Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Big Interview: Carrie Hope Fletcher

Carrie Hope Fletcher is currently starring as Truly Scrumptious in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

Carrie recently completed a three year run as Éponine in the West End production of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre. In 2014 she took a short break from Les Mis to play Beth in the UK arena tour of The War of the Worlds.

As a child actress, Carrie previously starred as Jemima Potts in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Her credits as a child performer also include: Young Eponine in Les Miserables (Palace), Jane Banks in Mary Poppins (Prince Edward/Bristol Hippodrome) and Weasel/Duck in The Wind in the Willows (Open Air Theatre).

Her television credits include: BBC's In Two Minds, Break Kids for the Disney Channel, Princess Beatrix in Wilhelmina and Dog and Duck for HTV. Carrie’s concert appearances include Edges (Delfont Room), Andrew Lippa in Concert (St James Theatre), West End Heroes (Dominion) and Ramin Karimloo's 2012 tour Road to Find Out. Carrie performed at Summer in the City, the largest YouTube gathering in the UK involving over 3000 people over one weekend.

Alongside her acting and music career, Carrie has an established online presence with over 380,000 followers on Twitter and over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube. She is well known for her series of video blogs which discuss a wide variety of topics and have a dedicated online following. In 2015, Carrie released her first book All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully and her second book is due to be released in July 2016.

I recently spoke to Carrie about returning to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an adult, why it has stood the test of time and her favourite moment in the show. We also discussed her time in Les Mis, whether she would consider doing a solo show and wanting to go green…

Are you feeling settled into life in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
Yes – it always takes a little bit of time to settle into what you’re doing. I feel really settled now and the whole cast have been unbelievably welcoming. Right from the first rehearsal I felt like I was going to slot in ok. You’ve just got to get all the moves down and get the show into your body.

Truly Scrumptious is such an iconic role. Having done the show as a kid, was Truly on your dream roles list?
Well I’ve always had a little list in my head of parts I would love to play one day. Truly was definitely near the top of my list, because of sentimental reasons – obviously I was in the show when I was younger and seem to have a habit of going back into shows I was in as a kid [laughs]. Truly is an amazing part.

Carrie in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

As a kid, what was it like to go into such a massive show at the London Palladium? It was such a huge deal and you were working alongside the most incredible cast!
As a kid I don’t think you really realise the scale of what you’re doing. I don’t think any of us kids realised it was such a big deal – it’s only now looking back on it that I realise the show broke records because of how much it cost to put on! When I was a nine year old I knew Michael Ball was a big deal, but now I’m like ‘Oh my god it was Michael Ball!’ [laughs]. I also worked with Brian Blessed, Nichola McAuliffe and Anton Rodgers but all these huge names sort of just went over my head – if only I’d had any idea! It’s really strange when I look back on my childhood because it involved flying in a car and being in the student revolution in France and having a flying nanny who made weird things happen [laughs]… that was my childhood! It’s really strange! Chitty was such a magical show to be a part of.

Do you remember looking up to Emma Williams who was your Truly?
She’s just a superwoman! I’m absolutely so sure she has super powers of some kind, because she never ages for a start… she still looks eighteen and her voice seems to get stronger and stronger and stronger. I don’t know how she does it – it actually baffles me! She’s such a nice person, it makes all the difference when someone stupidly talented is also really nice. I definitely looked up to her.

So fast forward a few years and you’re now playing Truly in this new touring production of the show which began life at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Director James Brining and choreographer Stephen Mear have put their own stamp on the show, do you think it feels like a fresh production?
It is definitely refreshing – it’s different from the West End show. The West End show had to fill the Palladium, that stage is huge, whereas these theatres we’re going into are smaller. It means the show fills the stage and almost fills off of the stage and into the first few rows. It’s like a popup book, you know when you open a popup book and it sort of bursts out of the page? That’s how I feel it is when you watch Chitty because everything is so colourful and bright and vibrant and the choreography is ridiculously amazing and everyone in the cast is just so talented. If you take all of the cast individually and make them sing a song of their choice you suddenly realise the sheer talent that is in this show. It’s crazy, absolutely crazy. It’s not just an amazing production to watch, but also an amazing production to be a part of. It’s mad [laughs]! 

