Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Silence

Screenterrier reported on the casting of 23 year old newcomer Genevieve Barr (now represented by Curtis Brown) from Harrogate in new BBC Drama The Silence back in November.

The series also stars 19 year old Tom Kane from Bournemouth who most recently seen in the series Married Single Other. He plays Amelia's youngest cousin, Joel:

"Joel's a proper little 'git', full of himself – a typical teenager. He loves attention and winds people up making jokes and just annoying people.

" His deaf cousin, Amelia [Genevieve Barr] is the perfect foil to be an absolute pain and take the mick out of her accent – (which personally is not great), but deaf politics apart, Amelia just laughs and it's accepted it's just a joke 'cause they know each other so well. I'm the youngest in my family so understand Joel!

"Joel is 16 and too young to understand – it's going over his head. Joel just accepts his dad [Douglas Henshall] works a lot. He still thinks his dad is there for him. He's too involved in himself, a typical teenager. Mum [Dervla Kirwan] is the rock that holds the family together.

"I tried on Genevieve's hearing aid which is surreal. It's an odd thing, it's like a radio that's really badly tuned: you hear everything but it's hard to focus on things. It was very interesting as it made a lot of sense."

Harry Ferrier (represented by CAM), who comes from Cardiff and previously starred in Young Dracula, plays Tom:

"Tom's completely the middle child craving attention. He is an art student and has a good social life and does get a lot of attention outside the home. As the story unfolds he needs his dad [Douglas Henshall] more than ever and his dad is unable to deliver, which frustrates him a lot. I'm the eldest in my own family and I'm used and abused in my family!

"What Tom and his siblings get up to is very normal. It's what kids do: underage drinking and experimenting. Part of youth culture. There's no generation that haven't experimented and tried things – maybe it's just more available though. It's like those shows in the Skins franchise showing that this does happen and is normal.

"It's been amazing to watch these stellar actors do their thing; it's been really beneficial to have that experience."

Rebecca Oldfield who comes from Somerset, plays Sophie:

"I'm the oldest cousin and she's finding her ground with a boyfriend the family don't like. Ely [Nick Nevern] is a DJ and a small-time drug dealer, someone you don't imagine her to go out with, so a bit of rebellion is going on. Jim [Douglas Henshall] and Maggie's [Dervla Kirwan] children are all close in age, so we play it with quite a bit of sibling rivalry.

"Working with Genevieve [Barr] has been no different, you just don't talk to her when she has her back to you as she can't hear. We don't have to make any effort, as you wouldn't talk to anyone with their back to you – that's just rude.

"It's been the nicest job as we've all bonded really, really well which has helped the family dynamic in The Silence. It is very realistic as to how it's scripted: all manic in and out of the house. The fact is this family is loving, warm and caring, all eating at the table together – there was a lot of improvising."

In an interview about her role, Genevieve described taking on the part of deaf teenager Amelia who witnesses a murder.

"I've always been passionate about acting from my own school days. I grew up in Harrogate in a hearing family with no hereditary record of deafness. I was born deaf and have had hearing aids since I was four, and was happy with them as they have never limited me in any way.

"My parents sent me to mainstream school where I settled in comfortably to a hearing life. Having graduated from Edinburgh University in 2008, where I studied English and History, I went straight on to the Teach First graduate scheme which aims to put graduates into failing schools.

"After a six- week training course I started to teach in an inner city comprehensive in South London, and taught children between 11 and 18 years old. Facing such a challenge made me stronger, which made me able to take on the challenges of The Silence.

"A friend working at a production company was looking for a deaf actress to play a deaf nurse in a couple of scenes in a pilot comedy The Amazing Dermot – and that's how I found myself starting to act. Afterwards, it was straight back to teaching, but clearly from that I was contacted by Company Pictures to audition for The Silence – and my life completely changed as I knew it!

"I hadn't realised what a huge role Amelia was. Amelia is 18 years old, and recently fitted with cochlear implant six months before the start of series. She is adjusting to the hearing world and under a lot of pressure to do so. At the same time she's a normal teenager with the teenage turmoil: drinking, smoking, drugs, boys are all a very new world for Amelia.
Her whole life gets thrown in to even more chaos when she accidentally witnesses a murder, which is hugely traumatic for her and her life quickly spirals out of control with so many changes in such a short period of time.

"I always wanted to learn more about deafness, but never had the time as I went from school to uni to starting a career, so never had time to learn sign language or make deaf friends.

"The world I grew up in is quite different from Amelia's. She's been used to a world of silence, unlike me. And signing is her first language. She's learning to hear for the first time and to recognise sounds for the first time.

"I was incredibly overwhelmed to be offered the role of Amelia. It still hasn't sunk in. I feel so privileged to get the part and have been enjoying every minute. Especially working with the actors I'd seen in movies like Notting Hill when I was a child! They've all been so incredibly supportive and always answered all of my millions of questions!

" I am so grateful to have worked with such an experienced cast as that has helped me move forward as an actress. I really miss working with them now. It's been the most amazing experience of my life.

"I only had two weeks from finding out I had got the role to starting filming. I didn't get extra support from the cast or crew in terms of my deafness, apart from them all allowing me to ask so many questions on set everyday!

"I think with deafness the more of a deal you make of it, the more others will make of it; and for me it was more about the acting, so deafness didn't affect me. I worked very closely with our director Dearbhla Walsh who always made sure I had daily one to one time with her. She's really an inspiring and formidable personality; and always pushed me far beyond anywhere I thought I could go.

"I couldn't wear my hearing aids on set as I had to wear the prop cochlear implant, which is what Amelia has had fitted. So I had to do all my scenes without them and there was always so many people saying things to you on a busy set. But that helped me identify with Amelia as she is more introvert and quiet. I had to rely on my lip-reading.

"I had to learn to sign for the role of Amelia. I didn't have any experience with signing before taking on the role, which was one of the biggest challenges. I have always wanted to learn, but never found the time to do it. Not only did I have to learn to sign, but I had to come across as someone who had been signing all her life and be fluent, which obviously Amelia was. It is such an expressive and beautiful language, I am now continuing to learn sign language, as it will be another skill I'll be learning as an actor.

"One of the most horrifically humiliating moments was when we were filming a clubbing scene, and I had to do a very slow sexy dance, without my hearing aids so all I could feel were vibrations only. I was squirming with embarrassment. I had to remember I was Amelia who was happy dancing and not Genevieve who was dying of embarrassment and desperate for a gin and tonic!

"A standout day was one major scene when I had to cry, and I was hysterical that I would not be able to make myself cry on camera. I got up at 5am and listened to the most morose music. By the time I went on set I was completely terrified, but then I got completely into character and thought about what she had just gone through witnessing the murder. It was a special moment when I became one with the character and it all happened naturally – and I cried.

"My own deafness limits me to appreciate all of the sounds that will be used in The Silence. But this is a unique opportunity for a hearing audience to experience from a deaf person's perspective. Deafness is only a small part of them and doesn't dictate them wholly as a person.

"I've been brought up to believe that I can do anything. Any sort of disability should never interfere with anything you want to do in your life. I do the best I can in everything I do. I know how to push myself and that perhaps leads me on to great opportunities. I'm not afraid of being myself.

"I had a career planned out in teaching and now my life has changed completely. I always loved acting but never had the confidence or belief that a deaf person could have a full-time acting career – but that's my plan now and nothing's getting in the way this time!

"I can't wait for The Silence to come out. There's four episodes but I guess I can't plan a party for every episode... or maybe I can!"

The Silence will be screen on BBC One.

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