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Lauren Grace: the prodigiously talented actor talks to Mill Magazine

on 15 December 2023 0

Johnstone’s own Lauren Grace takes us inside her journey from aspiring theatre student to star of the small screen with very big plans for the future

When Mill catches up with Lauren Grace, the prodigiously talented actor is just back from helping to train up the next crop of actors at the River City training academy. All the while, juggling it with the notoriously rigorous filming schedule that brings the fictional Shieldinch to life. For Lauren, this has been a lifelong journey which has had plenty of bumps in the road along the way. 

“I started in St Paul’s at their drama group,” she revealed. “They were doing Les Mis and were looking for someone to play the wee girl. I’d danced from when I was three and just loved being onstage, so I started with that. From there, I did Annie at the Mitchell Theatre and after that, I attended the Glasgow Academy of Musical Theatre Arts for 16 hours a week on top of school. 

“My mum would literally pick me up from school, I’d get changed in the back of the car, hop on a train and walk up (laughs). I saw an opening for a short film and once I got the part, it’s when it dawned on me that musicals weren’t really what I wanted to do.

“I ended up getting nominated for a Scottish Bafta New Talent Award and it just so happened that one of the judges was the acting depute at the Royal Conservatoire. After auditioning at 16, I got in and it’s all just kinda gone from there.

“It was quite isolating at times, but acting was always my escapism and where I felt safe,” she said of having to constantly split her time between Johnstone and Glasgow.

“There’s a huge pressure on young people to act a certain way, but I was going in the opposite direction. I have some really good friends that I still speak to, but they understood why I couldn’t go to parties or go out at the weekend. Even now, they still phone me after three months and are like, ‘just checking you’re still alive (laughs)’. It was never really a question, it was just a small sacrifice to do what I wanted to do. 

Struggling to come to grips with the hyper-competitive nature of the environment she was in and the industry-wide fixation on body image, Lauren’s youth featured a three year hiatus from acting as she battled an eating disorder alongside a host of other health issues. But, she came back stronger than ever. 

Lauren Grace

Lauren Grace, photo by Graeme Hewitson ©Mill Magazine

“I got taken out of school in fifth year and while I was sitting at home studying, feeling very lonely, when I was like nah, I’m going to drama school. I was so naive back then, I didn’t even know what an agent was. So, I ended up becoming the youngest person ever to be accepted to the Royal Welsh Conservatoire.

“It was a hard journey and halfway through first year, I was like no, I don’t know what Chekhov is (laughs). By the end, I’d booked two jobs before I graduated. It was a roller coaster, but it happened. I think you have to be slightly crazy, for sure.” 

Amazed by how many people she’d met in the industry who had ties to Renfrewshire – “even James McAvoy started in Paisley!” – Lauren is now settled in with her role as Madonna Mullen in River City, relishing the kinship that she’s found there in the process. 

“I sent them my tape and the next day, it was offered to me,” she revealed. I was terrified, because I’d worked on quite a few sets, but River City is another ball game in terms of how quick they work and the sheer number of lines. At first, I felt totally out of my depth. But, everyone’s so lovely and it does have a very familial vibe with the crew and cast. 

Lauren Grace

Lauren Grace, photo by Graeme Hewitson ©Mill Magazine

“Every job has felt like a big break,” she continued, “because I’m just so happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not interested in fame, I don’t want to be on the cover of Vogue. I just want to work and enjoy it, while learning my craft. I do it because I wake up and I want to go to work. I just love to get into the headspace and find empathy with the character.” 

Although she has an affinity for realism, Lauren has delved into the world of fantasy and entered the canon of some major properties in the process. This came in the form of her role as Joseph in the TV adaptation of Philip Pullman’s lauded His Dark Materials, as well as providing a voiceover for the acclaimed Hogwarts Legacy video game. 

“It was very fun. My gran was a huge fan of the book and I never got round to it. Weirdly, I’d started watching the series during lockdown out of sheer boredom and I loved it. I got a self-tape through for my older sister in the show and ended up playing the younger brother. 

 “They initially asked me to do an English accent for the role, but then James McAvoy called me and was like ‘you’re not English’. He literally went to the director and asked if we could just be Scottish, so that was really cool. 

 “Even doing the scenes with the puppets and stuff was so cool, particularly with Stelmaria. Helen McCrorie [best known as Aunt Polly in Peaky Blinders] was my mentor and it was so surreal being on-set with a character she voiced. She’d passed away that March and I think that was the first time I properly grieved for her.

Lauren Grace

Lauren Grace, photo by Graeme Hewitson ©Mill Magazine

“Then, exactly a year later, I was on set with her. She was just an incredible person to have in my life, she’d always check how I was doing. I was lucky to have her and Julie Walters too, she’s just an incredible person to be able to talk to from time to time.” 

“I got the call for Hogwarts Legacy about two weeks before His Dark Materials,” Grace explained, “I was a huge Harry Potter fan as a kid, I was obsessed. It was really cool and it was like the first time I’d ever done a voice acting job. It’s something I’d definitely love to do again, I was sitting there in the middle of Glasgow, just casting spells.”

Although she is very much in the prime of her career and fielding offers from all over, Lauren still has an immense connection to her roots. For her, this manifests in an eagerness to give back to the local area by providing assistance to those looking to follow the same road and help others just as she once was. 

“In school, you’re constantly asked what your back-up is and I think that takes something away from kids,” she theorised. “I was very lucky at Johnstone High, I literally still go for lunches with my guidance teacher. I think there’s a huge thing in places like Renfrewshire where you’re supposed to just follow the pattern of your family and peers.

“If I was in a position, I’d love to be able to help mentor people or do what I could to help to provide opportunity. I don’t know what that would be yet,” Grace concluded, “but I’d love to.”

Quickfire Q&A with Lauren Grace

Favourite Film? Forrest Gump

Favourite Album? Robbie Williams – Swing When You’re Winning, it’s childhood nostalgia

If you could play any theatrical role, what would it be? Eponine in Les Mis 

Keep up with Lauren on Instagram.

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