For their first professional acting roles, Nelly and Gwen Currant joined The Dumping Ground in 2015 as Toni and Billie Trent, staying in the CBBC show as regulars before leaving in 2017 to concentrate on their secondary school education. Nelly and Gwen returned to the show the following year for Mike’s (Connor Byrne) Wedding episode, working alongside Dani Harmer as Tracy Beaker, and last month, they reprised their roles for Floss’ (Sarah Rayson) leaving episode in Series 10. In 2021, Nelly played Jenny in The Nevers, and this year, she appeared in an episode of the new series of Silverpoint, playing Meg’s older sister Grace, and Gwen is in the cast of Jessica Hausner’s feature film Club Zero as Helen, which had the world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival. Over the summer, Gwen is set to film an unannounced project and, together, they will be seen in an upcoming series, which will be released on a streaming platform later this year. Answering our questions, Nelly and Gwen chat to us about playing Toni and Billie Trent in The Dumping Ground, Nelly’s time filming for Series 2 of Silverpoint and Gwen’s feature film Club Zero.
You joined the cast of The Dumping Ground together in 2015 as new regular characters Toni and Billie Trent, do you remember how you felt booking the roles for your first professional acting jobs and meeting the cast for the first time?
Nelly & Gwen – We were both fans of The Dumping Ground before we auditioned, and so we were both over the moon when we found out we’d landed the roles, especially as we had never acted before. We’d seen the audition advertised on the CBBC website and our parents only let us apply for a bit of fun. We never expected to actually land the roles, it was insane. We met the cast for the first time a few days before we started filming, as they were already filming the start of Series 3, and they were all so welcoming, which definitely made it a lot less nerve-racking for us. We recognised them all from seeing them on CBBC so it was very surreal for us and we were a little bit starstruck for the first day or two – we barely spoke as we were so shy!
What were Toni and Billie like to play and how was it working together on a popular and long-running CBBC show?
Nelly & Gwen – We both really loved playing our characters, and they were always up to something different together with Floss, so it was never boring. They also had a very close relationship which was really nice for us both as it meant that we were usually able to act together, which was fun for us as we get along pretty well, and made it a lot less nerve-racking as our first time on set. It was a bit intimidating originally as we had seen the show before but we had no clue how anything on a set worked, but after a bit of coaching and experience, we adjusted and it was so cool to work with so many talented people.
What do you remember most from filming Toni and Billie’s leaving episode and how was it watching your final scenes air on TV?
Gwen – I think what I remember most from filming our leaving episode is the final scene where Ashdene Ridge drives away from our new home. That was very emotional to film as it was one of our last days filming together with the rest of the cast. We watched our final episode with our family when it came out, and although it was sad, I was really happy that Toni and Billie got such a happy ending, and I loved when the book closed on the picture of Toni and Billie.
Nelly – It was quite emotional watching our last scenes air on TV as The Dumping Ground had become such a big part of our life, but similarly to Gwen, it was a really happy moment as well as we were both thrilled with the episode and the ending that Billie and Toni were given. The thing I remember most about filming that last episode is actually the scenes that we filmed at the house of Billie and Toni’s foster parents – I remember being so excited after seeing all of the dolls in their room (which they eventually let us keep) and playing with their puppy on their trampoline. That solidified for me what a perfect ending it was – the fact that ten-year-old me loved everything about Billie and Toni’s new home.
Having left the show in 2017, you both returned the following year for Mike’s Wedding, can you tell us about filming this, and how was it working alongside Dani Harmer as Tracy Beaker?
Nelly & Gwen – We were so excited to find out we were returning for an episode and even more so when we found out we’d be returning alongside others that had also left the show, and couldn’t wait to see what they had been up to. It was amazing being able to catch up with all of our castmates and also meet new people who had been on The Dumping Ground before us. We especially loved getting all dressed up in our costumes for the wedding – it almost felt like a real wedding with the whole cast dressed up together! Filming this episode was the first time we’d met Dani Harmer as well, and she was so lovely. We were a little bit starstruck at first but it was really cool to be able to film scenes with her and see her play Tracy.
Most recently, you were seen in Series 10 for Sarah Rayson’s (Floss) last episode last month, how was it reuniting with the cast and getting back into character?
