Florrie May Wilkinson can currently be seen playing Sabrina Moxley in CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, having joined the cast in Series 10 alongside actors including Owen Phillips and Kayleen Nguema. In the horror film Haunting of the Queen Mary, Florrie plays Jackie Ratch, with Wesley Alfvin playing Fred Astaire and Nell Hudson and Wil Coban as her on-screen parents. As a voiceiver artist, Florrie voices Baby Ostrich in Jungle Beat: The Movie, as well as the upcoming Jungle Beat 2: The Past, and she voiced Dee Dee Dalmatian in 101 Dalmatian Street. Having made her professional stage debut at eight years old playing Molly in the UK Tour of Annie, Florrie since went on to play Summer Hathaway in the UK and Ireland Tour of School of Rock. Continuing with acting, Florrie is working on an unannounced project, and is represented by Sylvia Young Agency. Talking to us, Florrie told us about playing Sabrina Moxley in The Dumping Ground, filming as Jackie Ratch in Haunting of the Queen Mary, her voiceover role in the Jungle Beat films and performing as Summer Hathaway in School of Rock on tour.
How is it getting into character as Sabrina Moxley in The Dumping Ground and what is she like to play?
Sabrina is the most amazing character to play, which makes my job very easy! When I get the scripts, I read them quietly on my own and put myself in Sabrina’s shoes. I don’t read them as Florrie, I read them as Sabrina, which allows me to feel the emotions that the situation puts her in. She is great fun to play and I’m lucky that she has had some great storylines so far.
Can you tell us about Sabrina and was there anything that drew you to the role?
I always say Sabrina is feisty, fiercely loyal, great fun and a little misunderstood. Like all of the kids in The Dumping Ground, she has had some really tough times so that has resulted in her building a wall around herself, which can come across as unkind at times. But when Sabrina is your friend, she’s your friend for life and will always support you. I’d have Sabrina as a best friend any day – I think we’d regularly be in trouble but we’d definitely have fun along the way!
The script that was sent for the self-tape audition really excited me. I felt connected to Sabrina straight away. There were two scenes – the first where Sabrina was being her typical stroppy self, refusing to follow instructions with that line – “I don’t do chores!”. Her determined attitude made me laugh and maybe I recognised a little bit of me in her! My family definitely do! The second scene was the one in which we find out that Sabrina writes poetry about her mum. This was a completely different side to Sabrina as we see her thoughtful, sensitive side. I realised there was more to her character than met the eye and I felt connected to her straight away.
How did you feel finding out you’d be joining the cast of a long-running CBBC show and how has it been seeing the fan response to your character?
The Dumping Ground is such an iconic show and I’d watched it myself for so many years that it felt surreal that I would be appearing in it! I was so excited to receive the call and stepping onto set for the first time was brilliant! I was lucky that the hair and makeup and costume team really involved me in what Sabrina’s look would be like so it was a real privilege to be involved in her development from the beginning. Although I’d been involved in filming before, working on a weekly series is very different and I was nervous to meet some of the long-standing cast and crew but they couldn’t have been more welcoming.
The fans are so supportive and we all really appreciate that. We all have a great time filming so it’s great to know that the fans are so involved and interested in the characters which makes it all worthwhile.
How is your time playing Sabrina going so far and do you have a favourite aspect of working on The Dumping Ground?
Playing Sabrina is such great fun and I love being part of the show. I call The Dumping Ground’s cast and crew my second family as there is a real caring, family feel to the show. When I’m filming, I have to live away from home, and I can honestly say it’s like my second home as we all get along so well. Everyone involved from chaperones, to camera crew, to cast are definitely my favourite aspect of working on The Dumping Ground. The cast are all such good friends. Lara (Mehmet), Owen (Phillips), Massimo (Cull), Kayleen (Nguema) and Zanele (Nyoni) and I all started together and I really think we will be friends for life, you couldn’t meet a more supportive group of friends.
Have you had a most challenging or favourite episode to film in Series 10 and what was it like filming your first scene?
