Earlier this year, Connor Lawson joined the cast of The Dumping Ground Series 5 as new regular character Alex, which led to him appearing on Newsround with Gaia Marcus from the homeless charity Centrepoint. Starting his career on stage, Connor played Michael in the West End production of Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre, and upcoming projects for Connor include an episode of Casualty airing next month. Speaking to Connor, we find out about joining The Dumping Ground as Alex, his preparation for playing a homeless character and his technique for learning scripts.
You started your role of Alex in The Dumping Ground earlier this year, what was it like joining a well-established CBBC show?
It was a little nerve-racking going into a show that had a massive following but also my childhood show! But after my first day, I was quick to realise that I was fortunate to be surrounded by a great bunch who were all really, really good with me and made me settle in super quick.
Without giving spoilers, what can viewers expect from the new series?
The new series is really, really brilliant and that’s not even being biased! There are new faces, old faces returning, laughs, tears and more!
Did you know any of the cast before you joined?
I didn’t, no. But I think that was the nice thing about it, going into a completely new environment with new faces. It makes it a totally new world and gives you more to learn from.
Had you seen any Tracy Beaker or The Dumping Ground episodes before being cast as Alex?
Of course! Everyone around my kind of age would be lying if they said they never watched it! It’s a brilliant show that’s a two for one in terms of entertainment but also teaching kids about morals and values which I think makes it a really special show.
What’s a standard day for you on The Dumping Ground set?
There is no standard day and that’s the beauty of the job. Every day is a different day. You can be filming all day 7am till 7pm or you could be in just the morning or just the afternoon. It really just depends on what episodes are being filmed at the time and all that kind of thing.
How long do you typically spend filming a series?
We spend around six months all in including pre-rehearsals etc. So it’s a long shoot so everyone on deck makes sure to keep it positive and alive!
Is The Dumping Ground your first screen experience?
The Dumping Ground is my first regular TV series job but I’ve worked on other things. My first professional job was Billy Elliot, the musical in the West End, when I was eleven. Since then I’ve done things here and there but I thought after Billy Elliot that it was good for me to come back down to reality, doing things such as GCSEs, A-Levels, that kind of thing, to help fit back in and be a little more normal again, ha!
If you came across Alex in real life, what would you say to him?
I think now that I’ve become Alex and understand him it would certainly be different than if I met him as a stranger! Haha!
Did you have to do any research on homelessness to play your character?
I didn’t have to but I did for myself and being able to relate to Alex as much as possible as we have completely different backgrounds. I went and met up with people who had similar experiences to Alex and created a background to fit Alex.
What was it like talking to Gaia Marcus from the homeless charity Centrepoint on Newsround?
Gaia was really lovely and filled me with so much information that I feel that everyone should know. It was a really brilliant experience talking to her and finding out how important her role is.
After speaking to Gaia and playing a homeless character, do you see homelessness differently now?
She changed my mindset on a lot of things. From understanding why some kids are troubled, to how kids end up in their situation. But yeah, I think a lot of people should look into Centrepoint and see the importance of it.
Having appeared in the West End production of Billy Elliot, is musical theatre something you’ve always enjoyed?
I adore musical theatre! I always have and always will. It’s such a magical thing the theatre and I would always plead to people to go to the theatre!
What age did you start acting and how did you get into it?
I started really young doing school productions etc and just continued ever since! I always loved to perform in the living room for my parents and then they took me to stage school and I loved it! It also meant my parents didn’t have to deal with me, haha!
Have you got a technique to learning scripts?
Scripts are such a funny thing to learn because learning scripts for theatre and film is so different. You don’t necessarily have to learn the full script for TV because you do a few scenes a day so you focus on them but theatre is the full thing in one go. But I focus on the key words for each line and channel it through. Then just re-read each scene over and over until it sticks in. But there are so many more ways than my traditional, boring way! Hahaha!
What do you enjoy doing away from acting?
I spend time with family, my girlfriend and my little puppy! I recently started learning the guitar so that’s where you’ll find me hibernating in my room!
Do you have any more roles coming up that you can tell us about?
Well, I’ve recently just finished filming the sixth series of The Dumping Ground and I have an episode of Casualty airing in November, but in terms of going forward, it’ll be nice to catch up with family and friends then it’s back to auditions for me.
Catch new episodes of The Dumping Ground on CBBC on Fridays at 5:30pm.
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