For Luciana Akpobaro’s most recent screen role, she starred as Boots in the TV movie Red Riding Hood: After Ever After, which was released on Sky Max in December, alongside a cast including Samantha Bond as Red Riding Hood and David Walliams as Wolf. In 2020, Luciana had her first regular screen role when she joined the cast of The Worst Witch in Series 4 as Azura Moon, and her further acting experience includes commercials for McDonald’s Germany, EE PhoneSmart Licence and Renault Zoe. We caught up with Luciana about filming as Boots in the recent release of Red Riding Hood: After Ever After, working with the rest of the cast and playing Azura Moon in the final series of The Worst Witch.
You played Boots in the recent release of Red Riding Hood: After Ever After, can you tell us about your character and what was she like to play?
Playing Boots was super exciting because there were so many opportunities to convey such a big range of emotions. She is a fiery, young free spirit who is trying to run before she can walk. As a character full of light, she plays a key role in conveying the message of the film. I loved her the moment I first read the script. The wardrobe fitting was so much fun because we tried several clothing items and accessories and we all instantly knew when we had found the right costume. I have to say, I LOVE the red boots and the Victorian denim shirt. The makeup and costume really helped me to bring Boots to life. The hair and makeup team were amazing and I enjoyed every moment spent with them. There was definitely a team effort behind bringing Boots to life and it was an honour to be given the chance to play such an amazing character.
Was there anything that drew you to the role of Boots and what was it like reading the script for the first time?
I could picture Boots in my mind the moment I read the script! Her energy, courage, determination and kindness were some of my favourite character traits about Boots. I loved the strong bond she has with her grandmother and her eagerness to make her proud. However, when she is faced with the dilemma of upsetting nature’s balance or risking disappointing her grandma, she stays true to herself and finally manages to make her grandma see things from her point of view. The script is filled with funny moments, yet there is an important and very current message in it about understanding the role that everything and everyone plays in nature. Boots plays a very important role in helping restore that balance and I was very excited to be given the opportunity to play such an amazing character.
How was it working with the rest of the cast, which includes Samantha Bond as Red Riding Hood and David Walliams as Wolf, and how did you find the experience on set of the project?
The whole cast were extremely friendly and there was a great atmosphere on set. We had some very long filming days but everyone, cast and crew, were always kind and funny; they made me feel very comfortable. My filming schedule was fairly full and when I was not filming I had to do school work, so I didn’t get to speak to everyone as much as I would have liked to. Most of my scenes were with Sam and what can I say? I love her! She was a nurturing presence to me, always calm, sweet and reassuring, just like her on-screen character was to Boots. I would be so honoured to work with her again in the future.
I have to admit that when I found out that David was the Wolf, I felt a bit nervous! During our table read, I sat next to him and he was really kind and supportive. The makeup artists did an amazing job transforming David into the Wolf, he did look very scary! One thing I was absolutely blown away by was the set design. The work and craftsmanship was like nothing I have ever seen. The attention to detail was unbelievable, the wolf lair was nothing short of a work of art.
What was it like seeing the completed film when it was released on TV in December and seeing the viewers’ response to Red Riding Hood: After Ever After?
I was super excited for the movie to come out and was counting down the days. The day it came out, we had a ‘watching party’ with my family and some friends. It was funny because they just kept turning to look at me on every scene I was in and I didn’t know what to do (a little bit like when people are singing Happy Birthday to you and you don’t know what face to make!!!). People seem to be enjoying the film, so far the feedback has been very positive and as an actor that makes me really happy to hear.
In 2020, you played Azura Moon in Series 4 of The Worst Witch, how much did you know about the series before auditioning and what was it like joining the cast?
I had watched the series and loved them way before the audition. To be perfectly honest, when they called me to audition for the role, I never even dreamt I would get it. I did not think I stood a chance. I still remember to this day when I first met the cast. I first met Saoirse Addison (Izzy), Billie Boullet (Fenella) and Lydia Page (new Mildred) in hair and makeup, we were all new additions to the cast and I think we all felt a bit anxious. We then went to the hotel where we met the rest of the cast. The girls were very welcoming and sweet. It just felt surreal, they were all sitting there, talking casually and I remember looking at them and not being able to convince my brain it was actually happening.
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role of Azura and how was it having her as your first series regular character?