Why has Chitty Chitty Bang Bang stood the test of time? The younger generation still find it so entrancing, and people who grew up watching the film get to relive their childhood!
It makes everyone feel like their six year old self again. Chitty is one of those movies most people grew up with and it’s still always on at Christmas. It continues to creep into people’s lives because it’s a classic film. So when you go and see it, it makes you feel like a kid again which is such an amazing feeling. There are lots of bright colours and so many amazing songs, you can’t not be entranced by it! It’s so brilliant. 

How have you found discovering your Truly and putting your own stamp on the role? It’s a fun part – she’s feisty!
Absolutely, she’s one of these roles you can really play with because she’s a very real person. Caractacus Pott is very much about making up stories; he’s very whimsical and has brought up his children so is used to playing games and having fun whereas Truly has had to be a very independent woman and hasn’t had room for fun in her life. When she meets Caractacus it’s almost like she realises that she’s been missing something. It’s so much fun to play that story! When she first meets him she thinks he’s this ridiculous man, but by the end she realises he and the children are exactly what she’s missing. She has never welcomed that kind of fun and love into her life before. Every person who plays Truly will find a new way to play her because they will relate to her and her story in a completely different way.

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?
‘Doll On A Music Box’ is my favourite part of the show… I absolutely love it! It’s just so iconic for Truly and I remember watching Emma do it over and over again – I used to copy the moves as a kid. I dressed up and would stand in the wings doing the moves with her because I just desperately wanted to have a go at doing it properly… and now I actually get to do it properly [laughs]. Every night it’s so exciting to get into that box and be wheeled onstage and then get to sing that song. 

What is it like working with the kids in the show? I’m sure they all look at you and think ‘I wish I could do that one day’!
It feels like nothing’s changed… I still feel like I’m one of the kids so it’s very easy for me to chat and play games backstage [laughs]. We all have silly dances that we do. I remember how much it used to mean to me when the adult cast would talk to us and play games and be silly. I feel like it helped me become a better actor in the sense of knowing how to be around people and how to talk to people. That’s exactly what I try to do now with the children. 

Carrie and Lee Mead in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

As if performing eight shows a week and touring the UK wasn’t enough, you’re continuously working on your videos and have a new book coming out – how is it possible to fit everything in? A day in the life of Carrie Hope Fletcher must be crazy?
[jokingly] I have no social life [laughs]. I get bored really quickly so find new ways to fill my time. It doesn’t feel like I’m rushed off my feet and really busy, it just feels like I’m making sure I’m not bored. That’s how the YouTube channel started and that’s how the blog that soon became the book started. I’m almost scared of being bored so will find anything to make sure I don’t get bored. 

What was it like to say goodbye to Les Mis after playing Éponine for almost three years?
I was a little bit numb for a few days. During that last week I denied it was happening until they like kicked me out of the theatre [laughs]. I completely denied that I was leaving until I left. It was very, very strange. I left with Rob Houchen (Marius) so we had each other – we kept looking at each other thinking ‘We’re leaving on Saturday and won’t be coming back on Saturday. We don’t have to come back in… and if we do they’ll make us leave’. 

Carrie & Rob Houchen
The day afterwards I had this lovely feeling of ‘I get a holiday now’ [laughs], but also it felt like I was grieving in a way. I had this horrible sense of loss and I didn’t really know how to deal with the fact that I would never be going back to the Queen’s Theatre… and if I ever did I would have to sign in officially and have a Visitor’s Pass around my neck. It would no longer be my home. I had been at the Queen’s Theatre for almost three years and it was like my home away from home. If ever I was in London for a meeting or to see friends or anything, I could just dump my stuff at the theatre and use it like my own room. It’s very odd not to have that anymore!

