For Mollie Lambert’s first regular screen role, she starred as Addie in CBBC web series Dixi across Series 3 and 4, and in 2018, she joined the cast of Hollyoaks for her series regular role of Harley Frater, with one of her storylines of dating both Tom Cunningham and Peri Lomax leading to her departure in March last year. Most recently, Mollie appeared as Michael Darling in Peter Pan at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and toured the UK with Khaled Hosseini stage adaptation A Thousand Splendid Suns. Sitting down with Mollie last month, we chat about her role of Michael Darling, training with Fourth Monkey and her time in Hollyoaks as Harley Frater.
You recently played Michael Darling in Peter Pan at Birmingham, what was this show like to perform in?
It was my second time performing on the Reps main stage so that was really good. It was a big company – nineteen cast members and all of the stage management and crew – but everyone banded together and ended up being really supportive, which is what you need when it’s such a long contract.
Michael obviously has to fly, so I was a bit nervous about that! I like a challenge though. I’m not scared of heights at all but it’s a very different story when you are in the air! It was a really fun production to be a part of and, because it was the Reps Christmas show, we had a lot of families and young children coming in, and it was really rewarding to hear their responses. We could hear them chanting for Peter in certain fights and we’d hear a couple of hisses and a few boos, which makes it really comical from an acting point of view! It’s also rewarding knowing you are having an effect on the people that are watching it.
Was there anything that drew you to this role?
The flying and also the fact that it was the Reps main stage. I’m always quite reluctant to turn down work as an actor, so when I heard that the contract was going to be from the end of October to the end of January, I knew that guaranteed work for a period of time was great, but I was a little reluctant to be away from home. I knew that opportunities like that don’t come up a lot though so I took it from a practical point of view of having a job. I’d also never been in Peter Pan before and I’ve only ever seen the Disney film so it was really interesting.
Their take on Peter Pan was re-imagined, so it was more of a focus on the lost ones and where they came from, and where Wendy and her siblings came from. They put a tilt on it that they could all be children in care, but also that the lost ones represented part of Wendy’s imagination and she’d met them throughout her years in care. I really enjoyed that take on it. It was really interesting opposed to your standard pantomime, and it was nice having a bit more grit to what we were doing.
Can you tell us about touring with A Thousand Splendid Suns and your characters?
I had a few speaking roles, and then a couple of ensemble roles. I like ensemble roles because you get to interact with the story more. We were representing the people in Afghanistan at a certain time, so it was interesting to learn about the history of Afghanistan, and I always think it’s a bonus as an actor when you’re able to find out about something you’d not really heard of before.
Again, my character was a little boy who was about five or six years old, which was quite a challenge playing someone about twenty years younger than I actually am! He never stopped moving, he had so much energy and it was very different to all the other characters of the play who were all dealing with the trauma. The little boy is impacted by everything but doesn’t realise he is.
I’d done small tours before but nothing like this so touring the whole country bit by bit was really fun. I was away from home for quite a long time but all the theatres that we went to were lovely, and the team of people that we worked with were great as well.
Did you know anything about the production or Khaled Hosseini’s work before being cast?
I remember when I was on holiday when I was younger, my mum was reading this book on her sunbed next to me and was sobbing. I asked what had happened and she said that the book was so moving so I said I wasn’t going to read it! I didn’t make the connection in my head when I got the audition through, but I told my mum about it and she said that that was the book she was reading before.
When I got the part, I decided to read the whole book and I couldn’t put it down! I’m not really a book reader, I tend to read graphic novels because my mind works better with pictures, or I read scripts, but I honestly couldn’t put the book down as it was such a beautiful story. It is a traumatic story and it’s really harrowing to read, but being able to to visualise everything on the page was almost like reading a graphic novel. Khaled Hosseini is really descriptive with his language, he’s fantastic, and it was really nice to be part of something like that. It was exciting reading it and knowing I was going to be in different scenes.
For your first regular screen role you played Addie in Dixi, do you remember how you felt when booking the role and filming your first scenes?
I was at a book launch for a graphic novel and I got a call from my agent. I went outside to take the call and she said I’d got the part in Dixi! I had quite low energy at the launch and was really tired, but after hearing I’d got the job, my energy picked up massively! I couldn’t stop thinking about it!
