*How did you get involved in acting?
In primary school I got involved in school plays and that was really fun and my teacher recommended I went to a drama club at the weekends. I was working towards an exam and a coach knew an agency – Sylvia Young's in London – and got me an interview there. And so it all sort of came out of that. The auditions came and I was lucky enough to get Nanny McPhee.*Your first film was quite a biggy – The Prince And Me, with Julia Stiles. Was that quite nerve-wracking?
Yeah that was my first ever film and it was filmed in Prague which was amazing place to have your first film and I really enjoyed it because I was working with new people and learning off them. *Because that was quite a big Hollywood production did that give you a good grounding for Nanny McPhee which had a big budget also?
I think it was a really good experience to have a film like that before nanny McPhee, which was a big film. And it was released in America. *How did you get the part on Nanny McPhee?
Because they wanted to get the family perfect they did lots of kids workshops before and we played around. And me and Holly (who plays Christianna) went through all the auditions together and in the end they paired about three of us together and then went off to do more auditions of the others and finally got all eight of us together.*You all seem to get on so well…
Yeah, we do. After four months we became like a big family. We've got different personalities and different ages but I just think it all works together because we were like a family by the end of the shoot. We all got along. *Do you have siblings?
I have a brother and a sister. They are both older than me. *What do they think of your career? Are they in acting?
No, they're not in acting. My sister is very interested in behind the scenes – she had her work experience on Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, my brother's in medical school. They're taking different careers but are really supportive of me. I'm lucky to have them. *What was the first day of shooting like on Nanny McPhee?
We had a few weeks of rehearsals and all the kids got to meet everyone we were going to work with. And Emma (Thompson – Nanny McPhee) introduced us. Only me and Thomas (Sangster – Simon) had done something before, so the other kids were new to it. But they gave us time to get to know each other and to get to know the babies.
*All the kids seemed very well cast…did you become very protective over the younger ones?
Sam (Honywood) made us all laugh because he's so young but so mature and comes out with a thirty-year-old's comments, Holly (Gibbs) and I got to know each other really well, Jenny (Rae Saykin) and I shared lifts to the set and Raffi (Raphael Coleman) and I got on well with and Thomas I did tutoring together. I have to take care of the babies (the twins they used for filming) quite a lot and I fell in love with them and found it really hard when the shoot finished – I missed them a lot.
*What was Colin Firth like to work with?
He was lovely, a really nice guy. Holly got really excited that she was meeting him and sat on his lap whenever possible and gave him kisses.
*When you first saw Emma Thompson made up like Nanny McPhee was it a big shock?
Yes, because usually she's so pretty. Suddenly she said 'children, come up here' and there was this huge woman with warts and hair and it was so shocking – she looked a completely different person with all those prosthetics.
*What advice would you give other young girls who are looking to get in to acting?
I don't think there's anything else I'd want to do when I'm older but it's very hard to make it when you're older because there's like one in a million that make it. You have to be sure you want to make it. But I'm at the beginning myself.
*Does it help to have a strong family behind you?
I've been very lucky because my mum and my dad support me. They know what a tough world it is but whatever I choose I know they will support me. I'm very lucky like that.
*What do your friends think of your career?
If I get something I'll tell my closest friends and they congratulate me and everything, but then the next day it's back to normal. But I'm kind of glad of because after you've done filming it's quite surreal and then you're back at home and you have to get on with work and clean your room; so it's back to normal really. And I don't go to stage school so my friends don't know a lot about it.
*It must be quite hard going back to a normal life after having this alternate family for the four months you were shooting Nanny McPhee…
Yes but I was so lucky on Nanny McPhee that there wasn't anyone I didn't get on with, everyone was friends and a big family at the end of it. But I'm quite glad I don't go to a stage school.
*Colin Firth and Emma Thompson are definitely the biggest stars you've worked with…did they act like you imagine stars to act?
No, not at all, they were really down to earth. They didn't want anything silly – like Chinese furniture imported in to their dressing rooms! But everyone I've worked with are like real people. Their egos don't seem to get bigger as they get more famous and you're allowed to treat them like normal people.
*Did Emma Thompson have duel roles while she was on set because she also wrote the screenplay?
I think It was good having Emma on the set because she'd know the characters she'd written and she'd sit me and Thomas down and give us tips and we'd learn from it. And Kirk (Jones – Director) was amazing at direction and I think they did it really well. Neither of them were really overpowering.
*Who would your dream co-stars be?
Actresses like Judi Dench and Julie Walters – I'd love to meet them at least. Or Jodie Foster who I think is great as well.
