Since starting her role of Tracy Beaker in 2002 in The Story of Tracy Beaker, Dani Harmer has played the role numerous times over the years, most recently reprising the character in this year’s CBBC series My Mum Tracy Beaker, which set the record as CBBC’s most successful programme launch. The new series shows Tracy’s relationship with her daughter Jess, played by Emma Maggie Davies, and features previous Tracy Beaker characters Justine Littlewood (Montanna Thompson), Cam Lawson (Lisa Coleman) and Carly Beaker (Ruth Gemmell). Dani was recently a guest on Ricky Wilson’s Art Jam, she won Celebrity Come Dine With Me last year, and in 2012, she reached the Finals of Strictly Come Dancing with Vincent Simone. We recently chatted to Dani about playing Tracy Beaker, reprising the role in the new CBBC series My Mum Tracy Beaker and running Dani Harmer Academy.
Your new show My Mum Tracy Beaker set a record as CBBC’s most successful programme launch, how did it feel knowing the series was so well-received?
I was so relieved that the series went down so well! We put so much hard work into getting this series on the TV. Filming through a pandemic is no easy task! So I’m so thankful that everyone switched on the TV to watch it!
What was it like getting back into character and seeing what Tracy was up to now?
It was super easy to get back into character! I’ve been playing her for twenty years so it’s no effort to turn back into Tracy and her mannerisms! I was desperate to find out what Tracy was up to next and the script did not disappoint!
Can you tell us about working with your on-screen daughter Jess Beaker, played by Emma Maggie Davies?
She is an absolute superstar!! Can’t praise her enough! I was really nervous when I found out that this was her first job but you would never have guessed it! She’s such a pro already! And we had a right giggle too!
Your fellow cast members Montanna Thompson, Lisa Coleman and Ruth Gemmell had all previously been in Tracy Beaker, what was it like reuniting with them for My Mum Tracy Beaker?
It was strange being reunited as we filmed in the middle of lockdown so weren’t actually able to go near each other and we could only see each other when we were on set! It was particularly hard not to run and give Lisa the biggest hug ever! But it was lovely to see them all! Can’t wait to be able to take them all out for a drink though!
How did you find the experience filming through the pandemic?
It’s not something I would be overexcitable to do again! I had to be away from my family for the whole shoot so not being able to be with them for over five weeks was not fun! It was great that we were able to prove that our industry can put up with anything though, and prove that we can be creative and find a way to work safely through anything!!
What are some of your highlights from working on the recent series?
Working with the wonderful crew who kept us all safe and sane while we were away from home!! Even though I only ever saw people’s eyes they were all so kind and we had lots of fun!
Do you remember how you felt booking your role in The Story of Tracy Beaker and how did it feel being asked to reprise the character for the new series?
Gosh, it was twenty years ago but I remember being super excited as I was a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson! I had no idea how huge the programme would be though!! If you’d told me I’d still be talking about it age thirty-two, teenage me wouldn’t have believed you!
Having played Tracy over a number of years, what do you enjoy most about playing her?
I just love the character!! She’s the total opposite to me so it’s always fun! Especially when I was younger because I got to be a bit naughty which I certainly wasn’t allowed to do at home!
What was Saturday Mash-Up like to appear on alongside Montanna and Emma?
It was great fun! Having not seen the programme before I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into! I’m just glad I got away with not being slimed!
What was it like being part of Ricky Wilson’s Art Jam for CBBC?
It was fab! I’ve still got my piece of artwork that Ricky made for me!
Last year you were seen on Celebrity Come Dine With Me, what was this like to do?
I had a ball! It was really hard work though as I can’t cook! But we had a great bunch of people and I won so couldn’t have asked for more!
In 2012, you were a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, what are some of your favourite memories from your time on the show?
The people! My goodness, we had a blast! Vincent (Simone) made my whole experience so enjoyable! Not only did he teach me how to dance but he also became a lifelong friend!
Had you always wanted to be an actor and how did you start?
From as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an actor! I used to put on shows in my living room for my parents and grandparents when I was younger! And I loved watching musical films like Annie and Oliver! and just wanted to be in them!
Do you have any favourite TV shows or films to watch and have you watched any during the pandemic you would recommend?
What haven’t I watched during lockdown!! I’m pretty sure I’ve completed Netflix! Thank goodness for CBBC and Disney+. Enjoyed showing my daughter some old cartoons that I used to watch when I was younger! I’m also a big fan of a good documentary!!
You run Dani Harmer Academy, can you tell us more about it and what are you looking forward to for when the industry can reopen fully?
I cannot wait to open the doors and see my students face to face again!! Zoom has been great but it’s just not the same!! I set up the Academy to give kids a creative outlet! Drama was a lifesaver for me when I was younger because I really wasn’t an academic! So I wanted to set up a safe space for young people to explore the performing arts!
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