Nelly & Gwen – We filmed this episode last summer, so it had been six years since we left the show which was mind-blowing to me. There were lots of cast members we had never met before so it was really great to be able to meet them, and work alongside them. We were also so glad to be seeing again so many cast and crew members that we hadn’t seen since we were on The Dumping Ground and getting to hear what they have been up to since then. Spending a lot of time again with Sarah was a blessing as we missed her a lot and COVID had made it harder to meet with people where we normally would. Being there for Sarah’s last scene on The Dumping Ground was really special, as she was there for our first and last.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Toni and Billie in The Dumping Ground over the years?
Gwen – Honestly, there were so many episodes that I loved filming. I loved Growing Pains and Faking It, but Survivors and Two Camps were definitely my favourite to film. For Survivors, it was so much fun being able to film on location in ‘the wild’ and on the bus all together, and Two Camps was my first ever night shoot which was extremely cool especially being so young, and the costumes, makeup and set were awesome. The episode where we dressed up as creepy twins was also insane – the costume and makeup was our favourite yet.
Nelly – I would have to say the same – I also loved Dragon Slayer as we got to explore a bit more into Billie and Toni’s backstory and work with bunnies on set, which I was delighted about. My favourite two were definitely Two Camps and Survivors though – I remember loving Two Camps as we were allowed to stay up past our bedtime to do a night shoot, and Survivor, where I distinctly remember carrying around a big rucksack of sweets for the episode, which the director and chaperones let us all sit together and share at the end of the episode. Another favourite memory of mine was a charity bake sale competition that the under 16 cast did in my last series for the WWF – we split into teams in tutoring and got to write poems and posters to promote our cakes, which we made at the girls’ house and sold to the crew. It was so much fun.
Nelly, you play Grace in the new series of Silverpoint, can you tell us about your character and how was it filming your episode?
Nelly – I had the experience of going to Belfast to film Silverpoint, which I absolutely loved – not only was it a lovely place but I got to see some family and travelling there and back without a chaperone for the first time was something I enjoyed as I had a bit more independence. My character is the older sister of Meg, who is in both Series 1 and 2. I really enjoyed the transition from playing typically younger roles to taking on the role of an older sister – she takes on almost a motherly role to Meg, giving advice and providing comfort, which was really interesting and enjoyable to portray.
What was it like on the set of Silverpoint and how much did you know about the show before auditioning?
Nelly – I knew a little bit about the show before auditioning as Gwen had previously auditioned for the first series, but I hadn’t watched it. I watched an episode before I filmed my self-tape, and ended up binge-watching the whole series once I was recalled so that I knew it well for my live audition. By the end of it, I was so hooked I couldn’t turn it off! The scenes that I was filming were set in a fairground, so the set and costumes were so much fun, and the cast and crew were so lovely. It was also great being able to see some familiar faces – a couple of actors from my agency as well as producers that I had met working on The Dumping Ground were working on Silverpoint, so it was so lovely to be able to see them again.
In 2021, you appeared in The Nevers as Jenny, how was your time filming for the show?
Nelly – The Nevers was the first job that I did after The Dumping Ground, and after having around four years out of acting to focus on secondary school (other than the occasional audition), I couldn’t wait to get back on set again. It was my first time filming on a period drama, and so the incredible detail that went into the sets and costumes was truly eye-opening and I had an absolute blast. We filmed the first series in 2020, so COVID regulations, testing and masks were very strict in order to allow us to be safe and keep filming, so that definitely took some adjusting to. The cast and crew on The Nevers though were particularly welcoming, and I looked up to them a lot as they had worked on so many amazing productions which I aspired to.
Gwen, can you tell us about the feature film Club Zero and your character Helen, and was there anything that drew you to the script?
Gwen – Club Zero is a new feature film, which just premiered, about a teacher at an elite boarding school who forms a bond with a group of students, one being Helen, who I play. I’d seen some of Jessica’s (Hausner) previous films and I loved her style of directing, so this definitely drew me into the project even more.
What was Helen like to play and how was it filming with the rest of the cast and being directed by Jessica Hausner?
Gwen – When I first read the script I thought Helen was a very interesting character and I was very excited to explore that more and discuss her motivations with Jessica. I met most of the cast at my final audition, as we all did a chemistry read together, and we all got along so well. For the duration of filming, we all stayed at St Katherine’s College in Oxford, where Club Zero was filmed, and we had the best time. It was also great to meet and get to act with Mia (Wasikowska), who plays Miss Novak, as she is extremely talented and so lovely to work with. Being directed by Jessica was amazing, I loved how she had envisioned exactly what she wanted each scene to look like, but also experimented with different ways of playing the scene. She was very kind and positive as well, which made filming so much more enjoyable.