*Did you pick up any hair and make-up tips on this or The Prince And Me?
Well you know every morning you'd go and get your hair and makeup done… well because we were reasonably poor in Nanny McPhee we had the same hair style everyday. Except at the wedding where I have my hair curled... but on both movies I've had my hair curled for at least one scene so you learn tips. We had the same makeup artist Peter (King) who was on the Lord of the Rings so he was fantastic.
*How would you feel if your parents hired someone like Nanny McPhee to look after you?
I think we're quite lucky because we don't need someone like Nanny McPhee in our household! My brother's nineteen and my sister's sixteen and we've got to the stage where we all get along and we're like best friends now, which is really good! But I think we're well enough behaved that she wouldn't have much to do!
*Did you get to keep anything from the set like a memento?
Yes we did which was really lucky…maybe it was because we were children but they gave us loads of things at the end. Emma gave us a director's chair each with our names on, our own clapper boards, the girls got the crooks form the wedding scene, coffins from the place where our father worked. And at the end they had a sale of stuff that they hadn't hired. Costumes they kept just in case there were scenes where we had to come back for afterwards. I don't think I'd wear them anyway. They made us t-shirts with our characters on them and we got the whole crew to sign them.
*When you were filming did you get any acting tips from any of the adults?
Emma and Kirk gave us lots of tips and Colin you sort of learn off just watching him. When you're not in the shot they say they might need you for eye line. For instance there's a shot where Colin needed us for eye line because it's a sad scene and you learn off him just from that.
*What was he like behind the scenes?
He was really nice and we had lunch with him a couple of times and was lovely to the kids because he has his own. And obviously on set you get people muttering their lines to themselves between takes but as soon as Kirk said action he was ready to get in to character.
*What did you get up to between takes?
In Nanny McPhee we did most of the filming in school term so me and Tom had tutoring together. But when we had a break they were really nice and made us this room that had a tv, playstations, games, so everyone was always amused,.. I thought it was really sweet that they did that.
*Did Kirk make sure there was a relaxed atmosphere on set?
Yeah, he was great because he also has kids himself and he dealt with all of the children really well. He gave them direction perfectly because when the really little kids were in shot their attention goes really quickly and he kept them interested and if anyone got disinterested we'd sit them on the bed and would make up a story to read to them. I thought they did a really good job. Kirk's direction was amazing and I'd love to work with him again. At the beginning everyone was on their best behaviour because it was the beginning of filming but they all relaxed towards the end. Occasionally Kirk would have to say that he needed their full concentration but by the end when they'd finished they could go and play and get rid of all their energy and they'd be ready again.
*What was the food fight like?
I loved reading through the script and finding out what we'd be up to… the food fight was really fun. They were real cakes but by the fifth day they'd gone off a bit and we had these green stains and we had to wear the same dresses – we weren't allowed to wash them because of continuity. But the first day was so much fun because we thought we were supposed to throw them at these screens but when we started, suddenly the whole crew jumped up from behind and started throwing thousands of cakes at us!
*Is there anyone famous you'd like to have a food fight with?
I don't know really… it would be fun to put everyone who's ever been in a film in to one room and have a really big food fight.
*Was there anything that went wrong behind the scenes?
There were always scenes where someone would slip up… and I remember one time there was lots of us on a bed and it broke and it fell down to the ground and smashed a vase, which wasn't brilliant. But I also remember Colin had finished shooting like two weeks before us and we went in to the kitchen and Kirk said he needed to show us something and down the stairs came Nanny McPhee and then we realised it was Colin! He was dressed up in her fat suit, with her warts, nose and everything and his little face was peeking through. And you should have seen the one who played the cook – Imelda (Staunton) – she screamed! I think the adults played more tricks on us than we did on them.
*Do you think there will be lots of bloopers on the DVD?
It was a year ago when we shot it but I'm sure there will be loads of things that we didn't know they were shooting!
*Was it hard not to giggle during a take?
Well they used something that we didn't know they'd used until later…when me and Tommy were throwing a catapult at our father's back when Mrs Quickly was there and then we would be laughing at the end. And what we realised that when we were practicing we were finding it so much fun because we kept getting the props man and Kirk apparently said to keep the camera on us while we were laughing, so they had us laughing naturally and cut it out and used it in the film. I think they did that on quite a few other things as well.
*Is it quite hard to giggle to order, or to cry to order?
Yeah it is. But on this none of us had to cry but there's lots of laughing so afterwards when you have ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) which they do to replace a bit of dialogue if you get a creaky floorboard in the wrong place or something, we had to record lots of laughter. And the way Kirk did it was to get our mums to tickle all of us so we were all laughing!
