Interview with Poppy Lee Friar who plays Missy Booth in Ackley Bridge
Tell us about Ackley Bridge?
Ackley Bridge is a fictional town in Yorkshire and the show is named after it. It centres on a new, merged school. It features very strong, believable characters, it's very daring and emotive and it offers an original take on multicultural town in 2017. It's also shot in a way that really draws the audience in and looks really authentic and real, which I think helps with the truth of the story telling as well.
You play Missy, can you tell us about her?
So, Missy is very much a survivor, she's missed a year of school, so she's now in the year below with her little sister, Hayley, which is due to the fact she's had to deal with a lot to do with her Mum. She's very much the glue in her family despite her Mum, Simone, who has a lot of issues. She wants the best for her sister and her Nana but she's also got a rebellious side, she can be quite tough and opinionated which can get her into trouble as her emotions can often present themselves in funny ways and bubble over. She can rub people up the wrong way as her mouth can run away from her. However she's very popular at school, especially with the boys who love her as she's quite saucy and sassy, but they know they could only dream that she would be interested in them. She's very street wise and she's constantly self-sacrificing because she's had to be Mum, Dad and carer all at the same time. She’s had so much responsibility, but she does it out of love as she's very loyal to her friends and family and her best friend Nas. They've grown up together and their families are entwined, there's zero prejudice of culture and colour between them.
How does attending Ackley Bridge College affect Nas and Missy's relationship?
Missy and Nas have been friends for years and years but when they start the new school Nas' friends don't appear to like Missy or their friendship and are quite quick to judge. Missy thinks Nas is choosing them over her so that initially causes tension. However it's when they insult Simone, Missy's Mum, as Nas pretends she doesn't know her when she arrives at the school, that Missy's protective streak kicks in and their friendship hits rocky territory. They do come out the other side, it's quite interesting as it teaches Nas that she needs to speak for herself, it's quite thought provoking.
Their relationship is very much at the heart of the show, did you feel a responsibility taking that on as part of such a huge production?
We were quite lucky as mine and Amy's chemistry is great, we were lucky enough to meet once before professionally, so it was really easy to translate our friendship from real life on to camera. I don't think i felt a huge amount of responsibility in terms of carrying anything, it was more a responsibility for the younger viewers and cast to be able to look up to us. In terms of production it's really all about who you're working with and the whole cast and crew are so supportive of each other and lovely and kind and funny, which I think is what really helped. We wanted it to be believable and I think that atmosphere and the people on set helped all that.
Were you anything like Missy when you were younger?
In some ways I guess, I'm very family orientated like she is and she has a big heart and she's kind and caring and loyal, which I think I am too. I mean I don't dress like Missy at all, or wear nearly as much make-up and I don't even sound like her as I put on a Northern accent for the part! But that's what I love about this job, I love playing characters and putting on different accents, and the fact I'm playing someone so different from me that's the beauty of it really.
As you've said there's an amazing cast and you've got some quite dramatic emotional scenes with Jo Joyner and Sunetra Sarker and Liz White, did you learn from them?
They are great! And they're full of the most brilliant, hysterical stories from over their careers which obviously I can't repeat! They are fabulous, strong, talented women and we all aspire to be like them. Their acting is obviously brilliant, they are really truthful performers, it makes it really easy to bounce off them. It's always really interesting to see them work, you do pick up little things and you see their passion for projects. They question the characters motives which empowers the younger cast like me to not enter it blindly, to really think about the scenes and be creative, you're not just saying lines.
Many of the other student characters were street cast locally within Halifax, what was it like working with them?
They were lovely, it was a really interesting and great dynamic as we obviously had the old hats and then the newbies, the kids that hadn't done anything like this before, and it brings new stuff to the table. You learn from each other, it just makes it really fresh and exciting. The new kids learnt the ins and out of working on set from us, like marks and set etiquette, but in turn we watched their raw, untapped talent and they made it all feel really truthful.
You all lived near each other while filming, what was that like?
Yeah, we were all in the same apartment block so it was great! Obviously we were all so busy a lot of the time but we'd all grab dinner when we could and it was lovely to unwind together. We'd have a chat and a laugh, they're all so hysterical and brilliant, it was really nice knowing someone was next door or downstairs. It was the girls in particular, we would hang out.
There was a Snapchat unit on set, which is rather different, was that an odd experience?
It was very unique actually, I've not done anything like that before, it's a really great tool to engage the younger viewers, when they watch the show they've got a snapchat parallel to the series so they can feel very involved from a personal level so they can really feel part of a characters life and for me, it made it feel very true to life, like our characters were real people. I really enjoyed it, we were working with David Schneider on them, who I'm a massive fan of as Ilove Alan Partridge so it was amazing to meet and work with him.
Which scene was the most fun to film?
I LOVED the day when we went ice-skating, I had some really nice scenes with Sunetra that day which was really fun, but my very favourite scene was the very first opening scene that you see in the trailer- Missy and Nas on the sofa on the skip. It was just so hilarious, it was absolutely freezing and we were hiding hot water bottles wherever we could under our costumes. Missy's wardrobe is so flimsy so I really got the raw end of the deal!