Darrell Rivers is a rare combination of dreamer and doer. She is sporty, impetuous and physically brave. Full of gumption, opinions and ambitions, she’s determined to become the kind of girl who would make Malory Towers proud. Unfortunately, Darrell has a terrible temper along with a strong sense of justice, which can cause her to lash out and let herself down.
Tell us about your character.Darrell is a strong, kind and loyal character, who sometimes has a hot temper, and always seems to know what’s best. She has a big heart and always tries to do the right thing.
How do other people see Darrell?
People really look up to her for being such a kind, positive and happy person. They see her as a strong leader.
Describe the relationship between Darrell and Gwen.
Their relationship is often quite confusing. Despite having many arguments and misunderstandings, they do have their moments of friendship. I wouldn’t call them enemies, but they do dislike each other at times. I think Darrell finds Gwen quite annoying with her spoiled ways, but at the same time can feel sorry for her.
How does the relationship develop?
They begin their relationship with lots of arguments but, throughout the school year, they learn to tolerate each other. Darrell begins to feel sorry for Gwen and starts to realise that Gwen’s actions come from her insecurities rather than pure meanness.
Do you have any sympathy for Gwen?
I do. I think she feels very pressured to have a ‘best friend’. I feel sorry for her because when she tries to build friendships her insecurities make her act out and push people away.
Matron is quite scary in the programme - what is Matron like in real life?
Ashley, the actress who plays Matron, is one of the funniest people I have every met in my whole life. There were some scenes where the director would ask Ashley to improvise some lines to make us laugh and it would make everyone on set practically cry with laughter.
How did you feel when you got the part?
When I found out that I got the part, my mum gave me a gift and when I opened it, it was the first Malory Towers book. She didn’t need to tell me, I just knew when I saw the book that I had got the part and I was so excited and a bit overwhelmed, so I just buried my face in the book. It was a long audition process, so it was amazing to finally hear the news.
How did you prepare for the role?
My little sister Georgia was reading the series at the time so she was really helpful in giving me lots of tips on how Darrell should be.
What was it like playing such an iconic role?
The great thing about reading a book is that you can imagine the character in your own mind, so I felt a bit pressured to create a character that people would be happy with. Apart from that pressure, it was so incredible, and I feel very honoured to have had this opportunity.
Were you a fan of Enid Blyton before and what do you like about her books?
My whole family are huge fans of the books. My family didn’t grow up reading Enid Blyton but, since I got the role, everyone (including my grandparents) have read the entire series. I also love the Famous Five and St. Clare’s books.
What are the key themes in the series?
Some of the themes in the series include friendships, bullying, growing up, and learning to become independent and standing up for yourself.
Do you think those themes are relevant for girls/young people today and why?
I think these are things that every young girl will probably experience growing up (the ups and the downs). Hopefully they will watch the show and can relate to the characters and what they are going through.
What was it like filming with lots of other girls? Did you have a similar bond to the characters?
All of my cast mates are absolutely incredible, and I feel grateful that I can call them my best friends. We had the best time filming and started bonding immediately at the first meeting. When we were away filming, it felt like we were at summer camp. It didn’t feel like work at all.
If you were having a real-life midnight feast, what food would you insist on having?
Definitely stroop waffles, candy floss, sweets.
How do you reflect back on making the drama?
It was the most incredible experience. I have made lifelong friends and have learned so much. The directors were so kind, helpful and inspiring. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity and will never forget this past summer filming.
Why should people watch the series?
People should watch it because it brings a classic, much loved book to life and, although it takes place in post-war Britain, it still covers current issues that people can relate to. It is beautifully filmed and I think people, young and old, will all really enjoy it
The full series is available on BBC iPlayer from Monday 23 March.