Since Almost Never started airing on CBBC last year, Miriam Nyarko started her first co-starring role on TV, where she has played Miri across both series as part of the girl band. From November 2019, Miriam was part of the world premiere of The Boy in the Dress Musical as one of the lead characters Lisa James at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre which ran until 8th March this year, and had previously been performing at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre that spring in Our Town. Along with acting, Miriam is also a singer-songwriter and has recently released her debut single Step By Step to streaming platforms. We chatted to Miriam about filming for Almost Never, being part of the world premiere of The Boy in the Dress and releasing her debut single.
Having starred in Almost Never on CBBC for both series, can you say more about the show and who you play?
Yes, I am a co-star in Almost Never and I play a character called Miri, which is very close to my name because in the show I am in a band and they wanted it to be as realistic as possible which is a lot of fun. My character is very bubbly and optimistic and never stops smiling! I am so grateful to be a part of one of the most watched CBBC shows.
How are you finding the experience filming for your first TV series and what’s it like on set?
It’s my first long-lasting TV appearance so I’ve learnt quite a lot very quickly about the process and knowing that I will be waiting around quite a bit. I love it so much, though it can get hard being away from home (which I’m kind of used to now) but my parents and friends are really supportive. This show has made me grow up a lot and taught me to be independent.
What’s a typical day filming for the show and how do you spend time in between takes?
Filming days can be very long. Sometimes we will get picked up at 5:30/6am and finish at 6/7pm! Usually we’d wake up (me and the three girls that also star in the show), get in the shower and blast music to wake ourselves up, then the taxi arrives. When we get to set, two of us would go into makeup and two would go and get breakfast from the best catering team and then we’d swap around! In between takes we are either eating, sleeping or getting up to mischief for the social media team because exposure online is a big part of it!
How did you find your time playing Lisa James in the world premiere of RSC’s The Boy in the Dress?
Playing Lisa James has to be one of my favourite onstage roles. She’s sweet, sassy and stands up for what she believes in. This production was scheduled at a pretty hectic time of my life. But my agents, Daisy and Dukes, supported me emotionally and physically and helped me handle it like a pro! I was just finishing filming Series 2 of Almost Never and had to have many private rehearsals with The Boy in the Dress on my days off, so I would be flying from Belfast to Stratford-upon-Avon a few times and didn’t really get a break. I was so nervous starting The Boy in the Dress because, as a late arrival, you don’t really know anyone however they knew of me so it was overwhelming. The pressure was on, especially being the eldest Lisa and doing more hours, but after around three weeks worth of rehearsals, I gradually became stage-ready!
What was it like meeting the cast and creatives for the first time?
Meeting the cast for the first time was so nerve-racking because everyone had been rehearsing for months before me so had therefore formed bonds. I knew two of the young performers from doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which made it a lot easier. I had nothing to worry about because they were all so welcoming and supportive. Especially the associate musical director Laura Bangay who knew me from Matilda and looked out for me!
What did you know about the story before being cast and how did you prepare for the role?
My mum knew the story better than I did and she was very excited that I was auditioning so I didn’t have to do much research because she is a walking encyclopaedia! A lot was explained in the audition process, so I pretty much just took the knowledge from that and added the knowledge of how fourteen-year-old me would act in these circumstances. When I had thankfully been cast, I was filming, so I’d learn my sides for the day of filming ahead and in between takes be learning my lines for Lisa James.
Did you have a favourite song to perform and how was the experience performing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon?
Every song in this show was enjoyable especially Disco Symphony, but my favourite song to sing in The Boy in the Dress was When Things Fall Apart because it was more than surface level, put a smile on your face acting. It was about being hopeful and lifting her friend, Dennis, up in his time of hopelessness. The fact that I also got to sing this song with an Olly, a Dennis, and the amazing Guy Chambers playing the piano, on a segment of Children in Need was a bonus! Performing at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was an outstanding experience I will never forget. The energy in the building is immense and Stratford-upon-Avon is the sweetest setting. I went on many peaceful walks with my friends before a show.
