Last year, Cara Jayne Readle started her series regular role of Sam in the CBeebies screen adaptation of Biff and Chip, with her character running the after school club at the community centre. Over the years as a screen actor so far, Cara Jayne played Clementine in the award-winning short film Take Me to the Waves, worked with Jodie Whittaker for an episode of mini-series The Smoke, and she played Elen in Baker Boys. For her first regular character, Cara Jayne played Layla in Jacqueline Wilson’s The Story of Tracy Beaker for CBBC, joining the cast in Series 3 in 2004 and staying in the role until the series ended in 2006. We spoke to Cara Jayne about playing Sam in the CBeebies show Biff and Chip, filming an episode of TV mini-series The Smoke and her time as regular character Layla in The Story of Tracy Beaker.
You play Sam in Biff and Chip for CBeebies, can you tell us about your character and what is she like to play?
Sam runs the after school club at the community centre, she absolutely loves her job and organising events. She is also a family friend of both the Robinson and Page family. She is so much fun to play, always very positive and happy and always happy to help others.
I think it is so important for a great CBeebies programme to have a disabled character as a series regular and I am so honoured that I get to be Sam in Biff and Chip.
How was it reading the Series 1 script for the first time and was there anything that drew you to the role?
When reading the first series of anything, it’s hard to visualise what the characters are going to look like and what I picture when I’m reading a script never turns out very accurate. I did get a good feel for the series though and loved to see the upbeat nature of Sam which I couldn’t wait to bring to life.
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role and is there anything you enjoy most about being part of the series?
I found out that I had the role the day before my 30th birthday! I was so excited but also felt extremely lucky as we were still under lockdown restrictions when it was so hard for actors (amongst many others) to get work. I was so happy to be working in television again, it’s such a hard industry and this felt like it had come off the back of years of hard work.
The storylines in Biff and Chip are always fun to film, it’s almost like we can feel the fun of being a child again. I really enjoy working with every single actor we have on Biff and Chip, amazingly talented as actors and really lovely as people.
What’s it like working with the rest of the cast and how do you find the experience on set of the show?
There is quite a large adult cast as well as the child cast and I have made friends for life. Kellie Shirley (who plays Mrs Robinson/Mum) is such a great support in my acting career and is always there if I just need a chat, she’s like a big sister to me. In the greenroom when we weren’t needed on set, Des Yankson (Mr Page) had this game on his phone called Hurdle, which would basically play one note of a song and you had to guess what song it was. Personally, I was rubbish at it whilst Des and Jack Wilkinson were too good at it, but it would definitely keep us occupied. It was great to be able to work in a studio for a lot of the shoot, I hadn’t done that much work in a studio before, for Tracy Beaker we were in a big house/building, it was good to experience the difference of filming in a studio. As always, I loved every minute of being on set.
How was it seeing the response to the screen adaptation of Biff and Chip?
Most of the response has come through the parents of the children who are watching it as the audience are quite young, but it seems to be really well-received. Some people have said it’s the only time that their child sits quietly for ten minutes. My friends tell me how their children or nieces/nephews love it. I have two young cousins who get really excited when they see me on it. The overall response to Biff and Chip has been amazing, and as Sam wasn’t in the books, I was a bit nervous about how she would be received but everything I have heard so far has been positive.
Can you tell us about the award-winning short film Take Me to the Waves, in which you play lead character Clementine?
Ryan Bennett wrote this short film and the production company got in touch with me to see if I could play Clementine. Clementine is at that age where she wants more independence and wants to do what every other girl her age is doing. She has Cerebral Palsy, which she doesn’t want to hold her back, but her mum and sister are afraid of letting her have too much freedom and her getting hurt. The film follows Clementine’s fight to have more freedom and her mum’s and sister’s struggle to let her go.
What was it like filming for Take Me to the Waves and how was it attending the film’s screening event?
Initially, we only had about four days of filming scheduled but we did need an extra few days so we could do it justice. It was filmed on a very low budget but everyone worked so hard on it and it definitely doesn’t look like a low budget film when you see the final product. It was quite a small cast and crew, everyone was so lovely and passionate about the film, it was a pleasure to be on set with all of them.