I thought filming my first scene would be nerve-racking but it actually was just great fun. The crew were all very supportive and Sabrina is such a great character to play that it just felt very natural.
Oh, choosing a favourite episode is so difficult as working with that mad bunch is always brilliant. Seeing how our characters bounce off each other is great – for example, the relationship between Wes (Owen) and Sabrina who are such different characters is really heartwarming. The vampire episode was great as the hair and makeup was fun, and the lizard episode was hilarious – the lizard was definitely the star of the show, we spent a long time waiting for him to go where he was supposed to – what a diva! The most challenging was when Sabrina opened up to Taz about her poetry and her mum as I felt that deeply so sometimes scenes like that can be emotionally tiring.
You play Jackie Ratch in the new feature film Haunting of the Queen Mary, how did you find the experience on set of a horror film?
Oh my gosh, it was a dream of mine to work on a horror film and to get a death scene so this was a dream come true, much to my family’s horror! Hair and makeup was really interesting, I’d casually be getting my hair curled surrounded by gruesome prosthetics or someone else getting blood on their face – brilliant fun! My parents thought I may be concerned but children are very well protected on set and even during difficult scenes such as my death scene when the director shouts cut you just continue chatting to cast and crew so it’s nothing like watching on screen.
The ship The Queen Mary is a spooky place. A little tale about something spooky that happened to me during filming – we were filming on The HMS Belfast at night. Before going to the location I was in costume waiting in a hotel. We turned on the TV and an antiques restoration programme was on. The experts were looking at a model of the ship The Queen Mary and discussing how it was the most haunted location in the world!
What was it like working alongside the rest of the cast and filming the tap scene with Wesley Alfvin, who plays Fred Astaire?
It was an honour to work for Gary Shore, the director, as his patience and way of explaining what he wanted was so appreciated. I learned so much from the other actors, particularly my on-screen parents Nell Hudson and Wil Coban. Being on set really gives you the opportunity to study how other actors perform and so this experience was invaluable. For the tap section, I worked with Wesley Alfvin and he blew me away with his talent! He is the most amazing dancer and I found him really inspirational. Despite him being such an amazing tapper, he had endless patience for me. His lovely wife, April, and he even recorded sections of the dance in America and sent them to me to help to prepare me. We then spent two days together at a studio in London to learn the dance together. Filming it took a day for me and then extra for Wesley so they could add the special effects. When I wrapped on set, I gave Wesley and Gary the heel taps off my tap shoes that I’d practised in – engraved The Queen Mary. Those heel taps will always have the rhythm of the tap that Wesley and I performed.
How did you prepare for your role of Jackie and how would you describe the character?
I read and watched a lot about the ship The Queen Mary and about the period of time that Jackie lived.
Jackie is an inquisitive, ambitious, determined child who loves to perform. She has had an interesting life due to her parents being in the business and she worships her father, hanging on his every word but still questioning it at times. I too love to perform and have danced since I was three so I understood Jackie’s love of dancing and desire to show the world what she can do. Preparing for the role always involves me reading the script, not just the scenes I am in, so I can understand why the character behaves the way they do, I then talk it over with my mum and try to develop my version of the character in my head. This is quite powerful as whenever I leave a role I always feel sadness, like I am leaving part of me or a good friend behind.
As a voiceover actor, you voice Baby Ostrich in Jungle Beat: The Movie and the upcoming Jungle Beat 2: The Past, what are the films like to be part of?
Who wouldn’t want to be the voice of Baby Ostrich?! What a cool role this was. I love how daredevil she is and how Mama Ostrich spends most of her time just trying to keep her safe… I think my mum would say the same about me when I was small! Often as a voice artist, you are in the studio alone or with other child voice actors but this role also gave me the opportunity to be in the studio at the same time as an adult voice actress – Lucy Montgomery, who plays Mama Ostrich. This was really interesting and I learned so much about ‘walla’, the additional sounds voice actors make as well as lines – for example, as Baby Ostrich is falling from a tree and hitting branches.