Can you tell us about playing Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre last year and how was it working on a play opposed to a musical?
Playing Rebecca Gibbs in Our Town last year was so much fun. Our Town is set in New Hampshire so we had accent and dialect sessions which I found so interesting because it’s not just your standard American. She was a witty character but also whiny which was probably due to her age, eleven years old. It was my first time doing straight acting on a stage so inevitably I found it difficult to not break into song every five minutes! It was inspiring working around older and more experienced actors because they taught me a lot.
What was it like working in an Open Air Theatre and had you seen any productions there previously?
I had never seen any productions at the Open Air Theatre before so I was really intrigued and excited to work there. This was such a blessing because I was on a break from filming, was doing auditions and my agent called me saying that I have one for a new stage show, so I was very excited to get busy again. After only one audition, I find out I landed the part so I was over the moon. This was my first job in the industry as an adult so it was my first time experiencing adult hours which was a wake-up call but very rewarding. Being outside constantly, especially in spring when it’s not as warm, was tiring because I have sickle cell anaemia which is a condition that affects the red blood cells and the amount of oxygen transported around my body. One of the symptoms include getting cold. When I get cold I get less mobile, but they took care of me and layered up my costume!
Do you have a favourite moment from your time playing Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
I was in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for two years which is my longest running job, and getting to workshop the transfer to Broadway was up there in my most exciting moments. I can’t choose one favourite moment so my top four include; getting to perform at West End Live, getting to perform on Blue Peter, blowing up like a balloon when I turn into a blueberry, of course, and having the privilege of closing the show!
You’d previously worked on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical as Lavender, what was this production like to be part of?
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical has to be the most rigorous production I have been a part of and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I learnt a lot about dedication and discipline from a young age in this show and my stamina was the best it’s been. Playing Lavender was so much fun because my personality isn’t really far off from hers. Working for the Royal Shakespeare Company has always been and always will be such an honour.
What do you remember from your West End debut as Young Nala in Disney’s The Lion King?
I just remember being in awe the whole time I was working in The Lion King. I had just turned eleven and had sang in-front of audiences before but never to this extent. Playing Young Nala was a dream come true and I would love to go back and play older Nala when the time is right. I have made long-lasting friends from this production; I am still so close with my Simba who I was partnered with and the other Nala in my team is practically my sister!
This year, you released your debut single, Step By Step, how long were you working on it and can you say more about the release?
Step By Step is my first of many released songs and I am so proud of it. Releasing this song was more for myself and my confidence in being a singer/songwriter. I was very busy with filming on TV during the process of recording this song so it took a lot longer than it should have.
How long have you been performing as a singer and what future plans do you have for your music?
I have been singing since the age of four and started singing in church so my favourite genre is soul, gospel and RnB. I started getting singing lessons at the age of seven and haven’t stopped since. I love performing on stage and filming for TV and will hopefully someday land a part in a film, but one of my biggest passions is being a singer/songwriter, releasing albums and doing collaborations!
I am now working on releasing an EP and getting exposure on my single with it being played on radio stations, so I guess the only way is up!
Was there anything that drew you to an acting career and when/how did you first get into it?
Acting came alongside my love for singing and dancing. I started singing first and then, when I was five, my mum put me into dance classes and then I started doing acting lessons. Soon later, I started to attend Susi Earnshaw Theatre School to continue my training in all aspects of the performing arts and my love for acting grew stronger and stronger. So much so, I have a taken all my LAMDA acting exams and even did my gold medal LAMDA exam in Musical Theatre.
What TV and theatre shows do you enjoy watching?
I watch a lot of Netflix and it’s hard to pick just one show but I am really enjoying a few series on BBC iPlayer as well, such as Get Even and Killing Eve etc. My favourite theatre shows include The Lion King (of course), Waitress, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen, Motown and my favourite has to be Dreamgirls! I would love to be in this show.
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