The name Charly Clive might mean very little to you now, but if her television debut as the lead in Channel 4's comedy drama Pure is anything to go by, we're going to be seeing a lot more of her in the coming years.
"I'm really proud of the show and I hope it makes people stop and think about OCD a bit."
When Charly was 23, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour which she called Britney, a name she later gave to her comedy duo with her best friend Ellen Robertson. After selling out the Edinburgh Fringe with the true story of what happens to two best friends when one of them gets a brain tumour, Charly is ready to make the move to the small screen by playing the lead in Pure.
Channel 4's new six-part series based on Rose Cartwright's follow's Charly's character, 24-year-old Marnie, who has a form of OCD called Pure O which fills her head with intrusive thoughts of a sexual nature.
Leaving Scotland in search of a new life in London, Marnie soon discovers she’s not the only one who’s lost. As she searches for herself, Marnie finds a gang of new friends, all with their own foibles and moves in with her deceptively cheery old school friend Shereen.
She also befriends Charlie, who is in recovery, having torpedoed his love and work life, due to his porn addiction. Queen among Marnie’s new gang is journalist and ladies-woman, Amber who has been gaining a problematic rep. for her promiscuity. Then there’s Amber’s housemate, the irresistible and unassuming Joe with whom Marnie shares a will-they-won't-they friendship with.
Here's what Charly had to say when I caught up with her for a chat...
How did you get the part of Marnie in Pure? Because your background is in comedy...
Yes it has and I've always been interested in acting. It's something I've always done and always pursued but my background as you say, is really in comedy. That's where most of my work has been up until now, writing and performing as part of a comedy duo with my best friend Ellen Robertson. We were doing shows up in Edinburgh as Britney and started getting a bit of success and at the time I didn't have any representation but somebody saw our sketch show and recommended that the producers of Pure checked me out. So they found some stuff of me online, invited me in to read for the role and after a few more rounds of auditions, I ended up getting the role. Which was crazy as it was the first television role that I ever auditioned for.
That must have been pretty surreal to get the lead in a Channel 4 drama as your first role?
I couldn't believe it when I got asked to audition. I was so excited that Channel 4 were doing a show and when I got the script I really liked it and thought I could actually do this.
So I went in and read and thought that even if I did get a role in the show, it would never be for the lead character. I thought maybe there'd be a character in there who had a couple of lines that I could say. I guess me and Marnie were just a good fit.
Did you find the experience quite daunting?
It was before we started filming because the idea of it all seemed slightly incomprehensible, but now that we've finished filming and I've seen how it's turned out, I just can't wait for everyone to see it. I'm so excited and really proud of the show.
If you'd asked me a year ago how I felt, I probably wouldn't have been able to answer in a full sentence but I'm feeling pretty good about it now.
What is Pure then?
It's a comedy drama about a young woman named Marnie who has a condition called Pure O which is a type of OCD where you get these intrusive and unwanted thoughts. Marnie's are of a sexual nature.
She runs away after a pretty hectic day at her parents' wedding anniversary party in Scotland to London, to figure out how best she can live happily with her diagnosis, to meet new people and to find her new place in the world in London.
How much did you know about Pure O before taking on the role?
I'd never heard of it until I got sent the script. I thought I knew what OCD was, I think everybody sort of does, but it made me feel very uninformed because I thought I was decently versed in the idea of mental health and OCD yet I had no idea about it.
After doing a bit of research, I saw that it's actually really not that uncommon and there are lots of different types of Pure O. Marnie's is just one type. It's such a complex disorder.
I then read Rosie's book and it was so funny and so relatable, even to someone who hasn't got Pure O. I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard of it before.
Was Rose Cartwright, the author of the book Pure is based on, around much during filming?
Yes, we were really lucky that Rose was on set for a bit which was particularly nice for me because the most important thing to me was that Marnie would be very authentic and that my performance would do justice to Rose's experiences.
She was happy with it luckily, she really loved being on set and was an open book for me. We met up a couple of times before and during filming so that I could ask her questions and get some insight on some more detailed aspects of Pure O as well as Rose's life in general. That was totally invaluable for me as an actor.
I think I was a lot more nervous than Rose because I didn't really know what to expect from her as I'd read her book and really enjoyed it. She's really lovely, really funny and super easy to talk to. I felt very safe to ask any questions.
You mentioned earlier that Pure is a comedy drama, was it quite nice for you to have that light and shade in Marnie's story?
