For her TV debut, Darci Shaw appeared in numerous episodes across Series 1 of ITV crime drama The Bay as Holly Meredith airing to screens in March 2019, and later the same year, made her feature film debut as Young Judy in the award-winning biographical drama Judy, with Renée Zellweger playing the adult Judy Garland, with flashbacks to her teenage years around the time of The Wizard of Oz. Darci has recently been filming a lead role for Tom Bidwell’s upcoming Sherlock Holmes-based Netflix series The Irregulars, which will have a supernatural edge and will see her as one of the teenagers helping Dr. Watson. Answering our questions, Darci chats about preparing to play Young Judy Garland, her time on set of The Bay and filming for The Irregulars.
How did it feel booking the role of Young Judy in the 2019 cinema release of Judy?
It was a very surreal moment – when my agent rang to tell me I’d been offered the role, I just started crying because I was so delighted and excited to start.
What was the experience like at the red carpet premiere and how was it seeing the film for the first time?
It was an amazing night – I was so nervous as I wasn’t sure what to expect but my agent Fran really helped me prepare beforehand and calm me down a bit, it’s quite an overwhelming place to be but obviously in the best way!
The first time I watched the film, I was in awe at how brilliant Renée Zellweger was. I had watched a couple of scenes she’d filmed at Pinewood and Hackney Empire, but to see all of it together was just amazing. I was slightly terrified to be watching it in a room full of people I respect so much, and when my scenes came on I found it quite hard to watch myself because I’m always going to be my own biggest critic but people were nice enough to say afterwards that I did a good job which was really lovely to hear.
Can you tell us about meeting the rest of the cast and playing Judy Garland at a pivotal point of her career?
I first met Renée at a dialect session we were both doing and she’s such a lovely person. The rest of the cast I met at the read-through – I remember being really nervous to meet everyone and read aloud in the accent in front of everyone but it went really well and I already knew Gus (Barry) who played Mickey Rooney which really helped!
It was a total privilege to be asked to play Judy Garland, also it was quite daunting to portray such an iconic actress. She stole so many people’s hearts so it did feel like I had a bit of a responsibility to give it my best shot.
How was it getting into character and can you say about how you prepared to portray her?
I watched a lot of Judy Garland interviews from the ’60s where she talked about her childhood and her life up to that point which really helped me get a sense of who she was as a person. I also watched a lot of her earlier films (Love Finds Andy Hardy series, Strike Up the Band, The Wizard of Oz, Thoroughbreds Don’t Cry etc.) which was the period of time when I was portraying her. Also, I had brown contacts and had my hair cut really short for the role which helped with the physical transformation. I also had a brilliant dialect coach, Brett Tyne, who helped me really work on the “Judyisms” as she called them.
What was it like on set and what did you learn from your time filming?
I mainly filmed at Pinewood which was a surreal experience. To see it all dressed as a 1930s filmset was amazing. I was under sixteen at the time so the filming hours were slightly more restricted so that has its challenges – one thing I did learn was the amount of hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes on a film and how hard all the crew work to make everything run as smoothly as possible.
What was The Bay like to be part of?
I loved The Bay! It was really nice to make friends with Chanel Cresswell who played my mum, and Morven Christie and the rest of the cast and crew were so lovely and welcoming! We had a good laugh off camera – there is always too much waiting around so it was nice to be with people who had such a good sense of humour.
Can you tell us about your character Holly Meredith and what did you enjoy most about filming your first TV series?
Holly is a bit of a complex character – she hates her step-dad and really loves her mum but doesn’t want to end up following the same path as her. It was a really contrasting character to portray from Judy – both have their issues although they are very different people.
How long were you filming and what was a typical day on set?
I was filming on and off for about three months in both Morecambe and Manchester. A typical day on set in Morecambe would start late morning/early afternoon and finish perhaps 9/10pm as a lot of my scenes there were nighttime ones. One of the scariest places was an abandoned open air swimming pool in Grange over Sands, it was Halloween too which just added to the eeriness.
You played Nia in short film Bitter Sky, can you say more about this?
This is a story about a young girl from Liverpool who lives in Wales with her step-father but wants to return to her mum in Liverpool. I got to act in my own Liverpool accent which was really refreshing and I also got to work alongside Richard Harrington and Rowan Jones who are both very talented actors!
The production was filmed in Wales, what was it like being on location?
We filmed in the Elan Valley which is probably one of the most beautiful/remote locations I’ve ever stayed or filmed in. The views were incredible. It felt like a little family once we wrapped because we had to film it all in a matter of days, everyone was so committed and worked really hard too which was so lovely.
Are you able to tell us about filming for the upcoming Netflix series The Irregulars?
The Irregulars is an eight-part Netflix Original Series which follows a gang of teenage kids who solve crimes for Dr. Watson and his business partner. We are really close to finishing filming, I’m eager to get back to see everyone once things get back up and running as I miss it a lot! I have learnt so much during filming just because I’ve never been on set so much during filming something – it is one of my first lead roles in a show and I’m really thrilled about it. I’ve also been filming it in my hometown, Liverpool, which was probably one of the best bits about it!
Was there anything that drew you to the script?
I loved the script. Tom Bidwell’s writing is so original, fresh and moving. It’s set in Victorian London but has a modern, supernatural edge to it – it’s a fast-paced series and I really connected with my character. I’m so excited for everyone to see the series as it’s a completely different take on Sherlock Holmes.
How did you get into acting and how did your career come about?
I’ve always been involved in school plays and attended a Saturday stage school at LIPA from the age of five so I think I always wanted to perform. I did a few shows with the rep company at the Liverpool Everyman in 2017 and after that, I decided I wanted to really try and pursue acting. I think working hard definitely helped but I think I’ve also had a bit of luck on my side!
What films and TV shows have you watched recently that you would recommend?
My favourite shows are The Morning Show, The Handmaid’s Tale and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m a huge fan of comedy shows and adore This Country, Derry Girls, Fleabag and After Life as well.
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