With the release of the screen adaptation of Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in March, Danya Griver plays the role of one of the main characters Gwendoline Mary Lacey in the 1940s-set show and the series is now streaming on BBC iPlayer in the UK and can also be watched overseas. Malory Towers is Danya’s first major filming experience with the show filming in both Canada and the UK, and earlier this year, Danya was listed as one of the “young actors on the rise” in Metro alongside other performers such as Lewin Lloyd and Millie Bobby Brown. Catching up with Danya, we found out about how she felt being cast as Gwen in Malory Towers, filming on location and being listed as a young actor on the rise by Metro.
You play Gwendoline Mary Lacey in the screen adaptation of Malory Towers, can you tell us what it was like booking the role?
When I got the part I was so elated and a bit stunned! I remember asking my mum repetitively if it was true! Laughing and crying at the same time! I have always been a big fan of the Malory Towers books! My Great Granny read them when she was little and then my Gran and she read them to my Mum and my Mum read them to me! So, the books are a firm family favourite! Being part of the screen adaptation is just brilliant and a dream come true!
What do you enjoy most about playing the character and what would you say has been the most challenging aspect of playing Gwen?
I adore playing Gwen, she is insecure, mean and funny without knowing it. I really wanted to make sure the character in the books came alive. Portraying someone who is very different from yourself can be challenging; I literally shudder at some of her antics but working with brilliant directors and with a little time to get to know the character I began to understand her more. I’ve even developed a soft spot for her. I think one of my favourite things about portraying her is that I’ve learned so much and realise there is a lot more to her than you first see. I think our Gwen is quite misunderstood.
How was it seeing the set and costumes for the first time?
The set and costumes are absolutely beautiful! There is so much detail involved. Each room is built to such a high standard with so many features and props. The costumes are equally incredible, they are perfect and really help to create your role! The day I stepped onto the set, I felt I had gone back in time. It was like I had started a life in a different era. Again, my Nan and Great Grandma had told me about their childhoods and it seemed like I was in one of those memories (but I think Malory Towers is a bit more smart than the school my grannies attended!).
What’s it like having Malory Towers as your first major filming experience?
It is an honour to be a part of the Malory Towers TV series! The cast and crew are really incredible and it is a total privilege to work and learn from them. Having this as a first experience is a blessing and making true friendships with the girls is so special and I feel very grateful.
Do you have any favourite memories from your time filming on location?
The indoor scenes were filmed in Canada… What a superb country, I honestly loved it there. The people and the places had such a good feeling. I definitely hope to go back to explore more. The outdoor locations were filmed in beautiful Cornwall in Hartland Abbey, a fantastic place with so much history! I think my favourite location was The Rock Pool, it is such an iconic Malory Towers location and an illustration of it was the cover of the very first book. I also love the sea and it was such an awesome place to be!
One of my very favourite filming memories was the scene when I had to fall in the water because I had to learn how to do my own stunt and I found it so exciting! (And cold!)
How did you find the experience auditioning for the show and what drew you to the role of Gwen?
I really like character roles and I thought Gwen would be so much fun to play, and she absolutely is! I loved the books and so when I was asked to audition, I was delighted but terrified too, as I really wanted the role. The audition process was pretty long! (Seven rounds!) I remember thinking at various points that they might have found Gwen and I wouldn’t hear back but then there would be another round until I found out that I got it. That was a super happy day.
What was it like working with the rest of the cast?
Incredible! The crew are extremely talented, kind and funny people and the girls are my best friends. Malory Towers has been a magic experience.
With Malory Towers being shown in many countries around the world, how is it knowing the series is so well-received?
When we found out that the series was being put out to so many countries it was just unbelievable. To think that so many people enjoyed the show and so many more will get the chance to see it really is phenomenal.
Are there any funny moments from filming the series that you can tell us about?
There were so many funny moments on set! One memory that was particularly funny was in the spider scene (when Gwen gets the spider on her leg). I was jumping around the classroom and my mic pack fell off and landed on the floor but I was worried not to continue and so I ended up leaving the classroom with the pac on a lead trailing behind me like a pet! It was so hard not to laugh! By the end scene, we were all in hysterics when the cameras cut.
Earlier this year, Metro listed you as a “young actor on the rise”, how did it feel seeing this?
They sent it to me as it was published during lockdown and it was a total shock and a wonderful surprise. The people on the list are some of my acting heroes and I felt honoured and stunned to be included with such talented actors.
When did you get into acting and how did you start?
I realised I liked acting when I was really little, I am not sure I knew I was acting but I was pretending to be other people or putting on voices trying to make people laugh. Then I started to do a Saturday club and was asked to audition for an agent. It went from there. I did a couple of commercials and then went from there really.
Do you have any favourite TV shows or films to watch?
A TV film I watched recently and enjoyed so much is Enola Holmes, I loved the twist on the Sherlock Holmes tale and the actors in it are so talented! I also like the programme Friday Night Dinner because it’s really funny and light-hearted and I can really relate to it! Another all-time favourite is The Parent Trap, I’ve seen it so many times!!
What inspired you to start a TikTok channel and what do you enjoy about making the videos?
TikTok is fun and entertaining, I started looking at it more during lockdown. It was the Malory Towers girls that helped me set up my channel and encouraged me to start. I am still very much a novice but enjoy posting and seeing other people’s posts too.
How do you spend your time away from your career?
To be honest, acting is like time off for me, I just love it. I’m really passionate about science and I really enjoy long walks and bike rides ideally, when it’s allowed, with friends and family.
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