For her first regular character, Ava Potter joined Series Seven of The Dumping Ground, making her debut in the show in 2019 and has continued playing Bec throughout Series Eight which finished airing on CBBC earlier this year. Prior to joining The Dumping Ground, Ava had her first TV appearance guest-starring in an episode of Call the Midwife as Wendy Lunt. Ava has stage experience which has seen her play two lead characters – Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, and most recently, Lily in Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild. Talking with Ava, she tells us about joining the cast of The Dumping Ground in 2019, having Bec as her first regular character and playing Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird.
How did it feel booking your role of Bec in CBBC’s The Dumping Ground and how much did you know about the show before auditioning?
It felt amazing, I really wasn’t expecting it as I’d only had the one recall in person after sending a self tape over while on holiday. I remember trying to balance the phone while in an uncomfortably humid hotel room. Then the call came through! I was so happy but also quite nervous to think this was my first TV regular.
I used to watch Tracy Beaker as a kid all the time, I was obsessed, and then they came out with the spin-off of The Dumping Ground. So I knew quite a lot about the outline of the show, and even some characters that were still starring in it.
What do you enjoy most about playing the character and can you tell us more about her?
Bec is a complex character, but that makes her even more fun to play. She’s lost her mum and her dad has no exact whereabouts and so she was forced to stay with her nan, except they don’t exactly get on. Her nan was horrible and pretty brutal to her, so she put herself into care to get away from where she was.
She holds up this barrier of moodiness, carelessness and some pretty witty one-liners to stop letting people in, but this isolates her. I think this is definitely my favourite part about playing her. I swear in person I’m actually nice, but it’s definitely new playing Bec’s rude and mischievous demeanour. Yet underneath she’s just this sensitive, caring kid that’s had a very tough upbringing – I hope everyone gets to see a bit more of this side to her as she starts to open up.
How has it been seeing the response to Bec when you joined the show in Series Seven in 2019?
The response has been really lovely. As much as she’s quite controversial, people have seemed to fall in love with her knowing what she’s been through; and I think there’s still a lot of character development to come that is very exciting.
This is your first regular character in a TV series, what’s it like having a popular CBBC show as your regular character debut?
To work on my first TV series as a regular with a show that has such an amazing cast and crew, and this lovely atmosphere of family, I feel really lucky. It’s also really fun coming into a project that already has such a dedicated fan base, but that also makes it a little more daunting that you hope they like your character!
What’s it like finding out what’s next for Bec and what’s your process of learning the script?
It’s always interesting when I first get hold of the script, and learning where the writers are going to take Bec’s character. I’d say she’s unlike other characters, so that makes it more unpredictable.
I really enjoy the first read of the script. It’s as though you’re watching it for the first time like an audience member. To learn it, I’ll go over and over it in my head so I can get to grips with it and fully understand Bec’s intentions; before then running lines with a cast member or someone in my family.
Have you had a most challenging scene to film so far and have you had a favourite episode to work on?
I would say the most challenging scene I had to film on The Dumping Ground would be when Bec confronted the woman that was responsible for her mum’s death. It was a very emotional scene to film, and even though it’s a children’s show, it still touches on sensitive subjects such as grief and trauma, but in a very delicate way.
My most favourite episode that I worked on has to be the Christmas episode! Everyone was so excited to film and get in the Christmas spirit (despite it only being October at the time). We had so many group scenes as a full cast, which I always love, and we even got to see a more sensitive side to Bec.
What’s it like filming on location and being part of the cast?
I really enjoy filming on location; it’s always somewhere new, and a nice change of scenery. And being part of the cast, everyone is so close and supportive.
In 2018, you appeared in an episode of Call the Midwife as Wendy Lunt, what was it like to film and how was it working on a show like this?
This being my first TV role, it was a wonderful experience. The subject matter however was more serious, as I was playing a little girl with Huntington’s disease, so it was really important to get it right. The Call the Midwife team were amazing and supported me throughout. Also, working with Helen George and Linda Bassett was a dream. I learnt a lot from this show.
Have you been watching any TV shows or films recently that you would recommend?
I feel as though the whole world has watched it already but BRIDGERTON! Lockdown has meant a lot of bingeing so I would definitely recommend This Is Us, I May Destroy You (Michaela Coel is breathtaking), I Hate Suzie, It’s A Sin and Ozark. I think Ozark is the show that got me and my family through the first lockdown! Oh, and The Dumping Ground, of course.
We understand you played the lead character Lily in Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, can you tell us more about this?
I was a huge fan of Michael Morpurgo anyway so it was an honour to meet him and perform his beautiful book. The puppetry was insane, I had to sit on a full-size puppet elephant called Oona throughout the show. There were puppet orangutans, tigers and crocodiles, all so realistic and brought to life by the amazing puppeteers, the same people that created War Horse.
The play is based on a true story about a young girl who escaped the 2004 Indonesian tsunami on the back of an elephant who saved her life.
What was it like playing Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird?
To play the iconic Scout Finch has to be one of my favourite roles ever, and To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that everyone should read! As I was young, understanding the enormity of this story was a great lesson learnt. Scout Finch is strong, feisty, innocent and without prejudice, and at the heart of the story.
I got to work with the legendary Robert Sean Leonard, Daniel Betts, Barbara Houseman and the ingenious Timothy Sheader, as well as the rest of the fantastic cast.
When you aren’t working, how do you like to spend your time?
I love reading books and plays, painting, baking and cooking (I make a mean lemon drizzle), getting out and going for walks (that’s currently what’s keeping me sane in lockdown) and I’m currently trying to teach myself piano from YouTube! With it being lockdown, I really miss all my friends but spending time with my family has been really nice, and we’ve been streaming a lot of live theatre, I can’t wait for the world to open up again.
Where does your love of acting come from and when did you know you wanted to do it as a career?
Well, when I was really little, being the youngest of three, I was at an age where I just constantly wanted to keep up with whatever my two older brothers were doing, whatever that may be. So when they joined a local drama club, I wore my mum down until I could join too. I soon fell in love with acting, Sundays would always be my favourite day of the week and it would be a kind of escapism – something that I love about it now.
But I didn’t know it was something you could make a career out of. It was only when I was ten that I got my first proper part in To Kill a Mockingbird at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, that I was like ‘Wow, if this can be a career, this is what I want to do’.
How is it seeing yourself on a TV show and do you have any standout moments from your career so far?
It’s very strange seeing myself on TV. I don’t always watch myself back, to save myself from my inner critic but if I do I find it very strange.
Every experience has been so unique to itself, and I’ve loved every moment. My brothers think it’s being a voiceover for Horizon Zero Dawn, a PS4 game. But, I once received an email from THE Alison Steadman, who congratulated me on my role of Scout saying ‘What a huge show to carry on such small shoulders’ and I think that is pretty cool!
Ava Potter is represented by Ellis Hebden at TCG Artist Management Ltd
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