📷 : Ori Jones
Since starting acting from a very young age, Amy-Jayne Leigh has had many screen roles including in Hetty Feather, Damned and Unforgotten alongside Nicola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar. Amy-Jayne has also had stage experience having played Honor Carney in the multi-award winning West End show The Ferryman and this year saw the young actress appear at The Old Vic in Fanny & Alexander. Recently, Amy-Jayne told us more about her on-stage appearances, working alongside the cast of Bridget Jones’s Baby and being on the set of major TV shows Unforgotten and Damned.
What age were you for your first acting role?
My first professional role was when I was five years old, and I played a little French girl in a road safety advert. It was funny at the time because I had to speak in French, luckily there were only a few lines. The final advert was quite disturbing as all the characters died in a car crash! But it was a lot of fun making the slow-motion scenes that used lots of cameras in a giant rig.
Was there anything that inspired you to become an actress?
When I was five, I had to play a spaceman in a class production. I really enjoyed the idea of playing at being something so different from myself. My teacher told my mum to take me to a drama group, and she did. I loved playing different people and using different voices. I used to get told off for humming show tunes in class!
Now I have met lots of professional actors and actresses that have inspired me. I see how hard they work, and I want to be part of it.
What’s the storyline behind your character Flo on Unforgotten and can you tell us about your time on set?
Unforgotten was an amazing experience, it was filmed in Brighton over five days or so. I was playing a little girl, who was adopted by two fathers played by Mark Bonnar and Charlie Condou. One of the fathers has a dark secret, and it starts to really badly affect their adoption application. It is quite an adult series, and I didn’t know the full storyline at the time. They obviously have to protect younger actresses. Mark and Charlie were really kind and friendly, and that helped when we had some family and emotional scenes.
You played the role of Honor in The Ferryman, can you tell us about the character?
There are a lot of characters in the play, and at times we were all on stage together in big loud family scenes. I played Honor Carney, the youngest daughter in a big Irish family. I had to perfect my Northern Irish accent, which was a real challenge as you can really hear it when it isn’t right.
When did you play this role and who did you act alongside?
I was lucky enough to act alongside Paddy Considine, Laura Donnelly, Tom Glynn-Carney and Genevieve O’Reilly, in fact, all the cast were amazing. It was a very special story. I was really pleased when The Ferryman won lots of Olivier awards as they all worked really hard night after night.
Was this your first professional stage appearance?
My first professional stage experience was in The Ferryman at the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. I was in over seventy performances, and it was really hard work, but it was worth it.
What was it like playing Jo Brand’s daughter in the comedy series Damned?
Jo was really funny. I really enjoyed the role, as we had to play a bit of a hectic family, that lost stuff and moaned at each other. That was fun! All three of us kids got on well, so I was pleased when there was a second series.
Were you a fan of Jacqueline Wilson before being cast as Annabelle in the Dangerous Game episode of Hetty Feather?
I LOVE Jacqueline Wilson, so I was so happy when I got this part. It was great to do something on television that my friends were able to watch! I was so excited when I heard I had got the part. I’d watched the series on TV before, so meeting the actors was a great experience. I was pleased that the girls were really friendly, and included me in their games between takes.
What was the experience like acting on crime drama Silent Witness?
That programme was filmed in the woods, and I had to hide, which was really exciting, and a little bit scary! The actors and the crew were so good at making me feel OK about the drama of the scene. I really enjoy playing characters that are scared, frightened or sad. I think that the whole thing worked really well.
How was it performing at The Old Vic in Fanny & Alexander?
The Old Vic is an amazing place to work. I love how supportive everyone was. I worked with Kit Connor, who played Alexander. He was excellent. Over time, I felt that we really came across on stage as real brother and sister. In one scene, Fanny had to watch Alexander being beaten. No matter how many times I did the scene, I always sobbed. I knew it wasn’t real, but all the actors involved in the scene made it feel so dramatic. I was involved in some of the early read-throughs and development workshops before I was cast in the role. I knew I wanted to be in the play from the very beginning. I really liked the character and the theatre has a lovely café!!
Did you attend the premiere for Bridget Jones’s Baby and what was it like seeing yourself in the finished movie?
I went to the cast and crew showing of the film. I went with my family, and we all got popcorn and sat in the cinema in the middle of London. It was so strange seeing myself up there on a massive screen! I loved it, mainly because I had to say a naughty word! I had no idea how much hard work went into making a film before this, so I was really pleased that everybody seemed to enjoy it.
What was it like acting alongside the rest of the cast?
Sally Phillips was really friendly and gave me a Kinder Egg! Renée Zellweger was so funny. We made up a handshake and played clapping games, she was so kind to me. The crew worked really hard. We had to be up super early, and there were some long days. Nobody got grumpy though. In one scene, I had to be really crazy and do lots of weird things. I started brushing Renée’s hair with a toy train. It flew out of my hand and landed on Colin’s head! He was really good about it, but I bet it was a bit sore! We all learned the Gangnam Style dance moves for the disco scene – I taught my friends from school the dance moves afterwards.
Do you have any upcoming roles that you’re able to talk about?
I have just finished filming something for TV, but it is top secret. I only finished filming two weeks ago, and I am already itching to do something else! I love being busy, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.