Éponine was your first major theatre role as an adult and three years is a huge chunk of your life. What was your whole journey like over those three years?
I mean, I was twenty when I was cast and twenty-three when I left so it was a hu-u-u-ge chunk of my life. Going from twenty to twenty-three is major growing up time, so to have done that in the Queen’s Theatre playing Éponine is just really bizarre! It’s so funny to think I had such a big growing period within Les Miserables. When I look back at it all it feels like I was there forever, but it also feels like it never happened at the same time. It only feels like yesterday I was starting and it was my first day of rehearsals! I’ve got these incredible memories and this wealth of experience, so much that I learnt and so many amazing people that I met. It’s really weird to think about it all now but, my god, it was an incredible three years. 

So you’ve gone back to both Les Mis and Chitty after being in them as a child, I feel like your natural career progression is to next play Mary Poppins [laughs]!
[laughs] I would love to play Mary Poppins one day! Who knows? Maybe I need to break the cycle now and do something different. I would love to be in Wicked one day – I would love to be green. I think to play that role is every girl’s dream. I mean, you need vocal cords of steel to play Elphaba, I’ve got a long way of learning to go.

People have been practically campaigning for you to be Elphaba!
I know! It’s so lovely to see the support for it online. It’s a part I would love to play. I would also love to play Wednesday Addams if The Addams Family ever came over here. She’s just a weird and wonderful character. ‘Pulled’ is an absolutely brilliant song! One of my main dreams in life is to be a Disney Princess, because I’m a massive Disney fan and a little bit obsessed… and unashamed to admit it [laughs]. There are Disney shows opening left right and centre over the world, so if I ever got to be in a Disney show that would be amazing.

Carrie as Éponine in Les Miserables

I’m sending you to a desert island and you can take three musical theatre songs with you. What are you going to take and why?
Oh my goodness! Ok… that’s a really good question. I would probably take ‘The Wizard and I’ from Wicked because it just makes me feel really good and like I can do anything. It’s that point in Elphaba’s story where she’s like properly revved up and ready to take on the world no matter what anybody else thinks, and that’s how I feel whenever I listen to it. I would also take ‘Hushabye Mountain’ for times when I can’t quite get to sleep. It’s beautiful. And what else? Oh I would take ‘I Believe’ from The Book of Mormon because it would make me giggle and it’s just ridiculously brilliant. 

I know you’re too busy at the moment, but one day would you consider doing some sort of ‘An Evening With… Carrie Hope Fletcher’ concert?
Yes… I would, mainly just to conquer my fear of being myself onstage. I have this horrible, horrible fear of being Carrie Hope Fletcher on a stage in front of people! I’m much more comfortable being a character, so it’s something I need to face and get over [laughs]. It would be good and it’s something I would love to do. I know that once I’ve done it I would be like, ‘that was awesome’. It’s just the build-up which scares me!

What’s it like to have so much dedicated, passionate support behind you? You have fans who have discovered you online as well as through your theatre work, but then they will support all the different projects you’re working on!
I mean… it’s incredible and I can’t quite fathom it. It’s amazing and I have times where I start thinking about it too much and start hyperventilating and freaking myself out because it’s just quite overwhelming. I’m incredibly grateful – people do campaign for me online to play parts, they try and get hashtags trending like #CarrieForElphaba or #CarrieForDoctorWhoCompanion [laughs]. It’s amazing to watch! I just know that if I overthink it, I’ll freak myself out.

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Carrie plays Truly Scrumptious in the UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang until 2nd October 2016. Please visit www.chittythemusical.co.uk for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit 1: Darren Bell
Photo Credit 2-4: Alastair Muir
Photo Credit 5: Johan Persson
Photo Credit 6: Matt Crockett 

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