Actress Esther Smith talks chemistry to Shelley Carter, that accent and a little nudge towards the stage from a canny tutor at college
If you haven’t watched Apple TV’s first scripted project from Europe, Trying ,you’re missing a heart-warming, amusing, uplifting trick. The stars of the show, Esther Smith and Rafe Spall, have chemistry in spades and the entire thing feels natural and believable and therefore really moving. We caught up with West Mids lass Esther who describes crying and laughing in equal measure when she first read the script that turned out to be her dream gig.
Launching a show just as lockdown kicked off wasn’t ideal for Apple TV, but as it turns out perhaps it was a silver lining, a captive audience? Reviews have been knockout with healthy viewing figures. Trying is the tale of a thirty-something married couple, Nikki (Esther) and Jason (Rafe) struggling to have a baby and deciding to embark on the adoption process and all the emotion and tension and closeness that comes with that.
Once Esther had mopped up her tears after reading the script, she decided she really wanted to play this character. She says: “The chemistry read with Rafe was really important. It’s basically two characters for eight episodes and viewers need to believe the relationship. It’s essentially about a couple in their mid-thirties learning to understand themselves.” Safe to say, the read through went well and they got on brilliantly from the off. Filming in the sunshine largely on Hampstead Heath was pretty dreamy and right now Esther says she’d give a lot to be back there with actual people!
HELL OF A PROCESS
Infertility and adoption are not topics often dealt with in this way – it’s as funny as it is moving – and Esther has received some lovely messages. She says: “It’s one hell of a process and I think it’s important to highlight stories and subjects that don’t get a light shone on them. I’ve had some gorgeous messages from people who’ve gone through it.” The filming of the next series was due to begin last month, but there’s a certain pandemic ruining the schedule.
Esther’s Stourbridge twang is still recognisable although she says it gets more obvious when she’s had a few drinks! “It is more subtle now. I’ve lived in London for so long, but there’s a freedom in it. It’s who I am.” In her first TV job Esther read the script in her natural accent and it just felt right. She says: “Nobody batted an eyelid, so I just stuck with it. Regional accents are embraced so much more now and I think it adds a richness to your work. It’s like pockets of the country showing how great and how different they all are.”
Esther did four series of Cuckoo with Greg Davies which was set in the Midlands. She says: “It was such a joy. A funny mad family. Greg was great and I got to work with Helen Baxendale who I’ve been a fan of since Cold Feet.” Esther also played Delphi Diggery in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and more recently Kat in the award-winning Parliament Square.
DANCE AND PANTO
Growing up, Esther was into dance and local panto. She was a member of the operatic society in Stourbridge and performed occasionally with a local theatre company. She wasn’t from a family that was into the acting world and never really thought it could be a career. “I’d never seen a play before I went to college. I didn’t know I could do plays. Then one of the directors at college said, ‘I think you could do this’ and it planted a seed. I might have got there in my own way, another way, but that was a moment. It set me off on that path.” Esther says without that push or validation it would have felt out of reach. How would she have got a London agent? That, along with lots of other questions might have become barriers.
Esther isn’t fazed by the inconsistent work that comes with being an actress – rather the opposite. She explains: “There’s something thrilling about not knowing what next year will bring.” Obviously the uncertainty of lockdown adds another dimension particularly for theatres and Esther worries about the future for them. She says: “It’s crippling and really sad. I think it’s a necessary artform that collectively allows you to take yourself out of it all. That bit of escapism that we all need. I miss it. It’s depressing.”
We get the impression Esther is a doer. She’s taken the opportunity in lockdown when she should have been on stage in Chichester to ‘develop her own ideas’. She’ll say no more than that, but it’s very intriguing and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Esther Smith.