Since Free Rein premiered on Netflix in 2017, Manpreet Bambra has played Jade in all three series, as well as their Christmas film Free Rein: The Twelve Neighs of Christmas, and has seen the show win numerous awards including Outstanding Children’s/Family Viewing Series in 2018 at the Daytime Emmy Awards. Manpreet has been involved with many CBBC projects, starting with Postcode as lead character Sheela, before joining Wizards vs Aliens as Katie Lord for her first continuing TV role, and in 2016, she played Jade in So Awkward and more recently has filmed for episodes of The Dumping Ground and Secret Life of Boys. With her film experience, Manpreet appeared as Young Aunt Sharanjit in The Boy with the Topknot, and with comedy horror Ravers being released at the Leicester Square FrightFest, she can be seen in the role of Hannah. Answering our questions, Manpreet talks about playing Jade in Free Rein, attending the premiere of Ravers and her time working on CBBC projects.
What was Jade like to play in Free Rein and can you tell us about filming your role?
I really enjoyed playing Jade in Free Rein as she has many similar characteristics to myself. We both love science and try our hardest to do the best we can in everything. She is a people pleaser. Filming this role was a lot of fun. It was always an adventure. I had to tap into my younger self as I was playing ten years younger than my actual age. So, filming this role, I had to be my bubbly self and have a lot of energy.
Was there anything you enjoyed most about working on the series?
I really enjoyed the family of friends we created whilst working on the series from all different departments of the industry. I made some friends for life. It made the three years an experience I will always treasure and remember. As well as it being an enjoyable job, there were many laughs, I learnt a lot on the job about acting and myself as an individual.
Did you have a favourite storyline to film and how was it meeting the rest of the cast for the first time?
I think my favourite storyline to film was when I had the chance to work on my project on the Wild Horses in the third series.
I was very nervous when I first met the cast. I get quite shy. But we quickly got to know each other as we started to spend a lot of time together working on scenes and rehearsing as well as us all staying away from home for three months.
You filmed an episode of Secret Life of Boys released last year, can you tell us about your character Amy?
Amy is a very strong character, who trains regularly in MMA classes. She’s friendly and gets to the point when she needs to be. Like she has to when she goes on a date with Matt.
Can you tell us about working on the comedy horror film Ravers and what was the premiere like to attend?
Working on Ravers was a very different experience as a whole to working on Free Rein. We filmed in a studio in Cardiff for seven weeks. It was an experience to say the least. So many cool prosthetics, dangerous stunts and a lot of action. The cast and crew were a lot of fun to work with. The premiere took place in Leicester Square, at FrightFest. I was so grateful to see so many fans of the film and of the festival itself. It was a great feeling to go up on stage and talk about the film before everyone watched the actual film.
What was it like on set of The Boy with the Topknot and filming as Young Aunt Sharanjit?
Working on The Boy with the Topknot was a very quick shoot day. I worked with people I had worked with in the past so it was an enjoyable day. Playing a young Aunt Sharanjit was great as it was pure acting and expression, no lines.
You’ve filmed for both Casualty and Doctors, what were these like to work on?
Casualty was filming in one of my favourite cities, Cardiff. It was the first time I had gone back since filming Wizards vs Aliens, so I was happy to be working there again. I really liked the character I was playing. Both Doctors and Casualty film a lot of scenes in a day and move at a fast pace which is a method I’m a fan of.
In 2017, you appeared as Anjili in an episode of The Dumping Ground, how was this?
This was, again, another quick shoot. I only filmed for two days and got the chance to visit Newcastle. It was exciting to work on a farm and to be on a show that I grew up watching as a child. It was very memorable.
What was So Awkward like to be part of and can you tell us about your character Jade?
So Awkward was fun filming up north in Manchester, working with a very talented group of actors. I was nervous at the beginning as I didn’t know anyone but slowly made friends with everyone. I remember I had to do a very long monologue in front of a crowded hall, that was terrifying and a challenge. So, it felt good to accomplish that. My character Jade is a friendly, bubbly and caring young lady, who is head girl of the school. I was actually deputy head girl of my school when I was growing up so I understood the character’s needs of having responsibility and making sure everyone is okay.
How was the experience filming as Katie Lord in Wizards vs Aliens for your first continuing TV role?
I had actually just started studying Science at University when I got the role of Katie Lord in Wizards vs Aliens, so it steered me to work even harder than I already did. My character enjoyed chemistry so my degree actually came in use. I was thankful to have my first continuing TV role whilst studying. It meant I could do the two things I loved at the same time – studying science and acting.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time in the show?
My favourite memories would be: when we filmed away on location, it was so beautiful; when I had to ride a bike for a scene but it was too big so I kept crashing into things when I had to ride off for the end of the scene so a runner had to catch me after every take; having to step on a box to kiss Scott Haran (Tom Clarke) on the cheek as I was too short; and filming the episodes where Katie Lord finds out everything.
You booked your first lead TV role in Postcode for CBBC, what do you remember from your time filming as Sheela?
This was my first lead TV role so I felt a lot of pressure as I was new to working in the industry and I was working with a lot of talented well-established actors. I remember finding the first day so tough. I thought I was awful and cried when I got home from filming. I remember from then on I came up with a daily routine and asked for advice from other actors and speaking to Stuart Orme (our director) about my character more. I learnt so much on this job. I remember growing as an actor and seeing that hard work and focus does pay off. I remember Stuart saying to me on the last day ‘you started off the weakest actor, you’ve left the strongest’. For me, this was so rewarding to hear. I will always be grateful for being pushed to learn and work hard to be better.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did you get into it?
I did always want a career in acting growing up. I was always known as a bit of a drama queen at home, haha. I got into acting from school, where there was an open audition for CBBC’s M.I. High. They auditioned all around the country for the role of Rose. I must have gone through fifteen rounds of auditions. I got to the last two but didn’t get the job. The casting director then told me a bit more about the industry and gave me a number for an agent. Knowing I had got that far with no experience or agent, I finally started to believe in myself that I could actually do this. Why not give it a go and take a chance. And I have done so ever since.
What TV shows have you been watching recently and how do you like to spend your spare time?
I love watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Modern Family when I need something funny and light-hearted to watch. However, I’ve also just started watching Never Have I Ever and Money Heist.
In my spare time I like to train in the gym, exercising is great for endorphins and it’s a positive way to start the day. I also enjoy baking and cooking.
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