Best-known for her role in Hetty Feather, Polly Allen has played series regular Sheila since the show first aired in 2015 on CBBC, she will be appearing in new production The Nest later this year, and has previously recorded for BBC Radio 4 as Young Becky in A Little Princess. Early in her career, Polly was cast in Billy Elliot at Victoria Palace Theatre for her West End debut and the following year, was part of the Original London Cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as Veruca Salt. Taking time to answer our questions, Polly talks about her stage appearances, recording A Little Princess and being in the cast of Hetty Feather.
Can you tell us about Sheila in Hetty Feather?
The first word that springs to mind is definitely feisty. She has a lot to say (that’s for sure!) and will stop at nothing until she gets what she wants. She has her moments of being selfish and a bit of a drama queen but that’s what makes her so interesting and three dimensional to play.
Had you read any Jacqueline Wilson books before being cast in one of her shows?
I used to read her books all the time growing up both at school and at home. She was definitely an influential part of my childhood.
How much time a year do you spend filming for this role?
It depends on how many episodes are being aired for that particular series but on average normally around ten weeks, so a week an episode.
How is it returning to the set at the start of each series?
It’s so weird because we spend half the year apart from each other but I’m so used to spending time on that particular set with those people that when I return it’s just the same as how it was when I left before.
What do you enjoy doing in between takes?
Normally speaking to all the crew and cast, especially those that are new – everyone has a different and fascinating story to tell, so I find it interesting to hear how we all ended up in the same room at the same time.
What’s it like being part of this show?
It’s honestly a dream. I couldn’t ask to spend time with greater, more talented people – it’s so inspiring and really has helped shape me as an actor.
How was the experience on the BBC Radio 4 production, A Little Princess?
It was something completely different and new for me, which I absolutely loved as I’m always up for exploring every aspect involved. It was amazing to see how it all worked behind the scenes and be surrounded by such incredible, hardworking people.
What was it like filming for The Nest with Jude Law and Anne Reid?
Filming for The Nest was such an amazing and humbling experience. The people I got to work with have taught me so much about the craft of acting itself and only furthered my love for acting more. It’s such an exciting project which I can’t wait for people to see.
Have you seen the finished film and how long were you on set?
I was on set for around a week in total with on and off days. I haven’t seen the finished film yet, but I believe it will be out towards the end of this year, which is super exciting!!
How was it portraying Veruca Salt in the Original West End Cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
It’s kind of crazy that I can say I played such an iconic part in both a book and film everyone has heard of. I remember reading the book when I was younger and to be able to be a part of actually adapting the role and the story to bring it alive for the audience is something that I could only have dreamt I’d be doing at the age of twelve! A dream come true.
Did you get the opportunity to perform at any events while in the show?
Unfortunately, I was very ill when I was meant to be performing for the preview performances (before the show was actually released) so I missed a lot of them but watching and being at the worldwide premiere itself was amazing and getting to go to all the cool press events with Warner Brothers along the way!
How was your West End debut in Billy Elliot?
To be honest, still to this day the only word I can use to describe it is surreal. I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was presented with at the age of only nine, being able to be a part of such an amazing show. It’s really where my love for the world of acting began.
Have you always had an interest in screen and stage and when did you start acting?
Well, I’ve danced from around two years old, so I guess you could say I grew up on stage surrounded by that kind of atmosphere which must have had an impact on my interests from a young age. I started acting when I was around nine when I played my debut role in Billy Elliot but my love for the art of screen only came around when I was twelve.
Would you like to do more stage or radio work?
I would love to return to how it all started – on stage. I’ve always wanted to do a play as it’s my favourite type of acting to watch so I think I’d enjoy being a key part of the lengthy process of actually creating a role and bringing it to life.
Are you able to tell us your career plans for the next few months?
I’ve just finished college, which is a bit crazy, so I’m taking a gap year out of education to hopefully go out to America and generally pursue acting wholeheartedly, but who knows what the next chapter will bring. That’s what makes it so exciting to me!
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