11th December 2023
Ann Akinjirin is set to lead the upcoming BBC adaptation of Enid Blyton’s classic The Famous Five series.
The show, which will follow the titular five on their childhood and adulthood adventures, will air in three parts – from December into Spring of 2024. It’s the latest in Ann’s exciting TV work; she previously appeared alongside Oscar Isaac in Marvel’s action-packed Moon Knight series, playing Detective ‘Bobbi Kennedy’, and in Michaela Coel critically acclaimed I May Destroy You.
Thanks so much for talking to ReVamp, how did you get into acting, and what inspired you to become an actress?
I was inspired to get into acting when I was 11 years old. I started really young. Before that point acting and dancing was just something that I used to do with my brothers to pass time but then I started secondary school and saw that they were auditioning for Little Shop of Horrors. They were looking for the dancing flower ensemble actors. During the audition process I had a fairly enthusiastic response (and got the part) but it was actually a girl in my class who turned to me and asked if I’d ever heard of Sylvia Young drama school. I hadn’t. She said that she went to the Saturday classes and that I should go with her. I went along and I was amazed. Just being surrounded by other kids who were passionate about performing- it was the first time that I realised that acting was something that a child could do. I haven’t looked back since.
You are an advocate for increased access for deaf and visually impaired audiences, I think it’s great you’re adding inclusiveness into the theatre world, what made you so passionate about this?
I was the artistic director of Harts Theatre Company for 10 years- at the epicentre of all the work that we produced was community engagement and the importance of making the arts accessible. Initially my focus was financial accessibility. Being able to provide good quality training or opportunities that wasn’t restrictive due to economic background. As time went on my aims and objectives widen and I began to take a closer look at inclusivity and accessibility.
Making accessible work from its inception rather than after the work has been made is key to inclusivity. Including the deaf and visually impaired community in that creative process is also important.
We’ll never make anything that is completely accessible but how amazing will it be when an audience of all abilities can go to the theatre any day of the run and not have to specifically wait for the captioned show (for example) or rely on special technology that singles then out in a crowd.
I’m in awe of what Paula Garfield and Deafinitly Theatre do and it was an incredible experience to work with them as a movement director for their production of 4:48 Psychosis. I spent many years adding what I learned from her and other deaf and visually impaired artists into the creative process of the work that Harts made to further our aim to make work for all audiences.
You have been in a lot of TV series such as ‘Moon Knight’ and ‘I May Destroy You’, what makes you want to audition for these, and what are the audition processes like?
I like to be in projects that are varied and interesting. Moonknight and I May Destroy are great examples of projects that I have been in that are completely different from one another in genre and style and that will always interest me.
The audition process for Moonknight especially was like nothing I had ever experienced (at the time) mainly because it was at the beginning of the pandemic where everything moved online and onto Zoom – which I hadn’t even heard of. I did everything remotely. Even my recalls and chemistry tests. Auditioning for a show but being so disconnected from people added an element of awkwardness and discomfort but it was also really great to be challenged in that way.
With I May Destroy You I had an interesting audition process because I auditioned for quite a few different roles before I was eventually cast. I think the team really wanted me in it but needed to find the right fit for me. So I went in a fair few times and read a number of different parts.
When you know you’re going for an audition, how do you prepare for each role?
The best way that I prepare for an audition is when there is source material to hand. When there is a script available, I make sure that I have read the script/s and have a clear idea of what is happening for the character in the scene and what has come before. I get an idea of their intentions and their needs and or obstacle. A lot of the audition process since the pandemic has moved to self-taping, so I also like to prepare by running the scene a few times for the camera, a few different ways to find what I think is the best way to play the scene.
You are due to be the adult lead in the upcoming BBC adaptation of Enid Blyton’s classic The Famous Five series, which I loved growing up, what made you want to be part of this adaptation?
Yes, I play one of the lead adults in The Famous Five (TFF), Aunt Fanny, which is such an iconic character. I was really excited by the creative team that were onboard with the project and the vision that they had for it. We do stay true to the origins of the stories, but I was very excited by the idea of reimagining it for today. My version of Aunt Fanny is quite departed from how Enid Blyton wrote her in the books, and I was enticed by knowing that I would have the freedom to bring her to life in my own way.
It is amazing to become a lead of this upcoming series, what was it like on set?
I had a friend who once said to me that “some jobs you survive and some jobs you thrive” and TFF set was definitely one in which I was able to thrive. We are a small core cast and the featuring actors changed with each episode, but the set harboured so much love and fun. There is something really beautiful about the energy that is added when you have a cast of kids because they bring a lightness, joy and mischief to the set that I very much align to. I was able to be very very silly with both the kids and James, who plays Uncle Quintin. We all really loved each other, both cast and crew.
You must be so excited for this to finally release, what are you most looking forward to for the release, and how will you celebrate?
As I mentioned about the joy and fun on the set, I’m really looking forward to how that translates onto the screen. The children also had such a great and funny dynamic off set that fed into their performances. I’m excited for people to see all of that. Without giving too much away the set build for episode two was quite epic and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that looks on the screen. I’m likely going to just sit on the sofa with my pals and family and celebrate by watching it with all of them.
For people who want to get into the arts, what is one piece of advice you would give to them?
I’d say the key to surviving this business is to have unwavering belief in yourself and to surround yourself with people that also believe in you. It’s a hard business to be in at times and it’s important to have the mindset to prop yourself up and when you can’t do it yourself, lean on the people that can.
The Famous Five is now shown on CBBC and BBC iPlayer.