After appearing in Horrid Henry the Movie as Weeping William back in 2011, Billy Kennedy went on to play lead role, Dennis in The Boy in the Dress. The sixteen-year-old actor has already started his career on stage, screen and radio and has recently appeared in Sky1’s The Five. At the moment, Billy is spending his time recording for radio and can currently be heard on BBC4’s Home Front. We spoke to him about auditioning, being nominated for an award and his lead role in The Boy in The Dress.
Have you always enjoyed drama?
Yeah, from a young age. I’ve always liked role play, acting in my room and playing with mates. When I was about five or six, I joined a drama club and since then I’ve always loved it.
What was it like playing Dennis in The Boy in the Dress?
It was tough because I was on set every day for five weeks but it was really fun. It was really rewarding because I met a lot of nice and interesting people.
What was the auditioning process like?
I had three auditions. I had a first audition where I had to go in and, because the character Dennis has to be good at football, I had to go and do some keepie uppies and read a few lines. I got recalled and then the same sort of thing. On the third audition, I met the director and producers and a week or so after, I was told I got the part.
How long did it take to prepare for the role?
We had a week of rehearsals, and then I did some one-to-one rehearsals for the character because it was quite a big character. It took about two or three weeks maybe to get ready for it.
How different was it filming Horrid Henry to The Boy in the Dress?
It was really different because obviously for Horrid Henry my character wasn’t as big but then at the same time, because it was a film, it felt the production itself was on a larger scale. The Boy in the Dress was a one hour BBC TV show, I think The Boy in the Dress felt more of a personal experience and I felt I got to know the people better on it. At the same time, Horrid Henry was my first ever job so it was quite overwhelming in a way, but it was also really enjoyable.
Had you read the Horrid Henry books beforehand?
Yeah, I was a big fan of the Horrid Henry books.
Both movies had comedians in the cast, what was it like filming with them?
It was really enjoyable. It was really fun filming with David Walliams, he was really nice and was really kind to me on set. Both of them actually, not just because of the comedians but with everyone I was on set with, it felt like everyone was just having a good time. That’s something I’ve noticed on film sets, that everyone a lot of the time feels like they are enjoying themselves.
Were there a lot of practical jokes on set?
Yeah. Obviously, with Horrid Henry, there were practical jokes within the film itself. When they’re played out, for example when the teacher, Miss Battle-Axe, gets liquid poured all over her head and stuff, when it’s actually being filmed it’s fun in itself.
How did you find playing Young Slade in The Five?
That was really fun. That was such a huge production because it was a ten-part series for Sky One. It was exciting but it was quite full-on. We got straight on to set, filmed straight away. It was full-on but, at the same time, I was working with a few other child actors who were really fun to work with so I enjoyed it.
What was it like being nominated for Best Supporting Actor last year for your role in Home Front?
It was really nice to hear about it, to be honest. I felt really humbled by it. Just being there when we went for the night. It was really nice to meet a lot of famous actors. Just being there, just being around these actors and feeling in the moment it was really special. I felt honoured to be there.
What would you say is easier – stage, screen or radio?
Radio’s definitely easiest because there are no costume changes and there are no visual effects, so there’s a lot less monitoring on set in terms of having everything laid out the exact same, so it’s a lot quicker. Stage is definitely the hardest because the pressure’s on the stage, you can’t mess up when you’re on stage. With screen or radio, you can get it wrong, you can just do another take.
Have you been on the red carpet for any film premieres?
I was on the red carpet for Horrid Henry, and I think I was on the red carpet for The Boy in the Dress but definitely Horrid Henry.
Having been acting from a young age, do you think it will help with future auditions?
In a sense, yeah, but I’ve always thought with acting, a lot of it, especially with screen, film and TV it comes down to what you look like, it comes down to if you work with the other characters. It’s not always about how long you’ve been in acting or how good you are for the role, it’s a lot to do with who you’re working with and if, for example, you’re having to play someone who’s the son of another actor and they’ve already cast that actor you have to look like that actor, so I don’t think it gives that much of an advantage, to be honest.
What age range can you audition for?
I’m sixteen now. I look a little bit younger than sixteen, so normally about fourteen, fifteen, obviously sixteen then I’ve been for a few roles for seventeen.
Have you seen any films or stage shows that you’ve enjoyed recently?
Recently I saw Dunkirk at the cinema which I thought was amazing especially because I saw it in 3D and I thought that it was really good. I saw Baby Driver a couple of weeks ago and I thought that was really enjoyable. I went to the theatre the other night with my girlfriend to see Hamlet, I’ve forgotten the name of the main actor, but that was really good, Hamlet in the West End was really, really enjoyable.
What has been the best venue that you have acted in?
Probably The National Theatre, when I was doing Emil & The Detectives, working there for six or seven months was pretty amazing, or the Globe Theatre, both of those were pretty amazing theatres to work in.
Besides auditioning and filming, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy playing football and meeting up with my friends. I know it sounds a bit weird but I actually do enjoy school. I’m going to college next year and I think I’m going to enjoy that. I’ve got a girlfriend so I meet up with her a lot, just the general stuff for teenage boys I guess.
Can you see yourself continue to act in the future?
Yeah, definitely. I am also really interested in behind the scenes and behind the camera. I’ve written a few scripts myself. When I was younger I directed a few amateur films for friends and stuff. I really enjoy that side of it as well. I think moving forward I want to develop my skills on that side as well but obviously carry on with the acting because that’s something I love doing.
Are there any productions you are in that are coming out soon?
Home Front is a continuous series so there’s a series I’ve recorded a couple of months ago which I think has just come out. I’m going to be doing another series in a couple of months because that’s running until 2018, but nothing else at the moment.