I think you really own the dramatic moments if the comedy is good. It felt really necessary that there should be moments where you can really laugh and really like this gang of people which makes it even more impactful when the reality of the dark side of the disorder comes out. It sticks with you that much more because you've had the comedy.
Let's talk about your accent then, because I couldn't believe after watching Pure that you're not Scottish! Had you always been able to do the accent?
Because I'd been doing comedy for a long time, sketch comedy is all about characters and voices, so I've always been quite well practised at accents which I think really really helped.
I've also always been around many different accents - my mum is American and Mexican and my dad's English so we've always had a lot of accents and dialects in the house. Which has meant that I've always been able to pick things up quite quickly.
That being said, when I got the role I was very lucky that I got to work with an amazing vocal coach, Penny Dyer, who was just totally brilliant with me and gave me lots of different exercises to do on my own on set to stay in the accent as much as possible.
Also, Kirstie Swain, who wrote the scripts, was on set quite a lot and she is Scottish - in fact she's from where Marnie's from - so any time that I felt things slipping I could just look over to her and get a quick Scottish 101 and I'd be in again.
What was the wedding anniversary part scene like to film?
Pretty bizarre! It's strange because when we rocked up in the morning there were lots of people milling around because there's a lot of crowd in that scene - all the friends and family of Marnie's parents whose anniversary it is.
So you start the day with a big group of people getting breakfast, everyone's chatting and comparing weekends and then 10 minutes later you're having hair and make-up and everyone's naked except for you! That was not something I'd experienced before!
In that situation, was it quite weird to be the only one wearing clothes
Yes it was. It was really strange being the odd one out in a group of naked people. Especially because a lot of them had done this many times before so they were very very comfortable in between takes whereas I'd be walking around not really knowing where to look.
Hopefully, it brings some authenticity to the nerves and awkwardness of that speech because I didn't have to picture them naked during that speech because they absolutely were!
What were your favourite scenes to film?
Myself and the rest of the core cast have quite a few group scenes which was really nice. There's a dinner party scene which we were filming for a few days which I really really enjoyed because we all got on really well as a cast.
Also, I did quite a lot of stuff on my own, with the intrusive thoughts, voiceovers and various running away from situations scenes so it was really nice when I could be in group situations with everyone else. It was just a laugh. It was really really enjoyable and made me feel really part of a team.
The nice thing is, that when we were filming it was my first role and for a few others it was one of their first roles, so it's nice that we have this finding your feet experience together. Going forward, it's bonded us as people who know exactly what the other's going through and can offer advice when needed.
For me it's been invaluable because I really felt like a fish out of water but now I have this pool of people who I know to be lovely and really on it.
What are you hoping the reaction to Pure will be like?
I hope people like it. I think they will. I'm really proud of the show and I hope it makes people stop and think about OCD a bit, Pure O in particular. Just to lift the taboo would be amazing and to stop stereotyping OCD and what it means. We all do by accident.
But also, if anyone is watching it who has Pure O, any other OCD or any kind of anxiety disorder it would be lovely if they feel like they are represented in some way on TV because I don't think it's there enough. And if it is, it tends to be in cliché - so it'll be nice to have something grounded in reality that people can look at.
I also hope Pure becomes a springboard for people to have conversations about OCD. That would be great.
Pure will launch as a boxset on All 4 after the Channel 4 premiere of episode one. Are you happy with that? Does that reflect the way you watch television?
Yeah, I don't have a TV but I watch TV all the time. I feel like everything now, for me at least, is on my laptop or on my phone if I'm on the train or something, and I'll binge a series which is nice.
I guess I'm just impatient, but something like Pure I would definitely binge. I think it's very bingeable and hopefully there's enough to keep people hooked across the six episodes.
What's next for you? Are you hoping to go back to comedy? Or would you rather stick with television after Pure?
Definitely both. I've always had the acting bug, acting just didn't have the Charly bug, but hopefully now it does and I'll get a bit more work. But comedy, especially live comedy, was absolutely my first love and I hope I'm still doing that in my nineties!
I do have some live comedy shows coming up peppered throughout the year which I'm really excited about because I didn't get to do much last year because of the madness of filming Pure, so hopefully that's something I can re-introduce to my calendar this year.
So I'll definitely be doing more live comedy when I can, but for now I'm focussing on other acting work, perhaps more serious.
Pure starts Wednesday 30th January at 10pm on Channel 4