For her first screen appearance, Eliza Riley plays Kelly in Flack alongside a cast including Genevieve Angelson, and she has recently filmed for the upcoming BBC adaptation of the 2013 Kate Atkinson novel Life After Life as Young Ursula Todd. Eliza has also worked on a Macmillan campaign, and on stage, she has previously performed as Gretl in The Sound of Music at Cambridge Arts Theatre. We caught up with Eliza, who answered our questions about being cast as Young Ursula Todd in Life After Life, playing Kelly in Flack and performing in The Sound of Music.
You have recently filmed for the upcoming BBC drama Life After Life as Young Ursula Todd, how did you find your time on set and is there anything you can tell us about the series?
Filming Life After Life was so much fun. It was great to get back to performing after lockdown and I made some fantastic new friends, Leo and Kelsey, who played my brother and sister. It was the nicest group of people to spend time with and John (Crowley), the director, was really kind. We stayed in a hotel that had goats and an outdoor theatre where we made up shows in our spare time.
What was it like meeting the rest of the cast and what are you looking forward to for the release?
There were lots of babies in the show and they loved to roll around and play in the green room which made us all laugh. It was fun to meet the other actors playing the older versions of my character – I think I look a lot like them. The actors who played my family were so nice.
How are you finding the experience playing Kelly in Flack and can you tell us about your character?
Kelly in Flack knows what she wants so some of my lines were quite demanding which was fun to play. I filmed two series and seeing everyone again for the second series was great – Genevieve (Angelson), who played my mum, gave me the biggest hug!
Do you remember how you felt booking the role as your first screen appearance?
When I found out I had the part of Kelly, I felt proud of myself and happy that I was going to be on screen.
What was it like learning the script and getting into character for the first time?
I learnt the lines as I was filming because they were quite short and easy to learn. I certainly got used to saying them as we had to film from so many different angles and I said them over and over again. Some of the scenes were long and they filmed them without stopping so there was lots to remember.
Do you have any stand-out highlights from working on Flack?
One of my favourite memories of filming Flack was sitting on the grass in the sunshine eating cake with the ladies from the make-up department. The producer had a very cute dog who wanted to join in!
We understand you have previously worked on a Macmillan campaign, how was this?
Filming the Macmillan campaign was good fun and a great way to learn about being on set. I was only four when I filmed so it was all new. It made me want to keep auditioning.
Can you tell us about being cast as Gretl in The Sound of Music at Cambridge Arts Theatre?
I was so nervous when I auditioned to play Gretl because I wanted the part so much. It was my first performance on such a big stage. The rest of the cast were helpful and looked after me on stage and with all the quick costume changes. My favourite part was singing a solo as the children go off to bed.
Is there anything you enjoy most about acting for both screen and stage?
The thing I enjoy most about being on stage is being big and expressive and the feeling of adrenaline. What I enjoy about acting on screen is that the whole set is real and you feel like you’re really there.
How did you get into acting and can you tell us about your training?
My eldest brother loved performing when he was younger and when I was three he was in the tour of Mary Poppins. I used to practise all the songs and my mum and dad realised that I wanted to perform too. I train quite hard, about eight hours a week of acting, dancing and singing but I still have time to go horse riding which I absolutely love.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
My favourite TV shows all have animals in them! If I could be in any TV show it would be Free Rein as I’d get to spend all day with horses. I also love Malory Towers as they have fun adventures. Encanto is my favourite film, Lin-Manuel Miranda is so brilliant; I also love In the Heights and Hamilton.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
When I’m not training or filming, you’ll usually find me horse riding or playing with my guinea pig Fernando.