In the screen adaptation of Elle McNicoll’s book A Kind of Spark, Lola Blue plays the lead role of Addie alongside her screen sisters Georgia de Gidlow as Keedie and Caitlin Hamilton as Nina, and Eve Midgley as her best friend Audrey. A Kind of Spark follows Lola’s autistic character Addie and premiered on BBC iPlayer and CBBC earlier this year, and with author Elle McNicoll wanting to bring neurodiversity representation to screen, the three actors playing the sisters are all neurodivergent. Addie is Lola’s first lead role on screen, and she has appeared on BBC Breakfast with Caitlin, Georgia and Elle promoting A Kind of Spark, and she attended the show’s premiere event in March. During her time as an actor so far, Lola has appeared in episodes of The Dumping Ground as Zara and The Worst Witch as Jessica Juniper. Answering our questions, Lola talks about filming as Addie in A Kind of Spark, promoting the show on BBC Breakfast and helping bring neurodiversity representation to screen.
You play Addie in the new CBBC series A Kind of Spark, how was it reading the scripts for the first time and how did you prepare for filming?
After having read Elle’s (McNicoll) book, I was so delighted when I read through the A Kind of Spark scripts for the first time and found that so much of her voice and perspective had been transferred by her and our incredible writers into the script.
I think I may have over-prepped for filming! I would watch Blue Planet every night during the first few weeks to learn more about Addie’s special interest because I know how important that is to her identity and who she is, much as how my special interests are to me. I had my A Kind of Spark notebook (courtesy of TK Maxx discount shelf) that I carried with me every day where I wrote all my regular character notes about Addie’s physicality, mentality, relationships, shifts in mood, favourite foods etc. I also underwent a significant amount of research into the witch trials that play an important role within the story along with pandas (an ex-special interest of Addie’s), The Battle of Killiecrankie and Greenland sharks, just to name a few. 😃
What is Addie like to play and how did you find the experience on set of the series?
The atmosphere on set was unlike any other I’ve been on – the compassion, time and care that was put in by certain individuals in production and within the A Kind of Spark team made such a difference as it allowed myself and the other neurodiverse cast and crew members to feel a certain safety and ease that accompanied our employers having a strong base foundation knowledge of our differing needs and requirements.
Addie has taught me so much more about myself than I think I’ll ever be able to articulate. If I had to pick one thing that I’ve learnt from Addie, it would be to stop shaming myself and shaving down/altering the essence of who I am to make myself more packageable and digestible for neurotypical people. To be unafraid to take up space.
Georgia and Caitlin are my sisters. Honestly, I’ve never connected with anyone like I have with them, we’ve become our own family and I’m so grateful to have met them through the show. It’s been so incredible working with two such strong autistic women. They inspire me to be unashamedly myself by being unafraid to be themselves and I’m proud to know them.
What was it like attending the show’s premiere and seeing the completed episodes?
The premiere was lush! It was so lovely to see everyone again properly. The energy in the room that evening before the showing was absolutely electric and tingly. Everyone in that room was there because of their passion and support for the show and it was an honour to share the experience with them.
How important do you think it is that Elle McNicoll’s book A Kind of Spark has been adapted into a CBBC series and what is it like being part of a show bringing neurodiversity representation to screens?
So, so important. I think the show has the potential to reach further audiences due to its unique and strong basis and how true it feels to the book. Being the representation I would have wanted to have growing up has been a very healing experience for me, I think. The show has allowed me to break down barriers and constructions built up in my head surrounding autism partially due to the impact that negative stigmas and inaccurate or stereotypical portrayals of autism in the past. I find the media to be saturated with very stereotypical images and depictions of autism and whilst any and all expressions of autism are valid and important, perpetuating a repeated very narrow insight into the autistic experience can be detrimental and lead to really harmful misconceptions. This is why this show is so important; it represents other ‘flavours’ of autism, especially from a female perspective, which is something we rarely see in mainstream media. I think the show demonstrates just how powerful autistic women (and women in general) are. If this show inspires or lights a spark within even one neurodivergent young person then it’s done its job.
What has it been like seeing the viewers’ response to the release and why would you recommend watching it?
It’s been so moving. Hearing people’s stories on how the show has affected their lives in regards to autism representation with women. Learning of the show having been able to open people’s minds has been so rewarding and the best response I could have wished for.
Here are some reasons you should watch A Kind of Spark right now:
- It’s fun
- Funkiest costumes
- Show about family and friendship ❤️
- Female leads
- We have a tortoise called Earnest
- Delves into history with the period storyline
- Great wigs
Can you tell us about some of your stand-out highlights from being involved with A Kind of Spark so far, which has seen you be a guest on CBBC HQ and BBC Breakfast?
BBC Breakfast with Caitlin, Georgia and Elle was a very surreal experience! It was one of my first times on live television and it was nothing like what I’ve been used to. I have no idea how people do that every day!
You played Zara in an episode of Series 8 of The Dumping Ground, can you say about your episode and what was it like to work on?
Yes! The Dumping Ground cast and crew were so, so friendly and welcoming. They made me feel part of the community for the few days I was filming and I even got a best friend out of it. 😃
What was it like playing Jessica Juniper in an episode of The Worst Witch?
I was so excited having read and reread the books growing up, so being on set was so special and the people were so lovely. Also, I got to film with a drone for the first time, which was fab.
What are some of your favourite TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from your career?
The Chase. Also, Fleabag, I love. (Also, I am actually bubbling with excitement for the Barbie film, I cannot express enough).
Between college and filming, I like repurposing old jewellery and beading! And listening to podcasts!
Do you have any upcoming plans that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
Well, I’m finishing college! I’m excited to focus some more of my time on my writing as well as acting!
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