Starring in series five of the CBBC show Young Dracula as Vlad’s half-sister George, Bella Band can now be seen as Jenny Jones, a recurring character in children’s sitcom So Awkward. Most recently, the young actress appeared on our screens in Creeped Out, a series of stand-alone episodes, with her episode Bravery Badge airing in January this year. We catch Bella whilst on a visit to London to talk all things CBBC, behind the scenes of Creeped Out and her future acting career.
How did you get into acting?
When I was in primary school, I played a Polish woman in a Christmas play and everybody thought it was really funny. I don’t think I acted it very well, but I got a good response from the audience so that’s when I first decided I wanted to be an actress when I was older. A few years later, I watched the BBC sitcom Outnumbered on the TV and said to my mum “How do I get to be her”, pointing at the girl playing Karen. I then googled how she and a few other of my favourite characters had got into acting and contacted their agencies, and so by the age of twelve I’d managed to get myself an agent and started going for auditions from there.
Where was your episode of Creeped Out filmed?
It was filmed in two different forests; half in Delamere Forest in Cheshire, and half in another forest near Manchester. It was very different from filming in a studio and was much more active than some of my previous roles.
Were the night scenes actually filmed at night?
Yes, a night shoot would be from about 7pm to 1am, sometimes you wouldn’t be needed for all of that time. The night shoots were great fun but also very cold, hence we got big warm coats to wear between takes which was handy.
Were there any scary moments whilst filming?
Because you’re always surrounded by lots of people, camera crew, makeup, technicians, it’s hard to ever feel truly scared. But filming the campfire scene in the dark did get a little spooky.
What was the blue stuff people had in their ears?
I’m not entirely sure, I think it was baking powder mixed with something else. Originally it started off as red goo, then they thought that was a bit too scary for kids, so it was changed to purple and when we actually shot it, it was blue stuff. When it was put on, it was gooey at first, but then went all crusty and stuck to your ear. It was horrible trying to get it off!
How long were you filming and what was the experience on set like?
The whole shoot of Creeped Out was a couple of months but because they are stand-alone episodes, my episode took close to two weeks to film with the odd day off. On average one day of filming equals about five minutes on screen. I always love being on set, the other three main girls were lovely and so were the crew. I knew a few of the crew from other projects so it was great to see familiar faces.
Did you watch your episode when it was filmed on TV?
Yes I did. I had some of my friends and family round and we all watched it. It’s always interesting to see how a project turns out and things like CGI you never see until it’s broadcast.
Do you have a favourite moment in the episode?
I like the argument scene with Dent because it gave us a chance to develop the relationship between our characters. Janie seems to be very assured and confident on the outside, but here I hope I showed her vulnerability too.
What can you remember from your first day on Young Dracula?
The first day was a read-through and we all sat around a big table. I’d never had such a significant role before and being only twelve it was so scary, but also exciting. Gerran Howell, who plays Vlad, who I’d only ever seen on TV was sat right in front of me, I found it so bizarre. We did some rehearsals and then a few days later we started the three months of filming.
Had you watched the show before being cast as George?
Yes I had. I used to watch it when I was younger and then once I’d got the role I watched tons of episodes because I was so excited. That’s what made it so surreal at first, actually working with people who I’d watched on TV for years.
What was it like filming in Liverpool?
I like Liverpool. I live fairly near so it was very convenient filming close to home. We filmed in an old school in West Derby, which was quite creepy in itself, all the windows were blacked out, so despite being there all summer we barely saw any daylight!
Did you audition for the role, if so, what was the auditioning process?
Young Dracula was one of my first ever auditions, I think it was an open audition. I auditioned in MediaCity with loads of other people, and we had to learn a script and participate in a workshop. I remember after reading the script, the casting director told me I was overacting and that I needed to take it down a bit. I walked out of that audition and thought “oh well that was pretty awful”! Surprisingly, two weeks later I got a recall, then a recall after that in London. There I read some of the script with a boy, also auditioning, who got the role of Asan and we did some improvisations. The next morning I woke up and was told I had got the role.
Can you tell us about the series So Awkward?
So Awkward is a school comedy for CBBC. I’ve been in all four series. My catchphrase in it is “this …. is so in right now”. It’s quite nice to pop in and out because it means my whole summer isn’t taken up with filming and I can do other stuff as well.
What can you tell us about your character Jenny?
Jenny Jones is a bit of an airhead, who follows trends. One episode it will be milkshakes that are “so in right now” and the next episode she’ll be saying it’s zombies or hairstyles that are so in. If there’s another series it would be great if I could develop Jenny’s character a little, we’ll see.
Had you acted with any of the cast members previously?
Not when I started it. In the fourth series there’s a new main role played by my friend Raif. We have both been going to the Television Workshop in Salford for years and it’s great to both be working on the same programme. Raif’s currently in a production of Macbeth at the RSC, so he is doing pretty well in the acting world!
Would you like to do another comedy series?
I would really love to do another comedy as they’re always good fun to film. But I would also like to play some more challenging roles too. Although when I was younger I wished to ‘be on the telly’, recently I’ve become more interested in theatre. I do Theatre Studies A Level, and so studying theatre practitioners has made me admire the work of directors like Max-Stafford Clark and Katie Mitchell, and so in the future I hope to devise and act in plays as well as doing screen work.
How different was it on the set of Young Dracula to So Awkward?
Being a main part in Young Dracula meant that I was there throughout the whole filming process, making it really feel like a community. It was my first big role and I absolutely loved it. There were only two children on set, so we kind of got special treatment. For So Awkward, I’m only there occasionally so it’s a slightly different experience. There are other teenagers on set, so it’s fun working with lots of people my age as well as adults.
What was it like filming the Asda commercial and would you like to do more?
The Asda commercial was my first ever audition and my first ever job. It was a good introduction to the industry and what it’s like to film. The turkey in the advert, which I had to be in awe of as it was put on the table, was covered in marmite to make it have a nice shine. I think we used eighteen turkeys that day and I have a feeling they were uncooked turkeys as well. We didn’t actually eat them, just pretended to. They would have been horrible! We did the same shot over and over again and it was so exciting to see the work that goes into making one thirty second advert. So yes, I would be happy to do more commercials, however I don’t want my future career to be entirely adverts. I’d like to do something that I haven’t done before, perhaps a period drama, that would be great.
Are there any roles coming up that you are able to tell us about?
Hmm let me think about this, there’s So Awkward, series four, which is coming out fairly soon, where of course I’m Jenny Jones, blink and you’ll miss me, but I am there! I’m also taking a play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer with TV Workshop, it’s called Dick Barton: Tango of Terror, it’s a comedy and quite stylised. It will be on in Edinburgh for ten days I think, from the third of August. Recently, I’ve been auditioning for drama schools and have just heard that I have been offered a place on the Actor Musician course at Rose Bruford, which I am thrilled about. Hopefully this will lead to more roles in the future!
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