Amy Marston plays Miss Murphy in the CBBC show A Kind of Spark, opposite the three young leads – Lola Blue, Georgia de Gidlow and Caitlin Hamilton – which was released earlier this year and currently streaming on BBC iPlayer. Over her years as an actor so far, one of Amy’s early roles was starring as Sylvia Sands in The Hello Girls for the BBC, with more recent TV series being episodes of Silent Witness, Showtrial and Vera, and some of her feature film appearances have included A Christmas Prince and Operation Mincemeat, in which she played Nurse Tate and attended the premiere, with the film directed by John Madden. On stage, Amy most recently performed in the European premiere of the two-hander play Parents’ Evening at Jermyn Street Theatre, and previously she was nominated for an Offie Award for Best Actress in a Play, after portraying Sylvia Gellburg in Broken Glass at Watford Palace Theatre. For Amy’s next project, she is part of a five-episode series for Netflix, which is currently unannounced. Chatting with us, Amy speaks about playing Miss Murphy in A Kind of Spark for CBBC, working on feature film Operation Mincemeat and her time at the Watford Palace Theatre as Sylvia Gellburg in Broken Glass.
How is it getting into character as Miss Murphy in A Kind of Spark and what is she like to play?
Well, firstly, great fun. She is a brilliantly-written “baddie”. From the minute I read Elle’s (McNicoll) book, I fell in love with all the characters and found myself crying with Addie’s speech at the end.
I was determined to make the monster (she could be seen as) human, ignorance and fear usually drive people to do terrible things and that is at the heart of Murphy, I think. Also, I’m a fan of teachers in general, it’s a very honourable profession, my mother was one, my partner is one. Even though bad teachers exist, it is an extremely tough profession, and nobody goes into it, who (at heart) doesn’t want to give something back to the world. Many pupils would find Murphy great, but she can’t work out the Darrows. She fears something she doesn’t understand and doesn’t fit with her version of the world. Unlike me, she is extremely ordered and sees the world one way, whereas I’m often muddled with questions I can’t find the answer to.
How was it reading the scripts and meeting the cast for the first time, and working with the young leads?
They were all a complete delight, what can I say? It’s their show, we just pop up for the occasional grown-up interactions. All of them brought the scripts to life beautifully from the first read.
What was it like on set of the series and how was it filming for a CBBC show?
Busy! As all sets are really, you need to turn up ready to get a lot done in a day. Everyone was on their game, great fun and very caring of the piece and the people in it. The whole team was fantastic and it had a family feel.
How has it been seeing the fan response to the release and why would you recommend watching it?
In all honesty, I’m not on social media so I have no idea of the response of the audience, but my niece tells me a lot of people have liked it! I would recommend anyone to watch it because it’s a great story, not just the modern-day story of the family, but the witch plotline is also a great yarn. Elle has a lovely mind and imagination, and the series brings that to life.
Earlier this year, you played Amy Nystrom in an episode of Silent Witness, what was this like?
Again, a delight. My lovely friend Bindu (De Stoppani) directed it, which doesn’t always happen. The best jobs are when you get to work with your friends! The only tough thing I remember was that we filmed it on one of the hottest recorded days in the UK, in a quarry… enough said. At least I wasn’t wearing a plastic forensic suit as others were!
Can you tell us about your time working on the feature film Operation Mincemeat as Nurse Tate and how was it attending the film premiere?
That was also a job I was lucky enough to be straight offered out of the blue, so I had no expectations and it turned out to be completely lovely. John Madden is such a great director, as was Sebastian Blenkov (DOP), and it just felt a wonderfully relaxed and thoughtful, creative process coming up with a small moment in the story, finding the detail. I really enjoyed watching how they worked together too. Everyone was treated equally, every character mattered, that’s how it felt; not always the case on a set. I didn’t expect to get to go to the premiere, at which all the cast were name-checked by John. Our industry can often feel as if only the big stars matter, so it was lovely to genuinely feel your small part in something was appreciated. At the time, I really needed that boost too, having had a period of failing to book a job, the curse of all actors at some point!
What did you enjoy most about playing Lydia Vendler in the TV series Showtrial in 2021?
It was a great script and part. I knew who she was straight away and very much enjoyed the mic drop court scene. Wonderful director, cast and production team. The cast included Céline Buckens, whom I worked with on one of her first small roles (Endeavour) and felt then that she’d go places. She was nominated for a BAFTA for Showtrial. I felt weirdly proud for her, nothing to do with me, of course, but I felt proud none the less.
You played Glenda Jannen in an episode of Vera, can you tell us about your character and how was it filming alongside Brenda Blethyn as Vera?
