Last month, Christopher John-Slater finished his run playing Kyle in All of Us at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre, which marked his professional stage debut. Most recently on screen, Christopher played Ben in the Ken Loach feature film Sorry We Missed You and, he had his first role away from CBBC playing Tom in Broken Biscuits. In Tracy Beaker Returns, Christopher played regular character Frank Matthews across all three series, before leaving his regular role in 2015, and returned to the show for special episodes in later series including for Mike’s Wedding in Series 6. Christopher answers our questions about making his professional stage debut as Kyle in All of Us at the National Theatre, playing Ben in the Ken Loach feature film Sorry We Missed You and his time playing Frank Matthews in CBBC’s Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground.
How did you find your time playing Kyle in All of Us at the National Theatre and what was it like making your professional stage debut in the show?
Kyle was an absolute joy to portray, he is a fiery character and he holds his own in the play.
I felt very privileged starting my theatre career at the Royal National Theatre and I couldn’t ask for a better cast to work alongside.
What did you enjoy most about performing at the National Theatre’s Dorfman Theatre and how was it meeting the rest of the cast for the first time?
I loved performing at the Dorfman Theatre because it is a small, intimate venue and that’s what made it so much more fun as you feel you connect with the audience more.
Meeting the cast was an absolute joy – they were very warm and welcoming and made me feel more confident in my performance.
Was there anything that originally drew you to the production and can you say about the show and your character?
What drew me to the show was the fact that at the time I was going through something very similar as I was trying to get my own PIP sorted and felt I wasn’t being listen to by the government.
The show is about the real-life struggle that disabled people face on a daily basis and I feel this show gave us more of a voice then we’ve ever had before.
What was it like seeing the audience response to the play and how different have you found performing on stage to your screen work?
I feel we were pulling the heartstrings of the audience and opening their eyes to something they maybe were unfamiliar with.
I love the fact that stage gives you the raw opinion and you can really see how the audience are being affected live from the stage, whereas on TV you are getting a second hand reaction and you never really know how someone is going to take it.
You played Ben in the Ken Loach feature film Sorry We Missed You, what was it like on set of the film and how was it seeing the success at award ceremonies?
On the set of Sorry We Missed You, Ken makes the entire cast and crew feel like a family and he makes everyone feel safe and that is a credit to the man himself.
Seeing the success of the film was probably one of the best moments of my career knowing that we have put a stop to zero-hour contracts in France and Belgium… Not quite the UK yet.
How was it filming for Broken Biscuits as Tom and can you say about your episode?
Working on Broken Biscuits was a very enjoyable time, even though Tom was probably the hardest character to get right because of his lack of speech and movement, but I loved his relationships with the other characters and how he was treated like just another “one of the lads”.
I am ever so grateful for Craig Cash and Warren James for helping me understand the character a lot better, it was just a shame the BBC didn’t decide to go ahead with the show…
What was it like working on your first role away from CBBC?
I felt I had outgrown children’s TV and needed the new challenge that comes with an adult target audience.
What do you remember most from your first day on set of Tracy Beaker Returns and what was Frank Matthews like to play?
It was very surreal working with cast members I remember from my own childhood and one I will never forget.
Frank was a very easy character to get into as he is basically me in terms of his personality.
It was challenging at times to get the emotions right as obviously I haven’t experienced life in care first hand.
How was it developing the character over Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground and working on Frank’s storylines?
Developing from Tracy Beaker Returns to The Dumping Ground, I feel Frank got more of a starring role once Liam left as he was no longer the “sidekick”.
You returned to film Mike’s Wedding in Series 6, what was it like returning to the show and reuniting with some of the previous cast?
It’s always nice to be asked back to a show, it means you have obviously done a good job in the past.
Seeing the old cast is always a fun experience.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite memories from over the years of playing Frank and working with the rest of the cast of Tracy Beaker and The Dumping Ground?
Honestly, I loved that someone like myself was finally on people’s TVs as when myself and my girlfriend were younger, we didn’t really have anyone who was like us (who had cerebral palsy) until Layla in the original The Story of Tracy Beaker.
I don’t really have a favourite moment, to be honest, I loved it all.
You were part of The Dumping Ground Dish Up for CBBC, what was this like and can you say about it?
It was fun working with the cast, even though we can’t actually cook!
Where does your love of acting come from and is it something you always wanted to do?
My acting comes from my own imagination really, as having cerebral palsy, I don’t really go out very much, so as you do, you imagine these storylines, and now I get to actually see some of them come to life. It’s a very fun job to have.
It wasn’t really something I had thought about doing. I loved doing the school plays but didn’t think I could actually do it as job/career.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch?
I love superhero films, I love musicals too and I also like sitcoms. I can’t name any as there too many I like.
Was there anything that encouraged you to start your TikTok account and what do you enjoy most about filming videos?
To be honest, I was very bored in lockdown, as many of us were, and fell into the TikTok trap.
I love that I can be myself and not play this character all the time.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
To be honest, I’m quite a boring person off screen as I enjoy simple things most men do like PlayStation and a Big Mac.
Do you have any upcoming plans you can tell us about and what are you hoping the upcoming year brings for you?
Nothing I can tell you about but keep your eyes peeled is all I am saying… 😉
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