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 Sky One’s The Five. At the moment, Billy is spending his time recording for radio and can currently be heard on BBC Radio 4’s Home Front. We spoke to him about auditioning, being nominated for an award and his lead role in The Boy in The Dress.
How did you find the experience playing Young Slade in Harlan Coben’s TV series The Five last year?
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 and 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.
You played the lead role of Dennis in the screen adaptation of David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress, what was it like playing the character?
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 as Weeping William in Horrid Henry: The Movie to Dennis in 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 before being cast in the film as Weeping William?
Yeah, I was a big fan of the Horrid Henry books!
Were there a lot of practical jokes on set?
Yeah. Obviously, with Horrid Henry, there were practical jokes within the film itself. 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.
Both Horrid Henry: The Movie and The Boy in the Dress 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.
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.
What was it like being nominated for Best Supporting Actor last year for your role of Adam in BBC Radio drama 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.
Having previously performed on stage, what would you say 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.
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 as you can just do another take.
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, especially with screen, film and TV, it comes down to what you look like and 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.
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.
Are there any films or theatre shows 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.
Away from acting, 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.
Do you hope to continue acting in the future and what age range can you audition for?
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.
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.
Are there any projects you have coming up that you can tell us about?
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.