For Ellie-May Sheridan’s first regular screen role, she plays Polly Crackitt in BBC’s Dodger alongside Billy Jenkins as Dodger and Christopher Eccleston as Fagin, with the show winning the Scripted Award at the 2022 BAFTAs. Ellie-May filmed Special episodes of Dodger last year, with the third Special – The Bad Egg – being released today on CBBC and iPlayer at 5:30pm, and on BBC One tomorrow at 3:45pm. As a cast member of Dodger, Ellie-May has been a guest on Saturday Mash-Up and Blue Peter (Red Peter for Comic Relief), and her acting career so far has included playing Kayley Harkin in an episode of Casualty, and she appeared in Call the Midwife as teenage mother, Carole Reece. Catching up with Ellie-May, she chats about working on BBC’s Dodger, playing Polly Crackitt in the series and filming as Carole Reece in Call the Midwife.
You play the regular role of Polly Crackitt in Dodger, can you tell us about the character and what is she like to play?
Polly is described as ‘Fagin’s Little Solider’. She’s a no-nonsense pickpocket who also happens to be hard as nails. It’s great fun playing her. She’s really funny, even though that’s never her intention, and playing someone who wins every fight they’re in is great fun, because in real life I couldn’t fight my way out of a paper bag!
What is it like on set of the show and working with the rest of the cast, which includes Billy Jenkins as Dodger and Christopher Eccleston as Fagin?
It’s such a fun show to work on. Our exec producers Mark Freeland, Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery created a really collaborative environment. We’re always encouraged to improvise and share our thoughts and ideas. We’ve been doing the show on and off for two years now, so the main cast have all become really close. I feel very lucky to work so closely with such a fantastic group of actors.
We’re very lucky on Dodger that we also have incredible guest stars on set a lot, which is exciting, and it means I’ve gotten to see the processes of loads of incredible performers.
Polly marks your on-screen regular character debut, do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role and how are you finding your time working as a regular for BBC?
I successfully auditioned for an agent and signed with them in August 2020. I didn’t have any experience, I hadn’t even gone to a drama club. I did one audition for a stage show which I didn’t get and then my second audition was Dodger. I didn’t believe for a second I would book it, I was just thrilled I’d been asked to audition! I did three self tapes in the space of four days and found out on the fifth day I got the part. It was surreal, and I was adamant they were going to change their mind and cast someone else! I think I only believed it was actually happening when I got on set. I’ve loved my time on the show so far and I hope we continue doing it for years to come.
What was the experience like attending the 2022 BAFTAs and having Dodger win the Scripted Award and be nominated for two further BAFTAs?
It was an incredible night. The first Dodger special, Train, aired and then the minute that finished I was at the BAFTAs meeting loads of people I admire and reuniting with the Dodger gang. We were all so happy the show had been nominated three times, so to win one was just the cherry on top, especially as we were nominated alongside such brilliant shows. I was sat next to Lenny Rush, and I filmed our reaction just in case we won. It would’ve been a pretty awkward video if we had lost!
What has it been like seeing the fan response to the series and how was it returning to film the Special episodes last year?
The fan reaction to Dodger has been really sweet. You can never really know how something is going to be received until it’s out, so seeing the reaction from all different ages has been really special. I’ve had loads of messages and seen so many tweets of people saying how much they like the show.
It was great coming back to do the Specials, we all became such good friends on Series 1 so it was a real treat to get back together. I think the Specials have taken everything that was excellent about Series 1 and multiplied it by 100, they really are fantastic.
Is there anything you enjoy most about playing Polly and what are some of your stand-out highlights from filming Dodger so far?
My favourite part about being Polly is 1. The lines I get to say, Rhys and Lucy have written me so many brilliant one-liners, and 2. The people I get to work with. I’ve made friendships for life, not just with the cast, but with the crew as well.
As far as stand-out moments, there’s been so many on set, but I always think about my first day. We were filming at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool. I didn’t have any lines, I just had to pickpocket someone in the street. I was so nervous, my hands were really shaky and I thought I was going to be sick! Luckily, the first day jitters went away pretty quick, but I’ll never forget how excited and nervous I was that day.
Why would you recommend watching Dodger and who do you think it will appeal to?
