Having joined the cast of 4 O’Clock Club in Series 5, Cara Jenkins played the role of Violet up to the final series which aired on CBBC last year and, while in the cast, she was invited as a guest on Top Class in a team with Max & Harvey and Nikki Lilly. After starting her screen career in Little Crackers in 2012, the following year, she went on to play Judith Carney in the film An Adventure in Space and Time, which was written by Mark Gatiss. On stage, Cara made her West End debut as Matilda in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, and had the chance to appear on The Paul O’Grady Show, Blue Peter and for the 1000th performance at the Cambridge Theatre. We caught up with Cara who tells us about joining the cast of CBBC’s 4 O’Clock Club as Violet, playing Judith Carney in An Adventure in Space and Time and making her West End debut as Matilda.
Can you tell us about your character Violet in 4 O’Clock Club and what was she like to play?
Violet was very headstrong and knew what she wanted in life. She always seemed to know when something was going to go wrong before it happened. She was dragged into situations with Amber and Darnesh but always seemed to be the voice of reason.
Playing Violet was a fun challenge because, even though she was the sensible one, she still got involved in all the mischief. I did things I never thought I’d do such as hold a turkey, have my hair stand on end by a Van de Graaff generator and eat a pickled egg!
What was it like booking your role and being on set of the show?
I did a self-tape then they recalled me for another self-tape to see a bit more of my acting. Then the next day they called me up to meet the producer and that was one of the best meetings I’ve had in my acting career. Then they offered me the role of Violet back in 2015.
How was it joining the cast in Series 5 and what was the response like to your character?
I was eleven when I joined in Series 5 and the cast and crew were all very welcoming. Violet, Amber and Darnesh all joined as a Year 7 trio which carried on up to Series 9.
What did you enjoy most about working on a CBBC show and performing the musical numbers?
Working on a CBBC show is like being part of a family. I have met friends for life and made some amazing memories. I was also lucky enough to meet other CBBC cast members from other shows such as So Awkward and Jamie Johnson. I also had an amazing experience presenting and meeting Hacker! Top Class was fun too!
Performing the musical numbers was one of my favourite parts of filming as I love singing. Violet even had her own song in Series 9 called Cello.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from your time on 4 O’Clock Club over the years?
Filming 4 O’Clock Club obviously was a highlight in itself, however, some of my best memories of being part of the show were off screen as all the cast got on so well. As we were all from different parts of the UK, we lived together for thirteen weeks during the summer. After the end of every series, production held a wrap party where we would watch one episode and watch the bloopers too!
How was your experience as a guest on Top Class?
Top Class was a completely different experience but a great one. I was hoping we would be told what questions were coming up but that didn’t happen. It was a test of our knowledge as a team but I did get a few questions correct though! My team included Max & Harvey, Nikki Lilly and myself. Unfortunately, we didn’t win but it was quite close.
What was it like filming as Judith Carney in Doctor Who: An Adventure in Space and Time?
Filming An Adventure in Space and Time was one of my first acting roles and I loved every second. I worked alongside some amazing, inspirational actors such as David Bradley, Lesley Manville and Jessica Raine. I was only eight but I remember the read-through really well and meeting all the cast and Mark Gatiss who wrote it. I also had the pleasure of meeting the real Judith Carney and I remember her telling me how her personality was as a child, so I portrayed Judith as close as possible to how she explained.
Your first screen experience was in Little Crackers, what do you remember most from playing Claire?
I had so much fun filming Little Crackers. Omid (Djalili) was very friendly and he directed how I should be on camera. There were lots of other children there too as it was set in a school. It gave me confidence to act in front of a camera.
Previously, you performed in the West End as Matilda in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, what was she like to play?
Where shall I start? Playing Matilda was a dream come true! I had about five auditions over many weeks before being offered the part. Then there was Matilda school, which happened every Saturday for eight weeks leading up to when the real rehearsals started with the rest of the cast. In Matilda school, we learned more about the role of Matilda and what to expect at the rehearsals.
Once the rehearsals started in January, I was away from home from Sunday to Friday in London. Playing Matilda was exciting and every show felt like the first and having a live audience and hearing the laughs during the funny scenes and the stillness during sad scenes is very rewarding.
Matilda gave me lots of opportunities such as learning how to speak in Russian and performing the 1000th show and also performing on The Paul O’Grady Show.
I have made lifelong friends, some of which I still speak to every day. I can’t believe it is now seven years ago!
What do you remember most from performing as Matilda in front of an audience for the first time at the Cambridge Theatre?
I remember being backstage and hearing the audience gathering and feeling nervous and excited about my first performance. I had been waiting for this moment for so long. The show went really well and I experienced my first standing ovation which was overwhelming!
Can you tell us about some of your favourite memories from your time in the cast which also saw you make an appearance on Blue Peter?
The cast was quite big with a lot of children. I remember every time when there was a break between a matinee and evening performance, we would go out to eat in Covent Garden together. I also loved living in London in the Matilda house with the other Matildas. We were like sisters together making up movies and Video Stars.
Being on Blue Peter was great! They came to the theatre and us four Matildas gave them a tour of front of house and backstage. We showed them our vocal warm up and our costumes and props.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
My brothers Fraser and Anthony have also been in shows and watching them made me want to perform too. I did ballet dancing from two years for fun where I did shows and then when I was seven, I joined a musical theatre school and that was what gave me the confidence to have an agent.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I am currently watching Sex Education and I also really like the Netflix series You.
I would say my current favourite musicals are Blood Brothers, Waitress and Legally Blonde.
Films – Green Book and Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood but my guilty pleasures are Mamma Mia! and Monsters University.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I am currently in my final year of sixth form studying Drama, Media and Psychology. I am also enjoying learning to drive. I love going to the beach with my family and friends when the weather is nice.
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