Seeing some of the cast and crew again at the screening was really nice. I get really nervous whenever I’m about to watch myself and this was no different, but it was great to see how the film had come together and I really enjoyed watching it.
In 2014, you appeared in an episode of TV mini-series The Smoke as Charlie, how was this?
I know my part in The Smoke was a small part but to me it was huge – it my first acting job outside of the BBC, it was with SKY, and I got to work with the amazing Jodie Whittaker. Little did anyone know that she would go on to become Doctor Who! Not only is she an amazing actress but she is also a really lovely person to work with and I am truly grateful that I had that opportunity.
What do you remember most from your time playing Elen in Baker Boys?
I absolutely loved working on Baker Boys, when I get to film in Wales it’s so nice to be able to do what I love in my home country. Elen was so much fun to play as she was cheeky and rebellious but definitely had a softer side that came out a couple of times. I do remember in one episode I had to wear a ridiculously short dress, it was actually meant to be a top for one of the other characters! I personally would never have worn it in public but I had to wear it on TV! But now I laugh when I think back about it.
Your first series regular role was Layla in The Story of Tracy Beaker, what are some of your favourite memories from being in the cast and working on the show?
I was very lucky to meet some friends for life whilst working on The Story of Tracy Beaker and we had so many great experiences. The fact that we were all friends definitely made the experience that much better, we’d often go out for food together after a day of filming. I remember filming my first ever scene, I had no idea what to expect, all the crew were lovely and made me feel at home, from that moment I knew that I wanted to be able to do this for the rest of my life. We also had the most amazing wrap parties. I joined in Series 3 and that year, to take us to the wrap party, we had the biggest limousine I’ve ever seen!
What was Layla like to play and how was it joining the show in Series 3?
I hadn’t had any experience of bringing a character to life on screen prior to my role in The Story of Tracy Beaker, but playing Layla was an absolute privilege. She was so positive with such a zest for life, occasionally a little bit mischievous, I just couldn’t help but feel happy playing her. Joining in Series 3 meant that some of the other cast already knew each other but I didn’t feel like a newbie at all, everyone was so welcoming and I soon felt like part of the Beaker Team.
How was it being part of a Jacqueline Wilson screen adaptation and what’s it like knowing the series is still hugely popular amongst fans?
If I am honest, I hadn’t actually watched or read The Story of Tracy Beaker before I auditioned, of course that quickly changed when I found out that I had the part. But like a large percentage of children, I knew exactly who Jacqueline Wilson was and loved her books, I think my favourite one was Double Act. However, knowing Tracy Beaker was created by Jacqueline Wilson gave me confidence that it must be great. I don’t think I was ever prepared for just how popular it was though. Even years after we had finished filming it was still massively popular. I will always feel privileged that I got to be a Beaker kid.
We understand you’ve also had stage experience with Taking Flight Theatre Company, can you tell us about this and how different do you find working on stage opposed to screen?
I was so new to working on stage/theatre which was quite scary and I didn’t quite expect to find it as different to film and television work as I did. We had an amazing director, Ellise, who gave me lots of time and helped me with the process. I learnt so much.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I have always loved performing but it was more of a hobby, something I loved to do outside of the classroom. In Year 3, I got the main part in the school play and I loved every second of it. I never knew that acting could be a career, not for me anyway, but at the age of just 12 it was. I feel really blessed that I got an opportunity that showed me that I can pursue what I love to do as an actual job!
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I have recently finished watching the series This is Us on Amazon Prime and I think it is the best thing that I’ve ever watched. I was so upset when I got to the end because I didn’t want to not have more episodes to watch, I loved it. Earlier this year, I went to watch Wicked in London and I have just watched SIX the Musical on tour. I love watching theatre shows.
When I’m not filming, I love to catch up with my friends and spend some time writing.
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a young actor starting out?
I remember being told that I was doing well and to keep going, I always have to remind myself to keep going and push through when I’m finding it hard to get acting work. The advice I would give to a young actor is be prepared to push through because when you get there it’ll really be worth it.
What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for you?
I was lucky enough to be filming throughout the past summer in Manchester so it would be great if opportunities like that could continue. I’m hoping for some more self tapes/auditions so I can work hard to get my next acting job. I love working on children’s TV but I would also love to work on a drama with an older target audience as well. Fingers crossed.
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