In the worldwide release of new biographical drama series A Small Light, Billie Boullet portrays Anne Frank, with the series available to watch on National Geographic, Disney+ and Hulu. A Small Light follows the life of Miep Gies, the woman who hid the Frank family as well as the Van Pels and Dr Pfeffer, and Billie reunited with some of the cast for the show’s premieres. Billie had her first series regular role as Fenella Feverfew in The Worst Witch, when she joined the CBBC show in Series 4 in 2020, and she has been recording an animation series, which is due for release 2023/2024. Talking with Billie, she told us about portraying Anne Frank in the new biographical drama series A Small Light, the experience of having the show released worldwide and playing Fenella Feverfew in CBBC’s The Worst Witch.
Can you tell us about the new biographical drama series A Small Light, in which you play Anne Frank, and was there anything that drew you to the project?
The series A Small Light follows the life of Miep Gies, the woman who hid the Frank family as well as the Van Pels and Dr Pfeffer.
When I first got the scripts for A Small Light, there were three main factors that drew me in, the first being that they painted Anne Frank as her true self and not this character that she has been conveyed as in the past, the second factor was that it was from the point of view of Miep and not Anne Frank, which I felt was a new story that nearly no one knows about, meaning that people could be educated on this story in a completely different way that hasn’t been done before.
Lastly, it was because they wrote A Small Light in a non-documentary style. This story has been created so many times like a documentary, which usually makes you not connect with the story they are telling and instead makes you feel like you are being lectured about a very hard-hitting subject, meaning you won’t want to listen.
What was it like taking on the role of Anne Frank and what would you say was the most challenging aspect of portraying her?
When I first got the role, I felt quite overwhelmed with the responsibility of portraying her correctly, so I did a lot of research and focused on her diary. The most challenging part was capturing her youth whilst she was going through a very difficult part of her life. I wanted to make sure her energy was still there because she was very young when she went into hiding, I found this the most challenging because I had to keep up a 15 year old’s energy all the time and not let it dip during the takes, it is also a very different energy to my own whilst filming as I was 17 at the time.
How did you prepare for filming and what was it like seeing the costumes for the first time?
To prepare for filming I did a lot of research on Anne and quite a bit about the period that it was set in so I had a basic understanding of the world Anne was living in at the time. Seeing the costumes was an amazing feeling as it really felt like I was becoming Anne. One of my favourite moments is when we did something called a camera test, so the whole cast had to get into hair, makeup and costumes, seeing everyone as the people they were portraying was incredible and it got me very excited to start filming.
How was it on set of the series and filming alongside the rest of the cast?
It was an incredible experience, everyone from cast to crew to the show runners and directors were the most welcoming, loving and hard-working people. We were all on the same page where we wanted to create something wonderful. Working with them has set the bar so high and I can’t wait to see what they all do next.
What do you feel you learnt from your time working on the show and playing Anne Frank?
I have learnt a lot from this project and from Anne. From Anne, I learnt that having an escape during a tough time in your life can save you. At only 15 she was able to understand that she could put important moments of life when she had to be so quiet and still into her diary and live her life through that.
From the show as a whole, I learnt a lot from each person. Jan and Miep were so young when they took on a massive responsibility of having eight people’s lives in their hands, and putting their own in danger. So what I learnt is that no matter what age you are, you are capable of doing anything if you work for it, that when obstacles are in your way and you work to overcome them that is when you show your strength.
How did you find the experience attending the show’s premieres and how does it feel now A Small Light has been released worldwide?
I loved attending the premieres and being able to talk about this project and showing how passionate I am about what our team put together. I am very happy that it’s been released and people are able to enjoy and be educated about the wonderful life story of Miep.
What was it like telling the A Small Light story and why would you recommend watching the series on National Geographic, Disney+ and Hulu?
I was so grateful to be able to tell this story. Why should people watch it? Well, the first question should be: do you know about Miep Gies? The answer will probably be no, and this woman’s life should be told as much as possible, she is one of the greatest role models, and once you know her, you can learn so much from her on how to be strong, weak, vulnerable and moral all at once. Her life illustrates what it’s like to be human during an inhuman period. A Small Light will tell you a story you think you know in a completely different and truthful way, that will allow you to create emotional attachment to not only the people being portrayed but will also allow you to have sympathy for anyone else who has gone through similar experiences.
Your first series regular role was Fenella Feverfew in The Worst Witch, how would you describe the character and what was she like to play?
Playing Fenella Feverfew was really fun, I had a completely blank canvas to work from to create a background from scratch to have her own characteristics, reacting to things or people however I chose to do it that day. It is a very different process than playing a real person. Fenella was a perfect student but looked down on everyone else, she only likes having things her way and if it doesn’t, someone would pay the price.
How was it joining the cast for Series 4 in 2020 and how did you feel finding out you’d booked the role?
Well, The Worst Witch was my first ever job I had. I was very excited when I found out but also quite nervous as the other girls had been working together for three years already. But when I met the cast, we all got on really well and we all still talk today regularly.
What did you enjoy most about filming for CBBC and do you have any stand-out highlights from playing Fenella?
What I most enjoyed was the cast and the crew. I love being part of a team and working with people of completely different ages. My favourite highlight for playing Fenella was the day I had to be completely slimed for hours and having cakes thrown at my face. It was a fun day of filming and definitely one of my favourites.
How did you get into acting and was it something you always wanted to do?
I always wanted to go into acting before I even knew I could do it as a job. In school during lunch and after school from the age of six to nine, they would have loads of different activities and I would without fail always choose to watch or do theatre. It’s always been a part of my life. It is my hobby, my job and what I’m passionate about. I feel extremely lucky to have found that at such a young age.
Have you been given any advice throughout your career so far that has stuck with you?
I’ve had a lot of advice and some of the best I’ve received is to work hard on everything you get, it sounds simple but as actors you do an obscene amount of auditions, and to work hard for each one at the same level is time-consuming and difficult, but then at least when you don’t get the job you know you did all you could, you’re not left with rejection but with closure so you can focus on the next project.
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
Right now, I am really enjoying The Bear and Breaking Bad, however, my guilty pleasure TV show will always be The Big Bang Theory. I have now watched it 14 times without missing an episode.
Film-wise I have really enjoyed watching Jojo Rabbit and Parasite recently.
But some of my all-time favourites would be The Mask, Whiplash, The Help and Scar Face. I have many more that are my all-time favourites but I would be writing for a while!
Outside of acting, I usually spend time with my friends and family as much as I can because acting and auditioning does take up a lot of time, and I also love to cook. I usually do that as I can balance that quite easily with acting.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about and what are you hoping 2023 brings for you?
I have a wonderful animation series coming out in 2023/2024 that I am excited about as it’s been in the works for a couple of years now, and I enjoyed doing voiceover work so much! I hope 2023 brings wonderful things to me and everyone else. I feel like it’s the first year where COVID hasn’t controlled our lives and the world, so I’m very excited to have things getting back to normal.
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