In the recent BBC drama Marriage, Chantelle Alle played Jessica throughout the series alongside her on-screen parents Sean Bean (as Ian) and Nicola Walker (as Emma) and her on-screen partner Jack Holden (as Adam), with the series being written and directed by Stefan Golaszewski. Chantelle also appeared in the BBC mini-series Mood earlier this year as Abi, and she had her first regular screen role playing Sahar in last year’s Peacock original series We Are Lady Parts. As a writer, Chantelle has co-written the stage show Pyneapple with Melissa Saint, which premiered at the 2018 Blacktress Festival, followed by performances at Camden Fringe and a two-week run at the Bunker Theatre. Currently, Chantelle is working on a TV script for Pyneapple, and she is set to be in the cast of Hijack on Apple TV+ next year. We talked to Chantelle about playing Jessica in BBC drama Marriage, her time as Abi in mini-series Mood and having Sahar in We Are Lady Parts as her regular screen character debut.
You play Jessica in the new BBC drama Marriage, can you tell us about your character and was there anything that drew you to the role?
Jessica is the daughter of Ian (Sean Bean) and Emma (Nicola Walker). She’s a singer-songwriter who’s still discovering herself. Stefan Golaszewski, the writer and director of Marriage, described her as someone who “hangs herself on the closest hook” and that really spoke to me. I was drawn in from the moment I realised this was a Stefan Golaszewski project. Him & Her is one of my favourite TV shows ever, and I’m a big fan of his writing style.
What is Jessica like to play and how was it reading the scripts for the first time?
Jess was very fun to play. It’s not often you get characters like this that are made for someone who looks like me. I loved her clumsiness, vulnerability but at the same time her strength and self-awareness. She doesn’t let other people get in the way of what she wants and that’s a very fun personality to play. I fell in love with the scripts when I first read them. I’ve been writing for a long time and reading Stefan’s work was very inspiring. I actually cried when I read the final script, particularly when Jess had that moment with Ian. It was very moving, even on the page.
How was it working with the rest of the cast, which includes Nicola Walker and Sean Bean, and what did you enjoy most about filming for Marriage?
I was so nervous because I already knew Sean Bean and Nicola Walker were attached to the show and they are obviously legends. I can honestly say it was a dream working with them. Nicola is a wonderful actor and always gave me great advice on set. It was a masterclass working opposite her and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity. Sean’s generosity was so lovely, he’s so at ease and kind and made me very comfortable, so I was able to really push my performance opposite him. I also had the pleasure of working alongside Jack Holden whose portrayal of Adam is stellar, and Miles Barrow who made my heart melt with his performance of Mark. Working with James Bolam was also a dream. The whole cast really.
What has it been like seeing the viewers’ response to the release and why would you recommend watching it?
The reaction to the show has been really overwhelming. It’s amazing to see people enjoy Stefan’s refreshing take on TV and realism. Not everything has to be this huge spectacle, over-dramatic depiction. It’s real, honest, ugly and beautiful and I’m glad people watch and relate to what they see. I’ve had lovely messages from people telling me that they see themselves in Jess and certain situations in the show and that’s all you can ask for as an actor. Watch it to see a refreshing take on a BBC drama and because Stefan is a genius. Simple.
Earlier this year, you appeared in the BBC mini-series Mood as Abi, what was the series like to work on?
Working on Mood was such a fun experience. I instantly fell in love with Nicole’s (Lecky) script. I’d not read anything like it before and knew that it was a great project. The cast were amazing and we all got along so well.
How was it getting into character for the first time and what was Abi like to play?
Playing Abi was a lot of fun. I studied law but never got as far as the character did so it was fun to get into that headspace again. I related to Abi on so many levels and it was interesting to explore strained relationships as we try to balance self-discovery and growth.
What are some of your favourite memories from being in the cast and working on set of Mood?
One of my favourite scenes to shoot was the open mic performance scene. The majority of the cast were in and there’s a really moving moment in the show between Abi and Sasha. Working with Jorden Myrie, who plays Kobi, Abi’s brother, was also very fun. I remember meeting him for the first time over Zoom during our chemistry read and thinking he looked so much like my younger brother. Playing the ‘bickering siblings’ was a great time.
