This year, Ella Bright has been starring as lead character Darrell Rivers in the screen adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers, with the show releasing in the UK in March on CBBC/iPlayer and has recently been released overseas. Work on the 1940s-set show saw Ella film in both Canada and the UK and marked her first series regular role having previously filmed as Bridgette in Holmes & Watson and as Clarissa Graves in Legends. In 2017, Ella made her professional theatre and West End debut in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre as Lily Potter Jr. Recently speaking with Ella, she answered our questions about booking her starring role of Darrell Rivers in Malory Towers, filming for the new screen adaptation and playing Lily Potter Jr. in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Can you say how you felt booking the role of lead character Darrell Rivers in the screen adaptation of Malory Towers and how was it having this as your first lead series regular role?
I was very emotional when I learned that I had booked the part. It was a very long audition process and I really felt connected to the role so desperately wanted it to happen. I will never forget the day when I heard the news. I came home from school and my mum gave me a present. I unwrapped it to find it was first book of the Malory Towers series. I was speechless (which doesn’t happen often) and I just felt overwhelmed with so many emotions (happiness, nervousness, relief and crazy excitement).
What did you know about Malory Towers before auditioning and was there anything that drew you to the script?
My little sister was reading the series at the time and was giving me advice on all of the characters. I really can relate to Darrell in so many ways. Towards the end of the auditioning process, they asked me to send in a self tape of me doing an improv of losing my temper. I just imagined that one of my sisters stole my diary and read it. I only had to do one take because it was pretty easy to tap into the emotion and anger.
What do you remember from your first day working on the project?
We had a read-through with the entire cast and production in London before we flew to Toronto to begin filming. I was really nervous when I first walked in because I didn’t know what to expect but as soon as I saw all of the girls in the cast we all started hugging. It was an instant friendship. The producers, directors and writers were all so positive and supportive so they made all of my nerves go away. All of the girls in the cast became so close so quickly. The chemistry between us all is incredible. We are truly all the greatest of friends.
How did you find the experience filming away from the UK?
It was incredible! I felt like I was really experiencing what boarding school would be like. We all lived together and between filming we did our schoolwork together and did fun touristy things on the weekends like Niagara Falls, the CN tower and lots of shopping! I thought it was going to be hard being away for so long but because we were so busy it flew by and before we knew it, we were wrapping filming and flying back to head to Cornwall.
Did you have a favourite episode or storyline to work on and what are some of your favourite memories from your time on set?
Episode 7 was my favourite to film because it was the Open Day episode where my on-screen family comes to visit. We shot all of the scenes outside in beautiful Cornwall so it was very exciting. I also loved filming the Midnight Feast scene. It was so fun for all of the girls in the cast to be together sneaking about and eating lots of yummy sweets. It felt like a big sleepover party.
With the show being set in the 1940s, how was it preparing for filming?
Walking on set for the first time was like being in a dream from another time. The set detail was unbelievable. It really felt like we had gone back in time and we were living in the 1940s. It was really exciting when we were being fitted for our costumes and hairstyles because so much was different to what we wear today. The swimming costumes were the best! They are obviously very different to what we wear now so it was so fun to play “dress up”.
The show has recently had an overseas release, how is it seeing the fan response on social media?
It has been amazing hearing from people all over the world who love the show. The US release has been especially exciting because I have lots of family in the US who can now watch the show! The fans on social media are incredible. They are so positive and supportive and spend so much time putting together beautiful edits for us online. It really makes us feel special and we are really grateful.
Can you say about filming as Bridgette for Holmes & Watson and how was the experience on set?
It was really exciting to film Holmes & Watson because it was my first opportunity to act in a feature film. Like Malory Towers, it was set back in time so I got to dress up as a Victorian schoolgirl. The costumes were incredible and it was like we had gone back in time. It was intense being on a large, busy film set. I was a bit intimidated at first but once I was in costume and met some of the other kids, I was able to relax and have fun with it. I got to wear really long hair extensions and there were lots of animals in the scene so that was fun.
You filmed an episode of Legends as Clarissa Graves, how was this?
Legends was my first professional acting job. I was eight years old and we got to fly to Prague to film. In one of the scenes we were all sitting around a dinner table having a Sunday roast. The food was delicious, but I didn’t appreciate how many takes they were going to do and every time I would eat more and more food. I was so uncomfortably full when we were finished. Now I know how to pace myself if we are doing a scene that involves eating, however it was very difficult to pace myself with all of the yummy treats when we filmed the Midnight Feast scene in Malory Towers.
In 2017, you made your professional theatre and West End debut as Lily Potter Jr. in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, can you say about your time in the show and playing the character?
It was so exciting to be a part of this show. I can’t explain the feeling of going out on stage to play to a live audience. I don’t get nervous usually but right before I went out on stage for the first time, I felt like I was going to faint. When it was time for me to run on for the scene, all the nerves went away and it was the most amazing feeling and I didn’t want it to end. The cast was like my family and it was really hard when I had to do the final bows after six months. I am so grateful to have had that experience.
What was it like being part of a Harry Potter production?
It was honestly a dream come true. I couldn’t have imagined I would get a chance to be in such an iconic production. I still walk by the Palace Theatre and just can’t believe I was lucky enough to be a part of it for a short time.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did it come about?
I have always loved acting and performing from when I was really young. When I was two, I memorised the entire (long version) of T’was the Night Before Christmas and would perform it to everyone I could. If I messed up a line, I would correct myself and start all over again. I think my parents thought that I had a knack for acting and performing early on and enrolled me into acting classes when I was about five and then I just loved it ever since.
Do you have any favourite things to do away from acting?
I love playing guitar, writing songs, dancing and being with my friends.
What films, TV and theatre shows do you enjoy watching?
I love Stranger Things and Gossip Girl. Millie Bobby Brown is my idol and I will watch anything that she is in. Hamilton is hands down my favourite theatre show. I saw it live in London for my eleventh birthday and then watched it on Disney+ over the lockdown. I know every single line in the entire show and Angelica would be my dream role.
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