What did you enjoy most about voicing Dee Dee Dalmatian in 101 Dalmatian Street?
Dee Dee is a twin to Dizzy and at the time of voicing this my twin brothers were about a year old. I could transfer the mischief I was seeing at home every day into Dee Dee, which was great fun. I also voiced this one with one of my best friends Nefeli Karacosta, who was Dizzy in the show, so many times when you hear Dizzy and Dee Dee giggling at their antics, it was us giggling at our own mischief in the studio! Working with other actors is always good fun but working with one of my closest friends was a great experience.
On stage, you played Summer Hathaway in the UK and Ireland Tour of School of Rock, had you seen the musical before auditioning and what was Summer like to play?
I had seen the show and loved it! A close friend of mine Anya had played the role of Summer in the West End and I’d had the pleasure of watching her team perform the show. Summer is a dream to play – bossy, entitled, a supporter of women’s rights, and always right! There is so much to get your teeth into with the role and I was determined to be my own version of Summer Hathaway, which hopefully I did.
How was it performing the song Time to Play and learning the show’s music and choreography?
Time to Play opens the second act and no matter how many times you do it you still get the butterflies standing in the wings waiting for the curtain to rise. But what an honour it is to perform that song! It’s important to perform your bossy socks off and carry the humour through it but at the same time ensuring your diction is very clear as it is so fast. I enjoy picking up choreo and songs as I’ve performed since the age of three so it’s something I love. I absolutely love filming for screen but theatre will always have a special place in my heart.
What was it like making your professional stage debut as Molly in Annie and how was the experience touring with a theatre production for the first time?
When I played Molly I was only eight. My family thought I would be homesick or might struggle to be away from home but I didn’t at all. I love routine and being on tour gives you that – up for breakfast, tutoring, lunch, tutoring or tech run or matinee then performing in the evening. The laws for the hours children can work extend when they are nine so, as I was the youngest, I was often taken out on my own with the chaperone to go shopping, which is another love of mine! We were so well looked after it was just the best fun. Molly was a dream role too as I’d always loved Annie so to get the role was really exciting.
Where does your love of acting and performing come from and how did you get into it?
When I was tiny, I had too much energy and was always singing and bouncing around the house so my parents took me to dance class where I thrived. I was soon dancing five days a week from the age of four and competing, which is where my love of the stage came from. My older brother, Theo, also danced but preferred the acting and singing side. He inspired me to work on acting too as he is such an amazing actor and over time my ambitions changed from being a dancer to being a triple threat. I train four to five days a week and can’t think what else I would ever want to do with my life, I’m truly over the moon and privileged to get the opportunities I do.
What are some of your favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch and how do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I love high energy theatre so Moulin Rouge! is my absolute favourite. I loved it so much it brought me to tears. When I watch TV, I do so to relax and love most things like girls my age do such as Wednesday and Stranger Things.
Have you been given any advice over your career so far that has stuck with you, and what do you enjoy most about working on screen, stage and voiceover?
I feel very lucky to have had all the experiences I have had and couldn’t choose between theatre or screen for my favourite. I love the opportunity to develop a new character and get to know them and become part of them. I also love meeting new teams, I’m a very sociable person so getting to know and work with new people is a joy to me.
I always try to be myself in auditions and support others too. I was once told by a brilliant director to never feel worried about asking for a moment of quiet to ensure you are ready to start. I had a very emotional ADR scene to record for Haunting of the Queen Mary. Lenny Rush had filmed the scene and I had to voiceover it, as Jackie had taken over his body. Surrounded by recording equipment and many crew, I took this advice to ensure I was Jackie in the rain, not Florrie in the studio. It really helped.
Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about and what are you hoping the rest of the year brings you?
Oh, there is one I really wish I could tell you about but my lips are sealed at the moment! I’m hoping to finish the year as productive as the rest of it has been. I’d love to meet some new characters to develop me as an actress even further.
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