For his most recent screen role, Billy Jenkins played Squirrel in the Netflix series CURSED, and prior to this, he was part of Jacqueline Wilson’s adaptation of Four Kids and It where he played the role of Robbie, both of which were released last year. Other work for Billy has included the feature film Holmes & Watson, appearing in two series of Humans as Sam, and he had his first acting role as Prince Charles in The Crown. Before lockdown, Billy was making his professional stage debut as Gavroche in the West End production of Les Misérables at the newly-refurbished Sondheim Theatre. Answering our questions, Billy talks about playing Squirrel in CURSED, filming as Robbie in Four Kids and It and making his stage debut in Les Misérables.
You play Squirrel in the Netflix series CURSED, can you tell us about the character and what is he like to play?
Squirrel was such a fun character to play. Squirrel is brave, cheeky, loyal to the Fey people and always getting into mischief! Squirrel is a warrior.
How was the experience on set of the show and what was it like reading the script for the first time?
I had a fantastic time filming CURSED. The set created for the Fey village was amazing, such detail. One of my favourite scenes was at the end of Episode One when the Weeping Monk storms the Fey village and they set light to the whole village.
When I first read for the part of Squirrel, I loved the character, the story and the world created by Tom Wheeler. I just had to get the part!
Do you have any stand-out moments from filming as Squirrel that you can share?
I did a lot of night shoots! One of my favourite scenes was when the Weeping Monk fights the Trinity Guard and Squirrel saves the day! The scene ends with Squirrel and the Weeping Monk riding off on horseback into the night.
What was Robbie like to play in Four Kids and It and how much did you know about the story before booking the role?
Robbie was great to play although a little bit quieter than me and not so chatty!
I was very familiar with the story, I used to read lots of Jaqueline Wilson books when I was younger. So, when the opportunity to audition for this came around, I was so excited.
How was it seeing the completed film for the first time and what was it like working on a Jacqueline Wilson adaptation?
We were lucky to have a screening for Four Kids and It before the first lockdown happened. Which meant I was lucky to watch it on the big screen with the rest of the amazing cast and Jacqueline Wilson.
What was it like playing Mudfog in feature film Holmes & Watson?
Mudfog was great, I had a lot of fun with this character. I played a tough little pickpocketing street urchin and even got into a pub brawl! This was my first experience on such a big film production and I really learned a lot.
How did you find your time playing Seraph Sam in Humans and what was it like joining the cast in Series 2?
Playing Sam in Humans was a great learning experience for me as a young actor. To play the part, I had to go to Synth School to learn the movement and actions of being a synth. The part was challenging, it took a lot of concentration and keeping still! The cast were so great on Humans, they really welcomed me on to set at the end of Series 2. I had some great scenes with Ruth Bradley (Karen), my on-screen synth mum.
Did you have a favourite scene/episode to film?
One of my favourite scenes was after Karen dies and Sam goes looking for her in a graveyard, it was a really sad scene with Tom Goodman-Hill (Joe). I also had fun in the fort building scene with Pixie Davies (Sophie).
Can you say about portraying Prince Charles in The Crown and do you remember how you felt booking the role?
Prince Charles was my first acting part. I was so lucky to be part of such a fantastic show from the beginning. When I was told I had the part, I was really excited and just didn’t know what to expect. I was a little nervous.
What are some of your favourite highlights from filming the series and how was it working with the rest of the cast?
I have so many fond memories of The Crown, the whole filming experience was amazing.
My first day on set was in Scotland on the Loch for my big scene with Matt Smith (Prince Philip). I was so nervous, there were so many people on set, and when Matt arrived he just made me feel so at home and confident about the whole thing, he was just brilliant. I was so lucky to work with such a great cast in Claire Foy, Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby, they are just the loveliest people.
You had one of your first screen experiences in short film Chicken/Egg, what was this like to do?
Chicken/Egg was my first short film experience after working on The Crown and I had the wonderful experience of being directed by James D’Arcy and to act with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. My most memorable scene was getting locked in a cupboard by Nikolaj.
Before the pandemic, you’d been playing Gavroche in Les Misérables in the West End, can you say more about this and what was it like working on a big West End musical?
Being part of a huge show like Les Misérables in the West End was just magical. I had never experienced doing any professional theatre before and to be asked to be part of the relaunch of this show after the theatre renovations was such an honour. The thrill you get from performing in front of a live audience is so exciting and nothing beats it. I was so privileged to be on stage with such an amazing and experienced cast. I will never forget the atmosphere in the theatre on opening night and have so many fond memories.
Had you always wanted an acting career and how did you start?
I have always enjoyed acting and performing. I never really thought about being an actor, it kind of just happened. I was at school one day when I met a lovely casting lady, Kate Bone, who was looking to cast a child for an ongoing project. I was asked to audition for that and never got the part so that was that, then, when a few weeks later Kate called to ask my mum if I was interested in auditioning for a new part for an upcoming secret Netflix project, I did, that part was young Prince Charles in The Crown and the rest is history!
What do you enjoy most about acting and what are you hoping 2021 brings for your career?
What I enjoy most is the storytelling. I love the process of learning all about the characters and trying to develop these into a natural performance. I hope I can continue to learn and work in 2021 and am excited about what the future may hold.