I remember exactly the moment my mum came to tell me I had booked the role. It was the day after my 10th birthday and I was sitting on my bedroom floor playing with my friend. My mum came all excited into my room and said, “you got it!” and I was like, “I got what???”. When my mum said I got the Azura Moon role, there was a moment of silence and shock, and then I went crazy and starting screaming and jumping on my bed. I honestly did not even entertain the idea I could get the role; it was a truly magical moment.
What was Azura like to play and how did you prepare for filming?
Azura was a great character to play because I got to do and say things I would not dare in a million years to do in real life. She was very cheeky and definitely a magnet for trouble, but she was also kind and caring. I loved playing such a fun and mischievous character. To get ready for filming I watched the whole three series all over again!!! And also read, highlighted and made notes all over the whole script. I always like to have a good understanding of any project I take part in so that I can portray my character to life to the best of my ability.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time filming for The Worst Witch and working with CBBC?
Some of my best memories include flying with Saoirse on my broomstick (green screen), we were laughing for real in that scene, it was so much fun, wearing my purple blow-up trousers, spending time in the house with the girls, seeing the set for the first time, meeting Raquel (Cassidy), going with the girls and chaperones to the Trafford Centre, Alton Towers, the cinema and rock climbing. Working with CBBC was like working with a big family.
Can you tell us about some of the commercials you have worked on, which has included EE PhoneSmart Licence?
In 2019, I did a Christmas commercial for McDonald’s Germany, we filmed in Budapest. It was my first commercial. They closed half of Budapest train station to record the commercial. I loved every minute of it and learned so much working with such a big-scale production.
Last year in September, I did a commercial for EE (PhoneSmart Licence), it was filmed in Sofia, Bulgaria. It took around five days to make the commercial. The UK production team was incredibly efficient and organised. From the moment I landed in Sofia, the Bulgarian team made me feel at home. Both teams worked incredibly well together, it was a highly positive learning experience. I was actually really sad to say goodbye to them!
Lastly, in December last year, I was shocked when I found out I had to travel to Uruguay, South America to do a commercial for Renault Zoe, it was an incredible experience and the furthest I have ever worked from home so far. The director was Dutch, the production team was from France supported by a team from Uruguay, so we had four languages spoken on set. It was most definitely a thrilling experience as I got to see how differently productions work in other parts of the world.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
I first discovered my love for acting when I was eight years old and I joined Razzamataz Theatre Schools in Sutton Coldfield. We used to do singing, acting and dancing. I joined in to try something new and soon I realised I had discovered my passion for performing. I just felt comfortable, free and happy whenever I had to perform. Not too long after I joined in, the principals, Nick and Emma, spoke to my parents and suggested I applied to join an agency. My parents asked me if I would like to apply and that is how it all began.
Have you been given any advice over your acting career so far that has stuck with you?
There are four pieces of advice I have been given and that I always follow:
1 – READ the script several times. Check and double check all the punctuation, beats and even the parts that have been crossed out. The script has everything you need to understand your character. Make notes, research the project if possible.
2 – Connect with and love other things not related to acting. Auditioning can be exhausting at times. I always do something fun after finishing a self-tape or after a face-to-face audition. If I am in London (and have a bit of time), I like to go and explore the area I am in for a bit before catching a train back home. Whatever it is, I always need to disconnect from acting after an audition.
3 – Don’t take NO personally. I know it sounds cliché but it is the truth. You never know what a casting director is looking for so all you can control is your own performance and how you prepare for it. The rest is out of your hands. There are 10,000 reasons why you might not book a role, so don’t let it get to you. Take the learning experience with you, move on, keep trying.
4 – Be yourself, each one of us has something that nobody else has and that could be exactly what they are looking for. Let them see you.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I love different movie genres. Some of my favourite movies are Knives Out, Avatar: The Way of the Water and Enola Holmes 2 and my favourite series are The Crown, Young Sheldon and Anne with an “E”.
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I love singing and doing normal things like going shopping with my friends, having sleepovers, going to the theatre, cinema and travelling.
Do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for your career?
Towards the end of last year, I finished recording the second season of an animated series that will be coming out this year. They are amazing and I can’t wait until it releases. I can’t say much more for now. I hope that 2023 will bring new and exciting projects because I am ready for them. I love acting and I know I still have much to learn, I feel ready to challenge myself in my acting career and carry on growing as an actress and as a person.
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