For her first lead role on screen, Tilly Kaye stars as Biff in the CBeebies series Biff & Chip, based on the popular Biff, Chip & Kipper books, with Series 2 releasing earlier this year. Tilly works alongside George Robinson as Chip and Freddie James as Kipper, and she has recently been nominated for Best Performance in a TV Series: Leading Youth Artist at the 2023 Young Artist Awards for her portrayal of the character. In 2019, Tilly played Amy Sowden in Gentleman Jack, which marked her TV character debut, and reprised her role for a few scenes in the following series, and she joined the cast of Last Tango in Halifax in 2020 as Calamity, filming closely with Nicola Walker. Tilly has been training at Articulate Drama School since the age of five, has worked on commercials including VARTA Batteries (which she booked from her first ever audition) and AXA Insurance, and it’s been announced that she has filmed for the upcoming ITV series Protection. We talked to Tilly about starring as Biff in CBeebies’ Biff & Chip, playing Amy Sowden in Gentleman Jack and joining the cast of Last Tango in Halifax as Calamity in 2020.
You’ve been announced for the cast of the upcoming ITV series Protection, is there anything you can tell us about filming this?
I can’t say much about my role, however, it was a wonderful experience and I learnt a lot. It was a gritty role, which gave me a sense of maturity and versatility as an actor and, as the only child working amongst an adult cast, it was quite a contrast from filming Biff & Chip.
What are you looking forward to for the release?
I don’t normally watch myself, however, as this production involved some emotional scenes and I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, I’m looking forward to seeing how it looks on screen. I also filmed my very first night shoot on this production and I can’t wait to see the finished product.
Do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked your leading role of Biff in the CBeebies series Biff & Chip?
Finding out I was playing Biff was quite unexpected. There were numerous auditions, which spanned over a year due to it being during the pandemic. I had read Biff & Chip books in primary school and identified with Biff a lot, so when I knew I was down to the final two to play Biff, I have never wanted a role so bad, I knew it was the biggest thing I had done so far. My agent called me to tell me I had got the role and I remember dancing round the living room all night.
What is Biff like to play and how is it getting into character?
It was quite easy getting into character for Biff as we have similar interests. I’m creative, loud and a bit bossy at times.
I appreciate it’s not often that this happens, but I really did make some lifelong friends on Biff & Chip, which made filming it a pleasure, as if I was playing with friends every day. I’m in regular contact with Dorothy (Peters-Lowe), who played Wilma, and I meet up with Freddie and George (who play Chip and Kipper) and their families as often as we can. We actually all just met up last weekend!
Have you had a favourite episode to film and what do you enjoy most about filming for Biff & Chip?
I especially enjoy filming the episodes where we get to dress up and play games like ‘pirate’ and ‘games night’ but my favourite episode of Series 1 was Floppy’s Obstacle Course because we got to work with Noodles the dog constantly. A funny story about Noodles was that as he was a puppy on Series 1, he had been taught to move on hearing the word ‘action’, which wasn’t always what was needed so we replaced the word action with ‘bananas’ making it all the more fun.
My favourite episode from Series 2 was the Christmas Special as it was the height of summer but they dressed the entire set and our green room as if it were Christmas Day. It was magical.
How was it hearing you’d been nominated for Best Performance in a TV Series: Leading Youth Artist at the 2023 Young Artist Awards for your role of Biff?
Very, very unexpected! I thought it was a hoax at first. I’d never heard of the Youth Artist Awards so when I researched it, I was rather proud of receiving the recognition and it was a nice surprise.
You played Amy Sowden in Gentleman Jack, how would you describe your character and what was the show like to work on?
It was the first drama I worked on and my first cast role as I had only done commercials up to that point. I remember having scenes with numerous farm animals as well as my acting family. Amy was the youngest of the siblings but she was a hard worker, helping her brothers and her mum on the farm. I also have two memorable bloopers. One was where I accidentally swore as there was a mild swear word in the original script, which I had learnt, but they decided to remove it at the last minute. The second blooper involved me tripping over trying to carry water buckets. I didn’t hurt myself though.
How was it reprising your role in Series 2 and seeing the success to the show?
I was only in a couple of scenes in Series 2 so didn’t experience much of it but for the couple of days I did film, it was lovely getting into a period costume again, seeing familiar faces amongst the cast and crew and seeing how the Sowden family had developed.
What was it like joining the cast of Last Tango in Halifax as Calamity in Series 5?
It was my second cast role and was a lovely progression from playing Amy Sowden. I loved playing Calamity! She was a firecracker of a character, a little bit cheeky and so fun to play.
What are some of your favourite memories from your time playing Calamity?
The scene in the back of the car with her great grandma and grandad. I felt like such a baddie swearing at them. It is one of my family’s favourite scenes. The actors were all brilliant in it and I loved working closely with Nicola Walker.
Can you tell us about some of the commercials you have worked on?
VARTA Batteries was not only my very first commercial, but my very first audition too. The audition process was rather unique in that there were about 15 people sat in the actual audition room watching me. My mum hadn’t seen the audition request until late the night before and I was already asleep, so Mum had to wake me up at 5am to teach me how to hula hoop for it. I was very lucky that I picked it up quick.
AXA Insurance was an incredible experience as I travelled over to Slovenia for eight days to film it. The scenery was breathtaking, each day of filming was a different location, the crew were like a second family to me. Edward, who played my grandad, couldn’t have been nicer, and the final edit was just beautiful and something I’m very proud of.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you get into it?
I have always loved performing for my family and have done from a young age. I was asking my mum constantly to be ‘on TV’ from three years old. When I was still pestering her at five, she found a local drama school; Articulate, who are also a casting agent and the rest is history. I’m still with them now. Acting felt absolutely right from my very first lesson. I love pretending to be someone else, stepping outside the box and being someone I’m not. I enjoy different types of acting, scripted, improv and there isn’t one genre that I prefer. I want to be versatile and am working towards being good at it.
My agent and teachers have been a tremendous support for me from the beginning.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I’ve been binge-watching Gossip Girl – I’m currently on Season 3. I also love horror/thriller films, my favourites being Bird Box and Quiet Place.
I enjoy writing (short stories and poetry) and I love scrapbooking, which have been hobbies of mine from a young age.
I do also like helping at my drama school. Every Saturday afternoon, I assist the drama teacher with the juniors drama lesson. It’s really rewarding seeing the younger ones develop their skills.
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you?
Be Polite, Professional, Punctual and Prepared.
What are you hoping the upcoming months bring for you and do you have any projects coming up that you can tell us about?
Nothing concrete coming up. Hopefully something exciting will arise, whether it’s a commercial or a drama. I’m going to keep working hard, sending in self-tapes, attending auditions and, fingers crossed, something will come of it. Exciting times!
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