Introducing the new pupils of Ackley Bridge
- Robyn Cara, who plays Kayla
- Yasmin Al-Khudhairi who plays Fizza
- Ryan Dean who plays Johnny
- Shobhit Piasa who plays Tahir
- Carla Woodcock who plays Marina
What was it like to join Ackley and had you watched it before?
Ryan: I had watched it previously yes, and I really enjoyed it. When I found out about the initial audition it gave me the excuse to get on All 4 and re-watch seasons 1-3, it’s such a great cast and I was so excited to become part of the Ackley Bridge family!
Carla: It was really exciting! I'd seen it before as well and a lot of my family had seen before. It's always nice to get a part in something that you know your family will actually want to watch and not just because you’re in it. When I saw them and told them I had gotten the role they were like “yeah I’ve seen it” – it was exciting.
Shobhit: I actually hadn't seen it and I told them that in the audition when I auditioned for Tahir, so I guess being honest worked out well. But I told them I hadn’t t seen it and then when I found out I got it; I watched the first episode. It was interesting and exciting - as Ryan said it’s got a big fan following already, with the old cast and new cast, it’s sort of a new experience – it was just really exciting.
Yasmin: I also hadn’t seen it. I’d heard of it and I knew people who had watched it. I didn’t tell people until I was actually filming, and they were like “Oh yeah, I’ve watched it!” but that made it a little more terrifying I think now, as everyone has their set characters and I’m just going to appear on their screen!
Robyn: Yeah, I remember it coming out, was it like 2017?! I remember thinking “Oh it’s like the new Waterloo Road – oh my god that’s so cool I want to be in that. I think I’d seen a couple of episodes when I got the audition, I watched a couple more. And then I binged it throughout lockdown when I’d got the part!
Ackley Bridge has a rich heritage and very dedicated fans, who are excited for the new series. For anyone who may be unfamiliar, can you tell us about the new term?
Robyn: In the new term, there's some unexpected new arrivals that come to make Ackley their home. You see a lot of new characters that are connected to the old ones like Shobhit’s and a lot of fun and mishaps and love triangles and everything like that.
Yasmin: I think what’s cool about it is that it's like the same school, same teachers, exactly same environment but the shift is just focused onto new characters who I imagined have always probably been there but just been in the background, now it's going to their lives as well as some of the original characters.
Ryan: Yeah, I think the same. I think it's just a fresh look on a familiar environment, like you get in any school, students progress through school and then at one point have to leave and new students arrive. So, it's nice that we've had three seasons and we've seen the storylines progress and now we're introducing new people and new cultures as well. We feature a Romany Gypsy community in this this new series, so it’s new cultures, new relationships, challenging stereotypes. A fresh look on to what you already know as Ackley Bridge.
Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Carla: I play Marina who is Kayla's older half-sister, we have the same mum, but we have different dads. She's kind of like the ‘queen bee’ at Ackley Bridge or at least I think she likes to think that she's the queen bee and she's really popular and cool. She’s kind of a little bit of a mean girl as well, especially towards her sister - there's a lot of conflict there between them.
Robyn: I play Kayla, who's a student at Ackley. She's very endearing, she's really sweet, she hasn't quite grown into herself yet, which hopefully you see through the series. She's both Pakistani and English and lives predominantly with her mum and my older sister, Marina. Marina really kind of resents Kayla - she just feels like she's so different from her mum and she never lets her forget that!
Yasmin: I play Kayla's best friend Fizza and I'd say you could pick Fizza out straight away at school. She's got loads of jewellery on, piercings, big black makeup on her eyes and everything like that. And I feel like everything she'd get told take off but a few minutes later, she just put it back on. She irritates the teachers, but I feel like she's that's how she expresses herself, she doesn't care what anyone thinks in that way. In terms of expressing herself, Fizza is very vocal about things that she believes in. She’ll be the first person to jump in a conversation that has nothing to do with her, just to say what she thinks is the right thing to do.
Shobhit: I play Tahir who comes from Manchester under pretty mysterious circumstances. Nobody really knows where he comes from and he's got a story that he changes every single time somebody asks. But he's sort of this smooth-talking guy who gets away with a lot. As the show goes on, you find out more and more about him, his past and his background. I can't give too much away, but he's a really interesting character. I remember we had Jordan Hogg as a director and he said, “have you seen Ferris Bueller?” and I said, “no I haven’t seen Ferris Bueller” but he was like “Alright, watch it.” So, then I spent lockdown watching it. I watched it like four times, and I knew exactly what he's talking about Tahir is a ‘Ferris Bueller’ type kid. He’s quite cheeky, gets away with a lot of things and you can't really blame people because nobody really would suspect Tahir to do anything.
Ryan: I play Johnny, who is a Romany Gypsy. I think he's quite rebellious against all kinds of authority as he’s not been treated brilliantly before. Whether it be school or whether it be in daily life, except with his family. He likes to stand on his own two feet and make his own decisions. He's very big on honour, especially within his family. If he says, he's going to do something then he's going to do it.
What kind of student were you at school in real life? i.e. class clown, hardworking, always late, sporty? Is your character in Ackley Bridge similar or opposite in this regard?
