Shelley Carter chats to actor Laura Rollins about growing up in Brum, bagging the Doctors TV gig in her home town and future goals
Better known as feisty nurse Ayesha Lee in BBC One daytime drama Doctors, Laura Rollins was thrilled when she got the role which meant filming in her home town, not least because it meant using the beloved lilting Brummie accent.
Laura won a Royal Television Society award for acting performance last year and is regularly nominated in the British Soap Awards. With some big storylines coming up, life on the soap is great. As well as the sort of show where you ‘earn your stripes’, Laura gets to live with her parents from Monday to Friday when she’s filming travelling back ‘home’ to London at the weekend.
Laura’s route into acting began at youth theatre in the Custard Factory, aged nine, of which she says: “It was weekly, free and completely accessible. So good.” Soon after, Laura was offered a coveted place at the Carlton Junior Television Workshop under Colin Edwards which she says was a great place to develop skills at a young age.
A stint in Demon Headteacher on kid’s TV aged just 10 and numerous commercials as well as work on stage at the REP followed. Laura says she was always into performing and dance, particularly ballet was a big part of her life. She’s modest, but in her youth she was a junior associate with the world-class Birmingham Royal Ballet for a time which is an incredible achievement.
Not certain if she wanted to go down an acting route, Laura studied English and Theatre at the University of Leeds before going to drama school in the capital. While Laura says there are some great drama schools in the Midlands, she trained in London partly because at the time there was a bit of stigma and some pressure to cast actors from London. She says: “It’s starting to disappear now. There’s a massive talent pool in the Midlands.”
PULLING A SICKIE
Doctors was on Laura’s radar before the part of Ayesha came up. Laura says: “It’s a Brummie based show and I just thought ‘I want to do that!’” A friend told Laura the show was looking to cast a feisty nurse which she thought had Laura’s name all over it. Her agent promptly put her up for it. Laura was called on a Thursday to come in for an audition the following day with six scenes to learn. “I pulled a sickie from work and remember pretending to be ill all the way to the audition in case I bumped into a colleague.”
A recall the following week on a bank holiday meant cancelling plans much to the annoyance of her boyfriend. Laura remembers hoping it would all be worth it. She performed four scenes and had to wait a week for a decision. It turns out it was worth it. “My mum loves it too, so that’s nice!”
The hours are long and intense shooting 25 pages of script per day, but Laura’s relishing it and learning so much. Playing the death of Ayesha’s mother was particularly challenging emotionally, but allowed Laura to dig deep and use her skills. Working with heavyweights like Jan Pearson and Elizabeth Walsh is incredible too. Although it’s a cliché to say it’s like a family, the cast sounds pretty close and love exploring Birmingham together. “There’s so much going on in the city. I’m big on dance so the DanceXchange appeals a lot, but as a cast we like to try out new restaurants. Adam’s is obviously great and Original Patty Men does the best burgers and craft beer and Digbeth Dining Club is so cool. There was nothing like it before DDC even in London.”
Speaking of which, weekends which are usually spent in London are becoming increasingly time spent in Brum with Laura’s DJ boyfriend actively looking for gigs in the city. “He loves it! Could there be a relocation on the cards?!”
It’s hard to look beyond Doctors right now, but Laura’s keen to do more TV. She says: “There is such great TV at the moment and I’d really love to do a crime drama. There’d be more time, so you’d be shooting three pages a day rather than multiple episodes, so that would be different.”
One of Laura’s heroes is Toni Collette who is currently rocking Netflix hit Unbelievable. “Toni Collette is an absolute powerhouse in Unbelivable as is Merritt Wever who plays the young detective. She is so subtle, but so powerful at the same time.”