For her TV and CBBC debut, Jenny Richardson has been playing Ethel Hallow in The Worst Witch since the show started in 2017, with the latest series recently being released on Netflix, and whilst she’s been in the cast, she has appeared on shows such as Blue Peter and Saturday Mash-Up as well as attended the CBBC Summer Social. Last year, Jenny was part of the Dorking Halls Aladdin pantomime as the magical Spirit of the Ring and, during lockdown, she was involved in a special reading of The House on Hoarder Hill for Harry Holland’s YouTube channel, and she is part of Smile Train UK as an ambassador. Jenny spoke to us about making her screen debut as Ethel Hallow in The Worst Witch, the special reading of The House on Hoarder Hill and being an ambassador for Smile Train UK.
You’ve been playing Ethel Hallow in The Worst Witch since the show started in 2017, how has it been seeing your character’s development over the years?
Ethel Hallow is such an amazing character to play. Over the years I kept developing her further and naturally I started to develop sarcasm, which I think was something I learnt more about as I got older, so I had great fun bringing that side out of her. I also found it important to influence the way I played Ethel with her significant upbringing and backstory: she is the middle child and isn’t seen as ‘good enough’ by her parents and due to this she has to do anything she can to stand out to her family. Ethel’s method is to try and succeed in everything although often she doesn’t succeed in the fairest ways and suffers from major jealousy issues. I think this is an important lesson I leant from Ethel and I hope that everyone who watches Ethel learns that bullies always have a reason for bullying and a lot of the time they need help and attention also.
How is it having the show as your TV and CBBC debut and have you had a favourite storyline to film?
Working with CBBC for my first job has been such a blessing, I feel as though I have been eased into the acting industry with such a kind and positive organisation. The fact that the majority of the girls hadn’t experienced being on set before and we were all experiencing it all for the first time together was something so rare and so special. I think my favourite storyline was The Friendship Trap as me and Bella (Ramsey) had so much fun working together on these scenes, it was just hilarious being attached to someone that you were supposed to hate!
Why would you recommend watching the show and who do you think it would appeal to?
I really think The Worst Witch does not have a specific audience. I really think anyone could love the show because there are so many great characters that people can relate to and also because it’s a school for MAGIC – that’s just cool. For example, I have had adults contacting me who just tried our show because they watched the old adaptation of The Worst Witch when they were children and then they actually ended up continuing to watch the rest of our show because they enjoyed it so I really think it could suit anyone.
What do you remember most about attending The Worst Witch premiere in 2016 and how does it feel having the show be nominated at the Children’s BAFTAs?
The premiere was very surreal, I remember being very nervous but very excited. It was my first experience with interviews and recognition, so it was definitely daunting but watching the show for the first time was so cool. I went with my family and, as I lived away from home while shooting, it was the first time for them to see properly what I had been working on so overall it was just such a happy and exciting memory. Being nominated for the Children’s BAFTA was amazing, I was so happy for everyone involved and it just felt like everyone’s hard work had payed off.
The latest series has recently been released on Netflix, what has it been like seeing the response on social media?
There were quite a lot of changes this Series 4. It definitely made me a little nervous as I feel there is pressure to satisfy those who have watched all the series previously, but I have had a lot of positive messages about it so I’m really glad that the fans seem to have enjoyed it.
Can you tell us about appearing on Saturday Mash-Up and how was it being slimed?
Saturday Mash-Up was great fun. I still can’t believe how badly I did with answering the questions, completely cracked under pressure but it was such a fun experience – even being slimed!
You’ve also appeared on Blue Peter and Sam & Mark’s Big Friday Wind-Up, how were these to do and how do you find the experience being on live TV?
I mean, being on Blue Peter was like a dream come true; ten-year-old Jenny would not have believed it. It was a very exciting day as the show is just iconic. Live TV is hilarious – it’s definitely something you either love or hate and I genuinely love it. I want to get into theatre when I’m older and live TV reminds me more of that because you only get one take and you get the adrenaline buzz. There is a lot less rehearsal for live TV so you kind of just have to wing it which is always funny but the presenters are all amazing at what they do and make it easy for us.
What did you enjoy most about attending CBBC Summer Social?
The CBBC Summer Social was honestly one of my fondest memories while being a part of The Worst Witch. All of us girls had a sleepover the night before as we were in the middle of shooting Series 3 and we did our hair and makeup in the morning. We were just so excited and then to meet so many fans in one place was so overwhelming but also just so humbling getting to see everyone who enjoyed what we had worked so hard on. I also really enjoyed meeting lots of other people part of CBBC as I feel like we have such a big thing in common that we always all end up getting on.
You appeared in your first pantomime in 2019, how was this and how different did you find performing live theatre?
Being in a pantomime was actually great fun; rehearsing and performing live on stage is definitely something I want to do in the future, so it was a great experience getting used to performing every night to an audience.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
I have always wanted to be a performer. When I was younger, I danced a lot and I guess I was definitely one of the focused kids in class who tried way too hard! My teacher suggested I should be a part of the agency and so I started to do auditions. Then I got my first audition for TV acting so I just did it for the experience, it actually was for The Worst Witch and I ended up getting it. And now I want to act for the rest of my life.
What TV and theatre shows do you enjoy watching and how do you spend your free time?
In my free time I dance a lot. I dance all day Saturday; at a new dance school I have just joined which I am loving. I also have to do a lot of schoolwork as I have just started A-Levels.
You were involved in a special reading of The House on Hoarder Hill on Harry Holland’s YouTube channel, how did this come about and what was it like to do?
Through lockdown, my agent asked if I wanted to read a chapter of The House on Hoarder Hill and, of course, I agreed. Apart from scripts, I don’t really read out loud so it took some getting used to and actually took many attempts because I would get to the last page of the chapter and then completely fluff up a word and have to start all over again. But it was a really good book, so I really enjoyed it.
We understand you are part of Smile Train UK, can you tell us more about this?
Yes, I am an ambassador of Smile Train, which is an amazing charity that provides free corrective surgeries for cleft palates and lips and they also train local doctors and provide hospital funding for procedures. I am extremely proud to be an ambassador as I think it is such an important charity. I was born with a cleft lip and it wasn’t an issue for me as I was fortunate enough to get treatment immediately however some children around the world don’t get offered the medical treatment which leads to many issues and I really think that everyone deserves to smile.
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