Dodger really has got something for everyone. It’s very funny but it’s by no means a straight comedy, there are tense moments that will have you on the edge of your seat and moments that might even make you cry. There’s a great mix of classic characters you think you know well that have been reinvented and seen from new angles, and brand new characters from the minds of Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery that you will absolutely love.
Can you tell us about being a guest on Saturday Mash-Up and Blue Peter (Red Peter for Comic Relief)?
Yes! I love visiting Saturday Mash-Up, me and Billy Jenkins have gone with our mums a few times now, it’s like a quick little holiday to Glasgow! Me, Billy and our families have become really good friends so it’s always nice to see them. Mash-Up is so fun too, you never know what they’re going to get you to do!
I felt really lucky to be involved with Red Peter this year. Me and 25 other people from across CBBC helped the Blue Peter team break a Guinness World Record for the most pied faces in under a minute. I got a Blue Peter badge, which I’m absolutely buzzing about. It was great to see some of the CBBC guys too, I’ve met a few of them at events and I’ve been on CBBC HQ a few times, which I love doing, so it’s always great to see them.
Last year, you played Kayley Harkin in an episode of Casualty, what was this like?
It was a great experience! It was a really interesting storyline with a great cast, and it was really fun to get to work on the Casualty set. I spent most of my time with producer Pete Levy, director Alex Jacobs and actors Ryan Nolan and Stevie Raine, and they were all so great to work with, I hope I get to do more with those guys in the future.
How was it filming for Call the Midwife as Carole Reece and meeting the regular cast?
The cast and crew on Call the Midwife were so lovely to me and made me feel so welcome. The directors Syd Macartney and David Tucker, and Ella Bruccoleri (who plays Sister Frances) were particularly great to work with. So many people I know are massive fans of the show and they were so excited that I was working with the cast! I was fortunate that I got to meet pretty much the entire main cast and they were all so sweet.
What was it like reading the scripts for the first time and what was your storyline like to work on?
It was quite a dark storyline, it touched on the foster system, children having to grow up before their time, early motherhood and stillbirth. As an actor, I felt really lucky to go straight from Dodger, a comedy-drama, to a darker storyline in Call the Midwife because it tested me as a performer. As a person, I felt a real responsibility to handle the storyline with respect and to do my best to portray it accurately, as I knew many people watching would’ve been able to relate to Carole’s story. The reaction to Call the Midwife was overwhelmingly lovely, which I’m really grateful for.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
When I was little, I was obsessed with films and would spend hours recreating my favourites with the toys in my room. I was also totally fascinated by behind-the-scenes videos, and used to watch them wishing I could be there. So I wanted to act for a long time, but I never told anyone. I thought the only way into the acting world was to go to a drama school/club, and I had no interest in doing that, I just knew that route wasn’t for me. But then lockdown came around and I thought, this is what I want to do, so I’m going to try and make it work a different way. I emailed an agent a selfie and asked if I could audition for them. After the audition, they signed me on, I got some headshots, and two auditions later I booked Dodger! I was very, very, very lucky. But I guess, you make your own luck.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
I watch absolutely everything, so I really struggle to have favourites! But, right now, the TV shows I’m watching are Ted Lasso, Trying and I recently finished Breaking Bad and The Last Of Us, both of which I thought were incredible. I’m also rewatching BBC’s Sherlock right now because I love it.
For films, I recently watched some of the Oscar-nominated pictures and thought they were all brilliant. The ones I’ve seen are Aftersun, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Wakanda Forever, Elvis and The Banshees of Inisherin. I thought they were all excellent.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I’m really interested in the film and TV industry so I spend a lot of my time looking into what’s going on, what’s being made and watching recent films and TV shows, I try to read a lot of books too.
I also love football so I try and get down to Fratton Park to watch Pompey or The Westleigh to watch Havant and Waterlooville FC when I can.
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
I’d love to do more Dodger at some point so fingers crossed! But in the meantime, the third special The Bad Egg releases today (April 7th) at 17:30 on iPlayer and CBBC, and tomorrow (April 8th) at 15:45 on BBC One. The episode starts with Tom and Dodger fumbling a heist, and as a result they are sent off for rehabilitation at a boarding school! I think it’s the funniest episode yet. Outside of Dodger, I’d also really love to do my first film. That would be a great experience.
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