Can you tell us about your time filming for We Are Lady Parts as Sahar and did you have a favourite aspect of playing the character?
We Are Lady Parts was my first time playing a named character and Sahar was the perfect first character for me. To play someone so different from me was a privilege and it’s always fun to be a bit of a villain. The whole shoot was super fun and every day was hilarious with the other girls, Anjana Vasan, Sarah Daniela Seggari and Halema Hussain.
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role and how was it having Sahar as your first regular character on screen?
I was very shocked and over the moon when I booked the role as it was a group audition. You never know how well you’ve performed when you have a chemistry read with four other actors but I remember having such a good time that I left the room happy with either outcome. Sahar was such a fun role to play and my favourite part was her fashion choices, thanks to the wonderful P.C Williams.
As a writer, you co-wrote the play Pyneapple with Melissa Saint, can you tell us about this?
During acting school, myself and four other young black girls had a stimulating discussion about the arts and the frustration we felt with what was out there (or lack of) for black womxn. We decided to write a play about extensions of ourselves which led to the final product of Pyneapple, written by myself and Melissa Saint. Pyneapple is set in a hair salon and follows four young black women as they navigate life whilst grappling with their own personal issues. It first premiered at the 2018 Blacktress Festival, followed by two performances at Camden Fringe. It finally had a two-week run at the Bunker Theatre directed by Abigail Sol and Xanthus – two amazing female directors in the industry. I’m very proud of the play as it was my professional debut and completely developed and championed by us.
How was it seeing the production come together and what was it like seeing it performed live for the first time?
It feels like such a blur now but seeing Pyneapple come together was a cathartic experience. We all worked hard, funded it ourselves and really pushed ourselves in rehearsals to make it the best work. Seeing it performed at the Bunker for the first time as the in-house writer was emotional.
Do you have any upcoming plans for Pyneapple that you can tell us about, or have any other projects you are currently working on?
The plan now is to develop ‘Pyneapple the play’ into ‘Pyneapple the TV show’. Melissa and I are currently working on a TV script, which will hopefully be on your screens in the near future!
Where does your love of acting and writing come from and how did you get into both?
Growing up, I was obsessed with films. I had a wild imagination and was always writing little stories and poems. As I grew older with confidence, I decided to try out some acting lessons and fell in love from the get-go. Being in a position where I’m now able to write professionally and step into other people’s worlds is a job that I am forever grateful for.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
As a child, I was obsessed with the films Matilda, A Bug’s Life and Peter Pan (2003). My all-time favourite film is Avatar and the best films I’ve watched this year are Everything Everywhere all at Once and Nope. I’ve recently gotten into The Boys and Succession, but my all-time favourite TV show would have to be Moesha. I like to spend my spare time with family, and travel. My favourite theatre shows this year have been Red Pitch (Bush Theatre), For Black Boys… (Royal Court), Splintered (Soho Theatre), Queens of Sheba (Soho Theatre) and An Unfinished Man (Yard Theatre). Amazing plays all round.
Have you been given any advice during your time in the acting/writing industry so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a new actor or writer starting out?
For acting, the best advice that’s worked for me personally is to “play the truth” and to “listen”. It sounds cliché but honestly, you can’t go wrong. If you really connect with the scene and whoever is around you and you listen to what they say, all you can do is react naturally. Get out of your head, the lines will come! Another thing that stuck with me was to not audition for the job itself. Do your best, showcase yourself and your talents but know that you are also auditioning for future jobs and relationships and not just that particular project. That advice helps me to not get too stuck in my head during auditions and just enjoy myself and do my best – the outcome is out of my hands, but how I feel in the moment is down to me. Lastly, don’t let fear of embarrassment or rejection stop you from acting, writing, messaging that producer or casting director etc… the worst that can happen is you get a no, but isn’t that far much better than never knowing because you didn’t try?
What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for you?
I would love to do a feature film. I’m a cinephile at heart and would love to be in something that people go to the cinemas for. I would also love to get my other screen scripts into development and finally be able to see what’s been in my head for so long!
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