In the second series of Miss Scarlet and the Duke, Laura Rollins has joined the cast as new character Clementine, with the show currently airing in the UK on Alibi. Laura filmed for Father Brown, playing Helen Delaney in the 2022 episode The Wayward Girls, and last year, she played DS Susie Jones in Series 2 of the TV mini-series Innocent. For her first regular role, Laura played Ayesha Lee in BBC’s Doctors, and having started the role in 2014, she appeared in over 700 episodes before leaving the character behind in 2020. Having worked on her own personal projects alongside Ross Berkeley Simpson, their work is currently with production companies, and Laura is hoping for a release in the future. Chatting to us, Laura tells us about joining the cast of Miss Scarlet and the Duke as Clementine, filming for Series 2 of Innocent and her time as Ayesha Lee in Doctors.
How was it on set of Series 2 of Miss Scarlet and the Duke, in which you play Clementine, and how was it getting into character for the first time?
I had so much fun on this job. The cast and crew were delightful from start to finish. It’s the largest scale project I’ve done to date and I spent a lot of time marvelling at the incredible back lot. We did hair, make up and costume fittings a few days before filming, but on my first morning of shooting I found that putting on Clementine’s amazing handmade boots was the moment when I felt like she really arrived. I also had buzz words that helped me find her accent, which is different to my own, so I spent a lot of time walking around Belgrade talking to myself to find her voice.
What was it like joining the cast of the show and can tell us about your character?
I joined the cast in the second series, so of course you feel like a new kid at school on the first day, but everyone was so welcoming. Clementine is a totally different character for me. Up until now I’ve played very straight characters, but Clementine is funny. The situations she gets herself into provide a lot of comedy and this was something director Steve Hughes was keen to experiment with. Steve and the crew created a really relaxed atmosphere on set and it always felt like we had more than enough time to play and do multiple takes.
What are you looking forward to for the show airing and why would you recommend watching the new series?
It’s a show about a female detective in Victorian London. Need I say more?
It’s a beautifully-written drama with great stories each week and it looks fantastic. It’s perfect escapism and I’m just really looking forward to seeing everyone’s hard work.
You’ve recently been seen in the new series of Father Brown in the episode The Wayward Girls playing Helen Delaney, can you say more about this?
Helen is the first period character I’ve played on TV, and up until recently I didn’t think I would get the opportunity to work on this kind of project, so it was a real treat to be transported to the fifties. Helen is quite steely in comparison to the other wardens in the episode and clearly has drive and ambition, which easily allows her to become a murder suspect.
I’ve worked with director Ruth Carney before, who really encourages you to make the text and character your own. We spent a lot of time talking about backstory and working out why Helen found herself working at the Borstall. We filmed in the Cotswolds in the height of summer, so it felt like I was on holiday. It really didn’t feel like work.
How did it feel booking the role of DS Susie Jones in Innocent and what did you enjoy most about playing her?
I’ve always wanted to play a Detective, so being cast as DS Jones was a dream come true. I really enjoyed the first series, and was excited by Chris Lang and Matt Arlidge’s writing. I booked the role just before I left Doctors, so I was relieved to have something to move on to, but then we went into lockdown, so there was a lot of uncertainty about when or if we would film. I love crime dramas and true crime, so I really loved the prep time. I spent a lot of lockdown watching shows and documentaries, to help me make choices about the character. Director Tracey Larcombe really wanted the police team to feel like we had worked together for ages and have a shorthand between us, so we spent our two-week quarantine in Ireland, creating incident boards, the murder timeline and working over Zoom. This meant that when we eventually got on set there was already a good chemistry there.
You played Ayesha Lee in Doctors for a number of years, was there anything that originally drew you to the series and what was it like on set?
Well, Doctors is filmed in Birmingham (my hometown) and is set in a fictional town in the Midlands, and it was always a show that I wanted to be in. I loved being able to use my natural accent and do my job in a city that I truly love. Doctors is one of those shows that kind of feels like a rite of passage for an actor too – a bit like The Bill, I guess. So, I had lots of reasons to be proud when I was offered the job.
Being on the set of Doctors is like a baptism of fire. They film a lot in a day – more than any other show I’ve been on, so that can be daunting, but you have so much support from the cast, crew and production that you are able to do the job without even realising how quick you’re moving. It’s a very well-oiled machine and we all trust each other. It’s also a lot of fun being on set. There is never a dull day on Doctors.
How was it filming your final scenes and what do you miss most about playing Ayesha and being in the show?
I struggled to say my lines that final day, as although I decided it was time for something new, I had been really happy playing Ayesha. I was on the show for six years and a lot happened to both Ayesha and me in that time. She was such a challenging character, so I really got to flex my acting muscles and develop myself as a performer. Doctors provided me with so many wonderful opportunities and I learnt so much there. I owe a lot to Doctors and I will never forget my time in Letherbridge.
Do you have any stand-out memories from your time in Doctors?
There are so many, but I guess I’ll never forget meeting the cast for the first time. I had a scene in the Icon (the Doctors watering hole) and I had to hand each one a drink and my character knew a funny little anecdote about each of them. It was a really long scene and I was scared I would drop the tray of drinks or call the actor by their real name, but luckily I got through it and at the end of the scene I fell into a chair relieved. I did all of this in six inch heels btw. The director called cut and some of the actors said well done for not messing up my mammoth speech. I was quietly smug and ready to go for another take, but as I stood to reset, I got my heel caught in the back of my coat and ended up falling backwards – fully legs akimbo. Both the cast and crew were trying so hard not to laugh, but once one person started so did everyone else, including myself. I was no longer smug, had exposed more of myself than I would have liked (luckily I was wearing tights) but at least I had broken the ice.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
When I was young, my nanny always encouraged me and my brother to create stories and put on plays in the garden. She was key in developing our imaginations from a young age. I was already dancing and was a Junior Associate at The Birmingham Royal Ballet and I just wanted to perform as much as I could. My parents were always very supportive of me trying and experiencing new things and I was fortunate enough to be taken to the theatre to see plays and musicals. I remember thinking that I would like to do that, so my mom started researching local youth drama groups and found Carlton Junior Television Workshop (Birmingham) run by Colin Edwards. The Workshop brought together young people from across the community for two hours a week and in that time we would do drama exercises, plays and occasionally we got to audition for theatre and TV shows. Colin created a magical space for us where we could learn and explore, so I also have him to thank for igniting my passion for acting.
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
My favourite film of all time is Jurassic Park. The original. I was dinosaur mad when I was little, so my mom took me to the cinema to see it and I loved it. She got it for me when it came out on VHS and I’m pretty sure I wore the tape out. In terms of TV, I am currently re-watching The West Wing, which I still think is one of the best shows ever made. I love Succession, Mare of Easttown, and pretty much anything from Marvel. I also have a little obsession with true crime, paranormal shows and extreme weather documentaries.
I am so happy to be able to go to the theatre again and recently saw Shedding a Skin at the Soho Theatre, which was fantastic! The shows that have stuck with me the most in the last few years were The Death of England at the National, The Inheritance at the Young Vic and Hamilton at the Victoria Palace.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
Dancing to disco, learning to DJ, hiking, and watching extreme weather reports. In another life I would have definitely been a professional storm chaser.
What are you hoping the rest of 2022 brings for your career?
I am hoping to continue building my credits and land great character roles in high-end drama and, while my lovely agent Darren is working on that, I also believe in making my own luck and have a couple of personal projects with my pal Ross Berkeley Simpson. They are currently with production companies and we are hoping to get them off the ground.
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