“It is quite common with autism that people need to be on their own and need their own space.

“We were aware that he was singing, but he would not come out and let us hear him.”

singer was inspired to britain's got talent glory by childhood hero wolverine

Travis, third left, on The A Word

Travis, from Cwmbran, South Wales, first started singing publicly when he joined his grandfather Tony’s male voice choir, aged 14. Then a visit to the Millennium Centre in Cardiff on his 15th birthday to watch his first live musical, Sweeney Todd, reignited the spark he had felt watching Hugh Jackman belt out Bring Him Home in Les Mis.

Travis says: “Watching a musical live was the most magical thing.

“To see this amazing group of performers coming together to create something so special, I thought, ‘I want to be part of this… this is where I can finally feel like I belong’.”

Shortly afterwards, Travis joined a local amateur dramatics group and played the Pantomime Dame in Dick Whittington. He laughs: “We couldn’t find high heels to fit my size 15 feet, but I loved every second of it.”

When he left school with no GCSEs, Travis was jobless and despondent, resigned to a life of failure. Then Debbie saw an advert looking for autistic actors to audition for a television drama called The A Word about Joe, an autistic boy.

Travis says: “I’m so lucky my mum had the confidence for me and believed I could get it enough to drive me all the way to London to audition.”

Travis got the role of autistic teenager Mark Berwick in the show, directed by former EastEnders actress Susan Tully, which led to bit parts in BBC dramas Casualty and Doctors. His mum also urged him to audition for BGT – and he has sailed through to the final on the public vote.

Judge Bruno Tonioli told Travis he could walk into a West End show tomorrow, which made him feel “extremely lucky and grateful”.

Travis says: “On the semi-final, I went through a range of extreme emotions in a short space of time.

“Every single emotion is heightened – that’s what viewers saw.

“Some people get it and some don’t, but I honestly feel like me, like I’m not going to hide. I used to despise my autism, but now I don’t.

“Musical theatre is all about conveying big emotions. I don’t feel like a freak on stage, I feel like I belong.”

* The Britain’s Got Talent final, tomorrow, ITV and ITVX, 7.30pm.

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