I knew that some of the cast already knew each other from the first two series. I’d watched them, even though it’s a kids show, and it’s really entertaining. They are so easy to tune in to, and the episodes are only four minutes long. It’s really interesting as they talk directly to the camera because it’s supposed to be filmed off their phones as if they were vlogging. I didn’t know how I was going to do that and make it look natural. Having some of the cast from Series 1 and 2 there to guide us was nice and the team were all really great. It ended up being really smooth.
I really thrive on having a routine, so getting a list of call sheets through was a dream come true for someone who likes to know what they are doing every minute of every day! It was really nice going home in the evening and knowing what we were doing the next day.
How was it being part of the cast?
It was really fun! Everyone was really welcoming and, again, it was quite a big cast. It was really bizarre filming a kids show and having that much energy all the time and having to say things at a heightened level. I would read the comments on the webpage that kids would say after each episode was released and, again, it was so rewarding. I noticed that the children would assign characters to each other and I think they must have talked on a group messaging site as each character. It was cool seeing some of them say they wanted to be Addie!
You’ve also had a regular role in Hollyoaks as Harley Frater, what was this character like to play and how was your time in the show?
I really enjoyed playing Harley. She was really moody but I think she had a lot of reasons to be moody! It was quite difficult because I’d not really done soap acting before, only a small part in Doctors. One of the directors I worked with on the first few weeks gave me a piece of advice that I still talk about now. He said that if everyone is working at a heightened performance and you’re the one that’s playing it like you’re just talking to someone as you would in everyday life, you’ll be the one that stands out in something like this. I have great admiration for people who work on soaps because they film day in, day out, and churn out so many episodes.
It was a really fun show to be part of and it was nice to have a guaranteed period of work for such a long time. Originally, my contract was only six months, but they extended me for a year which was really nice. Harley’s homeless storyline was my favourite thing to work on because it was such a good way to go into a show. I could do my research beforehand and have this character in mind. I learnt so much about the issue and I now feel really affected by it, and I don’t think I would have as much if I hadn’t taken on the role. To be able to focus on the actual story of the character is really beneficial as an actor.
What do you miss most about playing Harley?
I think it’s the guaranteed work and having a nice routine to follow. I definitely miss the cast, it’s honestly like a really big family and everyone bonds together. The dressing rooms look a bit like Big Brother! I miss Ruby (O’Donnell), who plays Peri, as she was great fun to work with. I miss our chats and I miss playing opposite her. I weirdly miss my dreadlock wig which I never thought I’d say! It was so heavy and quite itchy but I actually really miss that image of the character.
How different do you find the experience of a screen role to a stage role?
I think they are totally different in a respect because with a screen role, it’s a lot more individual and it’s more about your approach to it as you don’t get rehearsals. With Hollyoaks, we got a short amount of time to read through the lines prior to going in and filming, just to make sure the script was okay with everybody. With rehearsals for stage, it’s much more of a collaborative effort. I couldn’t say if I preferred one or the other as they are both so different and I also wouldn’t want to turn a job down in this stage of my career. When I do screen acting, I’ll say how much I miss the rehearsal process in theatre and acting in front of people and having the instant reaction, and then when I do theatre, I’ll say that I really miss having the schedule and all the things that go with screen acting! They are both very different but I find them both a lot of fun.
Was there anything that helped you decide on an acting career?
I think about this a lot actually and I can’t really think of many of things I would be doing if I wasn’t an actor. I have a lot of interests like architecture, and when I was younger, I wanted to be a paleontologist, but I’m sure it was just because I knew what that was because of Friends! I think there are things that I would enjoy, but I think acting is the only thing that I’ll always put everything into. People interest me a lot. Being an actor, when work isn’t available acting-wise, you have to get other jobs. I’ve worked in call centres, I’ve worked for Royal Mail, I’ve done waitressing… but the thing I always take home is the people at the jobs, whether that’s the customers or the people I’m working with.
