Breastfeeding on set, the Hollywood/Fenham divide and cuddles with Helen Mirren… We chat to BAFTA-nominated actress, Aimée Kelly
Having grown up onscreen as Maddy Smith in CBBC’s hit series Wolfblood, Aimée has a lifetime of experience in the spotlight – and plenty pearls of wisdom to share with aspiring actors.
By Tahlia Norrish
Red carpets and international world premieres may sound a world away from Fenham. But not for Aimée Kelly.
Growing up on screen as Maddy Smith in CBBC’s hit series Wolfblood (for which she received a BAFTA nomination), these two realities have now coexisted for most of the Geordie actress’ time on earth.
A testament to her ability to honour both aspects of her life, Aimée has gone from teen celebrity to university graduate, indie darling (think Sket and The Personal History of David Copperfield), to – most recently – wife and young mother.
Here we speak to Aimée about her all-encompassing journey and what it was like showcasing her home county on the silver screen.
We read that your English teacher encouraged you to pursue performing arts when you were just 11. What do you trace your love of performing back to?
I would say that my true love of acting came from watching films at a young age – going to the video shop where we lived in Newcastle and renting VHS tapes for 50p.
There have definitely been figures in my life who were also instrumental to me pursuing it as a career, mostly teachers actually! My English teacher at Sacred Heart High School; my mam, driving me to every class and audition; Lucy Sage, the principal of SA Performing Arts Centre in Byker; Mr Ed Applewhite at Tring Park Boarding School; and Carolina Barcos at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Considering you started so young and achieved success so early, what keeps you excited about your job?
Always the scripts. That, and doing projects that differ from the last. I’ve been shooting a seven-part series for the past six months, so we made sure that my next job is a completely different world and character.
You welcomed your first child last year. How do you juggle the demands of being a mum with your career?
You’ll have to ask when I’ve figured it out! I went back to work when he was five weeks old, so 2022 was very much about finding my feet with the whole work/motherhood balance!
Breastfeeding on set has been quite the journey. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with an amazing production who have been super accommodating to having a newborn in the hair and makeup chair at 6 am!
My husband also works in the creative field, so he’s able to tag-team with me on our days off. We also have the most brilliant nanny who comes to set with me most days.
Before the pandemic, you worked on Roger Michell’s The Duke with Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren. How did it feel to bring the Geordie accent to the big screen?
It was the biggest joy! Any time I get to be part of telling a story that takes place in the North East, I always feel proud. But to do it alongside Rog, Jim and Helen was just a dream come true. It was everything you’d expect from a Roger Michell film and more!
We loved that moment at London’s National Gallery premiere when Helen Mirren snuck up behind you to give you a cuddle. When you reflect on women who’ve inspired you, who comes to mind?
That’s a great question and it was a lovely moment. We wrapped The Duke and then went into the first lockdown a week or so later, so the first time we all got to see each other again was at the premiere – by which point I was nine months pregnant, so that’s the reaction you get from Helen in that moment!
Helen, for sure, would be on that list. Charlie Hardwick, too – I did a play with her a few years back and she was also a huge influence on me.
As a role model yourself, what advice do you tend to offer emerging actors?
I think immerse yourself in everything: theatre, film, TV, books, galleries… whatever there is to get inspiration.
I also heard someone say the question that’s often asked is, “How do I get representation?”, but the question you should ask first is, “How do I get good?”, and I thought that was great advice.
What are you most looking forward to in 2023?
I am 100% ready for chill mode and having some sort of belated maternity break!
You deserve that! Finally, where are your must-visits when you’re back home?
Every Christmas I look forward to the Tyneside Cinema Christmas showings. My best friend and I have made a new tradition over the past couple of years of visiting Barter Books in Alnwick. It’s amazing, you can get lost there for hours.
A walk around the Quayside never gets boring and I always like to have a mooch around the Metrocentre. My husband always makes me take him to Whitley Bay for the fish and chips, too!