Currently, Billy Price is playing the series regular role of Sid Sumner in Hollyoaks on Channel 4, and had a major storyline last year which included saving Ste Hay from his father Stuart Sumner, and is now part of the County Line story with the arrival of his drug dealing cousin. In 2019, Billy was part of silent comedy series SHHH! for Comedy Central/Nickelodeon, and has previously performed in theatre with the UK Tours of Goodnight Mister Tom and To Kill A Mockingbird. We caught up with Billy about filming Hollyoaks as Sid Sumner, working on challenging storylines and being part of comedy series SHHH!.
You’re currently playing Sid Sumner in Hollyoaks, how would you describe your character?
Sidney Sumner… what can I say. Who once was groomed by his far right father now manipulated by his drug dealer of a cousin has not had it easy in life by any means. Sid is easily manipulated however very relatable amongst the teenage demographic, he just wants to fit in. The story follows him closely after he is grieving over the loss of his father, from going homeless to having his first love, or maybe discovering his passion (the guitar) to getting adopted. We have all been in Sid’s shoes at some point which makes him easily liked. However, the arrival of his cousin Jordan sparks all sorts of trouble which tests his loyalties yet again between friends and family, bringing us to the current day where the County Line’s story is in full swing. (Every night on Channel 4 at 6:30pm or catch up on E4 at 7pm)
How was it reprising your role as a more featured character?
To be able to reprise my role as Sid Sumner on Hollyoaks was a real honour, the village sees characters come and go throughout the year so to have the opportunity to delve into his backstory is a real treat for an actor, not only can you start to expand your emotional range but you get the chance to take him on this roller coaster of a journey over a long period of time.
What is Sid like to play and how challenging have you found the storylines?
Fortunately, I have had the chance to be a part of two storylines that tackle some of today’s biggest issues. The Radicalisation and County Line stories are two that have really captured these problems and made them accessible to watch on a nightly basis before the watershed, allowing younger audience members to be educated around these topics. Therefore, getting them right is crucial! Both have been relevant for decades and destroyed lives, so there was lots of research and close work with charities.
What was the response like to you helping rescue Ste from your dad?
The response was just what I wanted, Sid set himself as a very unlikeable character at the start. He was controlled by his father’s opinions and the last thing he wanted to do was let him down. To turn this on its head and save the day was just what he needed to get some sort of forgiveness from the audience, once I had this response, it was just time to build on it and get into their good books!
Have you had a favourite scene to film?
As cliché as it sounds, every day shooting is just as fun as the next. To be able to step onto set daily and figure out the whos, the whats, the wheres, the whys and the whens is something that possesses its own special feeling. And filming four or five scenes a day, you can imagine we have some fun. Although if I had to pick one… it would have to be the clifftop scene to end the Far Right storyline.
What do you remember from your first day on the Hollyoaks set?
Hollyoaks is one big family, from the moment you arrive to even after you leave, the cast and crew treat you as if they have known you forever, and this really shows with the work they produce. My first day is now a distant blur, that’s because nothing has changed. Although I feel more comfortable seven months down the line, the people at Lime Pictures are just as genuine as they were on day one.
How does it feel having the show win the award for Best Soap or a Continuing Drama at the Broadcast Awards?
I mean wow, not every day you can say you’ve been a part of an achievement like that. However, if the public knew how much time and effort the production team, cast and crew put in to ensure that it goes out the same time every night and each episode is just as gripping as the last, you would understand that it’s the least the show deserves. I’m just fortunate that I can say I was a small cog amongst a big machine.
Can you tell us about appearing in the award-winning short film Patsy and what the film is about?
Patsy was a project I will always remember for the rest of my career with a friend of mine, Nathan Castleton (remember the name, a real young talent), who works over at Actors Studio along with the great Tim Kent and Helen Gormally. An Actors Studio team entered a short film competition which challenged lots of young filmmakers into crafting a short film in just forty-eight hours. Within that time you had to scout locations, cast, write, shoot and edit the film before submitting back to the panel for voting… not to mention that the genre was picked out of a hat to start the forty-eight-hour timer. The story follows a young man who is framed for a murder that he did not commit. It is based around a human trafficking ring and shows what corrupt individuals can do when they are given too much power.
How did you find your time on the comedy series SHHH!, and we understand it had no dialogue, what was this like?
SHHH! is something that I am really proud to have worked on, the Comedy Central/Nickelodeon series was a silent comedy much like Mr Bean, which not only allowed it to be distributed worldwide, but meant that individuals who have hearing disabilities were able to submerse themselves into the world of TV Comedy which is something that is not done enough these days. Reinforcing how powerful the industry that we work in is, we are able to allow the less fortunate to escape reality and enjoy the world of TV, Film and Theatre.
You’ve previously done stage work including as Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, what was this production like to perform in?
This was a show that really set in stone the career I HAD to pursue. Fifteen going on sixteen at the time I was like a kid in a candy shop, we travelled the country for a year playing in some of the UK’s greatest cities and theatres, not forgetting Regent’s Park and The Barbican which would have been an experience in itself. However, this was a show where I met one of the most talented people that helped me sculpt the actor I am today. Timothy Sheader gave me a taste of the passion and creativity you need in this business in order to produce something successful, not to mention the world class actors such as Robert Sean Leonard, Daniel Betts, Natalie Grady, David Carlyle… and that’s not even scraping the surface. So, this is one of the productions that I owe a hell of a lot to!
How much do you remember from your first acting job?
My first professional acting job was one that I could never forget, even if my memory was wiped. Goodnight Mister Tom opened at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End when I was turning twelve. The show went on a UK tour and I was fortunate enough to be a part of its Olivier Award Winning run. Much like To Kill a Mockingbird, I met some of the greats that this industry has to offer. Angus Jackson directed David Wood’s adaption of the book, much like salt and pepper, it was a duo that was just meant to be. Thankfully, the creatives behind it got the credit they very much deserved. But to perform opposite Oliver Ford Davies daily was a pleasure in itself, he is honestly one of the greats.
When did you know you wanted an acting career?
When I was about ten years old I went to see Billy Elliot with my family for my mum’s birthday. The interval came by, I nudged her and said I want to have a go at this. On the way out there was an ‘Open Audition’ sign up sheet. Weeks later, I found myself learning how to dance almost every day of the week in preparation for this audition. I got a lot further than anyone thought I would, and have pursed a career till this day… and they say everything happens for a reason.
If you hadn’t become an actor, what do you think you’d be doing?
If I had not become an actor, I would have definitely wanted to be either a Pro Rugby/Cricket player. Up until I was the age of eighteen, I played at a high standard across the two sports but unfortunately, it had come to the time where it was ‘one or the other’.
What are you most looking forward to for continuing your role of Sid?
Words cannot describe how much I am looking forward to this. There are some real big things planned for the character and it means a lot to be able to bring them alive. However, up until recently, I have not really had the opportunity to show what I can do on screen. Getting that first large role can feel as difficult as walking on water sometimes. The fact that Peter Hunt, Gill Charnock and Bryan Kirkwood have opened the doors allowing me to turn my passion into a career is something that I will be forever grateful for.
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