I started acting when I was eight years old. My dad ran an amateur dramatics company called Saturday Knickers. I still don’t fully understand the reason behind it but it is memorable, I guess! He got me involved when I was about eight and directed me a lot. He likes directing and writing, so that’s something that I got from him. I was unsure what I wanted to do all through school and college, and then towards the end of my college years, someone else auditioned for NYT, and I thought I’d give it a go. I auditioned and I didn’t get in. I saw a lot of articles about drama schools and I thought maybe that’s what I wanted to do. I’m not really an academic person, and I’m terrible at coursework, so I thought drama school was an option.
I auditioned for a few drama schools but I didn’t get in to any. I received a blanket email from Fourth Monkey so I applied and went for an audition and had a really good feeling after it. The recall was a day before my birthday, and at about 3am on my birthday, I received an email from Fourth Monkey saying I’d got in. I think it was only when I started there that I realised this is what I wanted to do and that I really enjoy performing.
Can you tell us more about your training?
I trained on Fourth Monkey’s two-year Rep programme, which meant we had six seasons of shows in two years. Fourth Monkey recently got their drama school status, so in two years, you can do a BA Hons with them, when I did it, there weren’t any qualifications attached, it was very much an experience perspective. The most invaluable thing I learnt there was that every director you work with is going to work in a different style, and you as an actor have to adapt yourself to them. Fourth Monkey are very much focused around devising and creating your own work, and quite a lot of theatre companies are set up off the back of Fourth Monkey. It became a bit like a family, working with the same twenty-something people for two years. All the season shows we did felt very epic to someone that had never had an interest in theatre before.
Before I’d done the audition with them, I looked them up on YouTube and there was a video of the artistic director, Steve, talking about what the company is, and he said that they were a group of left steppers. I remember that really stuck with me because I didn’t really see myself as an academic person. After school and college, and the stress of exams, I didn’t want to ever sit in an exam room again and be graded for something. The idea of being able to do what I loved and getting experience physically on the job was very appealing, and I would recommend it to everyone.
Having appeared in commercials for Three Mobile and FIFA Worldwide, what did you enjoy most about these?
The FIFA director was Yann Demange, who is the Top Boy Director, and he’s done various other things I’ve watched in the past, not realising it was him. I went to the audition and met him there and thought he was really cool so Googled him afterwards and was starstruck! I was giddy when I found out I got the part and knew I was going to work with him! It was only one day of filming for a few hours, but he was really cool to work with. I really liked his ideas and really liked his style of working. He’s got a real vision which I like. FIFA was great for that reason.
I got to go to Kiev for Three, which was great. It was the second time last year that I went abroad for work. I went to Sofia for an Urban Myths programme and got to work with Sarah Solemani, who I was in awe of and I couldn’t believe it was happening. For Three, I told everyone that they weren’t going to recognise me because my costume has been likened to a Furby! It was a lot of fun putting it on. All the stuff we were doing was very epic. We were running through a deserted field and a building site, and then we had explosions going off. It was pretty cool!
How do you prepare for auditions?
I learn all the lines for sure. Whenever they say we don’t have to learn the lines, I always do. I’m not someone who can read off a sheet of paper and have the same effect. Often, listening to music on the way there helps me to get into character. I might listen before I go, but often on the journey, I like to listen to certain music that I think will influence the role or time. I’ve done a lot of things that are set in the 90s which hasn’t been difficult as I’ll just listen to Spice Girls or Oasis or Blur!
I think about auditions as a job in a way, it’s almost a shame that we don’t get paid for auditions because of the amount of heart and soul we put into them, and the amount of effort we put into the planning and preparing stages. When I get out of that room, I just have to forget about it. If I get the job, then that’s a bonus. I just have to leave knowing I’ve done the best I could and I mustn’t think about it anymore otherwise I’ll torture myself thinking about if I did things right.
What are your upcoming plans?
I’m back on the audition circuit as I’ve just come back from Peter Pan, and I’ve had a few offers of readthroughs of plays, which I always really enjoy. Even if nothing comes of it or I don’t get the part in the end, it’s still nice getting to be part of the process. I enjoy writing a lot of my own stuff. My brain is so scattered that I have about seven different projects open on my laptop that I’m writing at the moment. My goals for this year is to get a few of them up into production stages, or pre-production stages, and to finish writing a few things so I don’t have so many tabs on my laptop! I’m also hoping to perform some spoken word this year. I write a lot of spoken word poetry so I’m hoping to do something with that.
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