She is a legend and (in all honesty) I was quite scared of her at first. You need to be on your game because she always is. I felt that when she sees you’ve done your homework and are up to the job, she recognises and supports it with huge warmth. I really loved working on it and have huge respect for her and her standards. I want to be leading a series that successful, especially when I’m at her stage of life please!
What was it like being part of the feature films A Christmas Prince and The Current War?
I didn’t do much in the latter, to be honest, but had a great frock and met some very nice folks. A Christmas Prince was one of a few films I’ve made in Romania, Bucharest is always fun. Again, I’d also worked with the director before, which always makes for a fun working environment, when you already know and trust each other and can share a joke.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Sylvia Sands in The Hello Girls?
Being very young!… SO my memories are very hazy. It was my only time being the number one character on a cast list and I think (back then) I thought it would just be the first! Haha, you learn!
It was a very happy time, there was singing, dancing, great frocks… all with a great big cast of lovely women, which I never thought would be so rare in my career. Women are mostly the minority on most cast lists sadly. I hardly had a day on the shooting schedule when I wasn’t working, which teaches you early on the discipline of filming. I’m hugely grateful to that start I had.
As a stage actor, you most recently appeared in the European premiere of Parents’ Evening at Jermyn Street Theatre, how was this?
I’m a big supporter of that unique theatre, I love the intimate space and everyone who works there. The director was also great, very talented. Trust is incredibly important in a two-hander, is what I learned.
Ultimately, the piece just didn’t work in my view. I put my head down, did it and went home like any other job, but without any real joy. Sometimes you’re just not good in something and/or neither is the piece good. You take the losses with the wins and learn from them. I’m lucky this was a rare experience for me.
What was Sylvia Gellburg like to play in Broken Glass at Watford Palace Theatre and how was it being nominated for Best Actress in a Play at the Offie Awards?
It was the best thing I ever did. My favourite role. I don’t really get to play those great classic leading roles and I only got chance on this occasion, because another actress unfortunately had to drop out of the role. I had three days to learn the part. I knew and loved the director and one of my very great friends played my sister, so that support helped A LOT! I remember thinking I might have a heart attack, but the fear was also pretty thrilling. Ultimately, the play and part are so good, all I had to do was play them. Those parts are a gift. The nomination was a lovely bonus, but the play itself was award enough. I still think of the lines; the subject matter is very dear to my heart. I got offered the part two weeks after visiting Aushwitz-Birkenau; the haunting images I saw there seemed to be voiced so well by Arthur Miller in Sylvia’s lines.
Can you tell us about some of the other screen and stage projects you’ve been part of over your career so far, which have included Manhunt, The Little Stranger, Endeavour and A Small Family Business?
There is too much to say about them all, but I will say that all these you’ve mentioned connect.
Manhunt was the third time I’d worked with Martin Clunes. The director of Endeavour, who I loved working with, just offered me a series for Netflix for this autumn. The actress I worked with on Endeavour I worked with on Showtrial… Two of my greatest friends I met on A Small Family Business, I couldn’t imagine my life without the latter. SO a lot of my work connects in some way I realise. Turn up ready to do the work and try not to behave like an idiot maybe is my only piece of wisdom I have by reflecting on that. Hopefully it’ll bring more work, but more importantly, you’ll maybe make some friends for life.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start in the industry?
Living in my imagination most of the time, I think! I like examining other people’s lives. I love the collaboration element to the way a cast/crew works; telling a story together. I’d always done music as my main hobby, but I was never really that great at playing. Then I changed school at sixth form and had a chance to do a school play. I was lucky to have a great drama teacher Mrs Herbert and an evening school tutor Pat Oddy. They helped me as a teenager to join National Youth Theatre, go to Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, there I got an agent and luckily people gave me jobs to allow me to feed the obsession. I still think it’ll all end any day now and I’ll never work again. Increasingly so as a middle-aged woman in the industry. Ha!
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your free time?
I tend not to have favourite anything and watch and do lots of things. I’ve just finished watching The Bear, which I loved. Highly recommend that. I regularly go to the theatre and recently saw Beneatha’s Place at The Young Vic, a great evening. I’m a big fan of the movies and enjoy the BFI and Picturehouse membership. I heavily recommend both.
I love dancing and regularly go to classes to keep my old bones moving. I play my piano/cello (badly these days) and I’m also obsessed with gardening. I’m lucky enough to have a large allotment plot as well as a very small garden. Both keep me sane.
What are you hoping the rest of the year brings you and do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
I’m doing a part on a five-episode series for Netflix, but have signed an NDA, so that’s all I can say on that one!
Apart from work, I’m growing my fruit and veg and have big plans for a water wall feature in my garden, now that’s a huge project I’m looking forward to.
I hope to keep working!