Shobhit: I was kind of like Kayla in high school, just a good kid. I didn't really get up to anything. But there were a few times where, I was able to sort of, talk my way out of it much like Tahir, I guess, which is a good segue into the next question.
Carla: I'd like to say, I wasn’t anything like Marina… Marina isn’t very nice. I feel like I was just quite chatty. I’d get in trouble for talking to my friends or sometimes talking back to teachers. In that way maybe I could be a little bit like Marina! But I wasn't really naughty or anything like that. I just was quite loud and chatty which I feel like I still am now!
Robyn: I was quite into my sports at school, I was a sporty girl. I was quite like Kayla in terms of I didn't really get in trouble.
Yasmin: I thought I was funny, but I don't know if I actually was, I think my friends would just be like, “No, you weren’t!” I don't think I was a bad student. I think I would just like to irritate the teachers a little bit. Bring out the bants.
Ryan: Y'all made me like, not want to answer this now! Because y'all have said you were good…. And I'm the only one that's gonna sound quite bad! I didn't like school. I didn't feel like I fit in to be totally honest. I just thought you had to get through school - and that's that. But yeah, I was lucky because I got into a musical in the West End and left school early and adjusted to having tutors in between rehearsals.
What was your favourite memory on set? Did you get to keep anything?
Carla: I actually did. I kept the little ring from episode one, we go to the rave and we got to wear rings.
Yasmin: I’ve been looking for that Carla!
Carla: So yeah, I guess that was a good memory, partying!
Shobhit: That was a really fun episode to film. We had really wicked outfits and there were like these light up rings and everything. I didn't take anything from that episode, but I did take my tie.
Yasmin: I like Fizza’s clothes as well, so I took a jumper with permission and I think just some of the funniest memories are just when you go into fits of laughter.
Ryan: I don't think I kept anything to be totally honest. But I have two favourite memories, I have one with Shobhit, we shot in the streets of Halifax right in the centre of the town, it was late was about half 10pm, nearly maybe quarter to 11pm. It was a beautiful, beautiful scene to shoot. And then another one I did with Robyn; it was really early in the morning, our first scene. And we're on top of the hills. it was just all covered with clouds and the sun was just starting to break through and it was just it was incredible to see such early in the morning as well. Two different memories, such different scenery.
Did you get any tips or advice from former cast members i.e. Amy-Leigh and Poppy, or more experienced actors (Jo, Robert, Sunetra)?
Carla: I guess not nothing specifically but just seeing Sunetra, Jo and Robert act. How they just manage to do such a good job with their lines and are so relaxed and stuff, it really puts you at ease - especially as we were new coming into an established show. We wanted to do a good a job, so seeing them just made us feel so welcome and really put us at ease.
Ryan: Yeah, they were so comfortable in their characters, which in return made us comfortable in our characters. I think Robert said [to me] “just enjoy the whole process. It's a really fun show. It's going to be demanding times, but it's a really fun show as a whole.”
You all play brand new pupils at the school; whose character do you think Is most likely to do the following:
Most likely to…Finish school and become a famous influencer?
Carla: I just feel like she'd be on TikTok, she’d be on The Gram – she’d love it.
Most likely to…Ghost their partner after a break-up?
Yasmin: Everyone is going to say Johnny, but I think Fizza...
Robyn: Yeah, Fizza!
Yasmin: When she likes someone – she likes them.
Carla: Maybe Tahir as well?
Ryan: I don't know. I'd say Tahir, to be honest, because I just think he's got that kind of mentality where he doesn't want to show anybody his emotions. Same with Johnny. But it could be both.
Most likely to… Laugh in very awkward moments?
Ryan: [laughs] Kayla!
Robyn: Without a shadow of a doubt!
Most likely to…always have an excuse for why their homework isn’t complete?
Robyn: Fizza or Tahir…
Yasmin: No, Fizza would have her homework done! I think this happens in the show at some point [laughs].
Most likely to… become a teacher at Ackley Bridge?
Robyn: I’m going to say Johnny - I think he’d become a music teacher.
Ryan: Everyone is doing me dirty I don’t think he would – what would he teach?
Carla: I think he’d work in student support and be really good at encouraging new students…
Without giving away too much, what do you think is next in store for your character?
Carla: I’d quite like to explore the relationship that Marina has with her dad. We don't get to meet him in the fourth series, so I'd like to see what that kind of dynamic is like. And maybe like where Kayla fits into that as well.
Robyn: The same for me as well and exploring Kayla and her dad’s whole relationship a bit deeper would be great.
Shobhit: I think there's a really interesting friendship that starts at the end of the series between Tahir and Johnny, that I just hope they continue, and we see that friendship build and maybe, yeah, you know, to convince Johnny to become a teacher [laughs].
Ryan: Yeah, I’d say the same thing. I'd like to see Johnny and Tahir’s relationship go further. I'd like to see a bromance between them.
Yasmin: I'm not really sure in terms of storyline, but I feel by the end of the season, Fizza’s figured out a lot about herself and she's grown up in a way and is surer of herself. I’d like to see her be a bit more confident. Even though she appears very confident already, this could lead her to maybe loosen up a bit more to people.