How did you find the experience attending Club Zero’s world premiere at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival?
Gwen – I really couldn’t believe it when I found out I’d be going to Cannes for the premiere of Club Zero. I’d watched coverage of the festival for years and it was so surreal to be able to experience it in the flesh. It was the first time I’d ever been on a red carpet and I was very nervous, but really excited. I think it made it a lot less scary and a lot more exciting that we were all doing it together, and so actually being on the carpet I felt so much more relaxed and was able to really take it in. Seeing the film for the first time was wild, I thought it was so cool to see all the scenes we’d filmed as a group but also all the scenes I hadn’t seen filmed. Just being in the same area as so many talented people was really inspiring, and I’m so glad Nelly was able to come along too and watch Club Zero for the first time with me.
How did you both get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
Nelly & Gwen – We had done a local stage production when we were younger with our mum and our sister, which we’d really enjoyed, and had done dance classes since we were three, but our audition for The Dumping Ground was the first ever professional acting that we did. We had seen an advert for an audition for a different CBBC show when we were watching TV, and when we looked up the advert, we saw the audition for twins on The Dumping Ground, and it felt like our lucky day. Our parents were hesitant to let us apply as we had never been to an audition before, but ended up letting us go as they didn’t expect anything to come of it and thought it would be a bit of fun! It wasn’t until then that we really considered a career in film and TV, but we were obsessed with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical when we were younger after being taken to see it, so I think we would have ended up wanting to be actresses either way.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you each like to spend your free time?
Gwen – One of my favourite long-running TV shows is definitely Modern Family, I’ve watched it about six times. I just think it’s hilarious and so light-hearted, and the cast are unbelievable. We have both just finished our A-levels, so spent a lot of our free time studying and revising, but in my free time now I love to read and I also love to dance, which I’ve been doing since I was little.
Nelly – I love watching new films and TV shows that come out on Netflix, but often still end up reverting back to shows such as The Office, which I have watched a million times over. Greta Gerwig is also a director who I really like and find inspiring, so her films I always enjoy watching. Similar to Gwen, a lot of my free time recently has been spent studying for my A-levels, auditioning and hanging out with my friends, but now that A-levels are over I’m hoping to spend more time writing, as I would love to become a screenwriter and will be studying film next year, so it’s something I love doing in my free time.
Do you have a favourite aspect of being in the industry and have you been given any advice that has stuck with you?
Gwen – One of my favourite aspects of the industry is definitely getting to audition for or be involved in new projects. I love reading scripts and building characters and I always get so excited learning more about different projects I’m involved in and meeting new people. The best piece of advice I’ve been given was by one of my acting coaches, which is “rejection is not a reflection, it is a redirection”, which I think is a good thing to remember as an actor. It reminds you that you’re not going to be perfect for every role, or exactly who the casting team are looking for, but you shouldn’t take this as a personal criticism, you should learn from the experience and use this when auditioning for other projects.
Nelly – I honestly love the variety that acting gives you: it’s so exciting to me as one day you can be dealing with a highly emotional dramatic monologue, and the next day you can be learning to skateboard or improvising comedy – there’s never a dull moment and it allows me to pick up so many new skills, meet amazing new people and visit places that I have never been. In terms of advice, I would say allow yourself to make the most of the jobs you’re working on or auditions you go to by getting to know everyone else around you. Every film set I’ve been on has been filled with immensely talented cast and crew who have stories to tell from a huge variety of interesting projects – I think it’s important not to get complacent no matter what you’re working on – work hard, be polite to everyone around you and enjoy yourself – being on set is a blessing and the best part in my opinion!
What are you hoping 2023 brings for you, and do either of you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Nelly & Gwen – As we mentioned earlier, we have both just finished school, so will be able to spend a lot more time focused on acting, which we’re really looking forward to. I (Gwen) am currently involved in a really exciting film which is filming this summer with some actors who I really look up to, and I can’t wait to be able to share more about it. We are both also involved in a new TV show for a big streaming platform which is being released this year which we had a great time filming for and cannot wait to see the final result.
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