*How did they shoot the donkey scene?
They had Acorn, which was the real donkey. On my birthday they took us to a farm, which was amazing, it was like the best birthday ever. And we met all the animals we were going to use in the film – chickens, pigs, frogs, tarantulas, and they got me a birthday cake and gave me presents! And I remember Sam the day before kept coming up to me and saying 'Were not talking about what we're getting you for your birthday…' and then he would run back to Emma and whisper in her ear! And Acorn was amazing and we all got attached to him in the end. But obviously when he's dancing that's not Acorn, that's a mechanical one and special effects. But Acorn was bit too well behaved for the movie, he wouldn't do anything he was told. He was supposed to be quite a naughty donkey!
*What was it like going to the premiere?
It was so exciting! We all got ready and then we got out of the car it was pretty overwhelming because there was so many people there and then no-one's really going to know you because you're just a part in a film…and you walk down and people know your name! I was like how do you know my name - I'm nothing special! And we were all walking down and they were yelling all the kids' names and we were like 'Ahh!' Then the photographers were arguing with each other saying turn this way, no turn this way, don't listen to him! And then we went to this room where we all met each other which was nice because we hadn't seen each other in a while. Then we had to go back outside because we had to sign stuff, which was a bit weird as well. It was a bit overwhelming! When we were watching the movie it was great fun and Kirk gave us our present then. Which was one day we did this shoot, we had a camera and the two babies and all the kids and Kirk. And Kirk and I were holding a baby each and then Raphael was a soundman, Tom was on camera, Holly was doing continuity and it was all taken a shot of us like that. And he framed it and signed them all with our names. And the credits of the film is us as cartoons and he gave us a copy of all our cartoons. That was really nice.
*Do you get any fan letters?
I haven't got anything and I don't get recognised which I'm quite glad about because I might be a little embarrassed! When I came out of the cinema when I first watched it I got a few odd looks. But I'm glad I don't get noticed because I'd feel a bit weird because I don't think of myself like that. It hasn't really hit me that I'm anything… I'm just normal. And people think it's all glamorous but on the set it's normal you just come in your jeans and your hoody and get changed. And we had this amazing van run by someone we called Mr Crafty and he used to make toasties and smoothies all day long, which was amazing, so I really enjoyed it. Hopefully I'll get lots of work but won't be constantly in the magazines. Jodie Foster has done so well like that. I think some of the magazines are so harsh – they twist people's words around. I want to have an acting career without being famous, if that's possible! I think fame's the down point. Because when you go up you always come down again.
*Did you like your character?
I do. I think I've been quite lucky in that I've played different characters in the stuff I've done otherwise and Eliza I like because she's different from me and it's always nice playing a character who's not yourself. She's sort of the one who has to take care of the family now her mum's passed away and she's conscious that they are always playing tricks on everyone and she's not sure if she wants them to. So she has this conflict in her mind but love always wins and she goes with her brother. And she takes care of the babies and the little children.
*When you saw the finished movie were you moved by it? I cried!
Did you?! Yeah, everyone at the very end cries. And Emma said, when she went up on stage, 'if you hear someone crying, that's me, just ignore me'! I was kind of excited, but I know Sam's mum started crying at the end because she was so proud of him…but I nearly cried when Mrs Quickly broke the rattle.
*Do you have time for boyfriends?
No, I mean I keep in contact with all my friends but I don't really have a boyfriend at the moment.
*Could you ever see yourself doing another job?
I'd love to carry on doing this because I have a passion for it and I love it so much. But if someone asks me and I say I want to be an actress, they're like 'Oh yeah, right!' because it's such a hard thing to do when you're older. I know loads of child actors that haven't made it when they're older. Because you might have had an amazing child actress but they just haven't had the luck. Fifty percent of acting is luck - whether you get the right audition at the right time. Like, if I'd been ill on the day of the audition for Nanny McPhee I wouldn't have got it. I just think some people haven't had a break like I have. And obviously as children grow up they change and you'll mature more and your looks will change and everything and you might not be right for something.
*What have you got lined up for the future?
After Nanny McPhee I did an American TV series called Supernova, which was released in America. It was TV film – about three hours long. It was about his planet exploding and then me and Mum are getting chased by a serial killer, as you do! And that was fun because it was very different from this. And then I did a Miss Marple, a murder mystery, which was really good fun as I worked with amazing actors like Charles Dance and you can learn off them as well.