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I TALK TO Hattie Dynevor

"As an actor, you have to understand what she's doing and why. But no, I think we're very different."

Following a revival on BBC iPlayer during the first lockdown, Waterloo Road returned to our screens at the start of 2023 after an eight-year absence, becoming the BBC’s second biggest drama title with 16-34-year-olds of the year, behind Happy Valley.

Known for its hard-hitting storylines and relatable characters, Waterloo Road reflects modern society with its portrayal of issues including the cost of living crisis, teen homelessness, racism, sexism, being LGBTQ+, mental health, and everything else facing young teens today. But amongst the chaos, the students, faculty and parents still make time for friendships, fun, and a few romances.

The long-running series has an excellent track record in breaking new on-screen talent and with an influx of new students joining the latest series in January, Hattie Dynevor's arrival as Libby Guthrie quickly made her a firm favourite with viewers and the reason I chose to make her one of my '12 TV Stars of Tomorrow for 2024'.

When Libby makes a surprise return to Manchester to stay with her dad, the school’s Head of History, Neil Guthrie played by Neil Fitzmaurice, her mission to stay at Waterloo Road proves that she's far from a teacher's pet and will do whatever it takes to get her own way.

Throughout the series, Libby masterminds a plan to get Amy out of her family home, she coaxes the teens away from their study session as they soon run riot in schoo and Libby goes to extreme lengths to keep her dad on side.

As well as being the show where Hattie has begun her acting career, Waterloo Road was also the show in which her older sister Phoebe Dynevor got her big break in 2009 before taking on the role of Daphne in Bridgerton. And with their mother, Sally Dynevor, having played Sally in Coronation Street since 1986 and their father Tim writing hit television dramas, it's safe to say that the Dynevor dynasty is going strong.

As the latest series of Waterloo Road comes to an end I caught up with Hattie to discuss the reaction to her character joining the long-running series, what she's learnt so far from her first telly role and what's in store for Libby when Waterloo Road returns later this year.

What's the reaction to Libby been like?

Do you know what? It's been really good. Yeah, it's been really good. I think there's a lot of mixed mixed opinions on herm because she does threaten a lot of people in the show, but in general, it's been really good.

How would you best describe Libby?

She is like marmite. You either love her, or you absolutely hate her. There's no in-between really. She's a very act first, think later, type of character. She knows what she wants and she will go to any lenghts to ensure she gets it. She doesn't really care who she tramples on along the way.

She makes quite the impression when she first arrives, doesn't she? Is that what attracted you to the role?

Yeah. She instantly threatens all relationships going on, really. She's such an interesting character, because there's just so much going on.

On the outside she seems so sweet and lovely and most people think she is sweet and lovely, but then you realise, she's not all lovely! So it was a great part to play to understand her reasons for acting this way.

Are you similar to Libby in any way?

I empathise with her. I've got a lot of sympathy for her. And obviously as an actor, you have to understand what she's doing and why. But no, I think we're very different.

Do you think you would have been friends with her at school?

You know what? I would have tried to be friends with her at school, but I would have been really cautious and probably stayed a bit away from her. But I would have tried.

When we first meet Libby at the end of episode two, the first person she sees is her father, Neil. What's their relationship like?

I think she she absolutely loves her father. All she wants is his attention and his love and I guess that's why in her first episode, she's trying so hard to stay in Manchester, because she just wants to be around her dad all the time. And not in New Zealand.

She enjoyed the life she had in Manchester, she got a lot of attention from her dad in Manchester so moving from there to New Zealand was quite a big shock for her. And she maybe doesn't get enough attention in New Zealand which is why she's come back. To get all that attention from her dad.

And what's it like to work with Neil Fitzmaurice, who plays Libby's father, Neil?

Working with him is absolutely amazing. He is hilarious. We're always laughing on set. I couldn't have asked for a better on screen dad, really. He's really encouraging and really helps me.

One person Libby clashes with early on is Coral. Why do you think that is?

I think because she's very shocked to see that her dad has found someone. In her opinion, she is the only light in his eyes so when she sees that he's found a new girlfriend, she's really unhappy with that.

It could have been anyone to be honest that she could have gone for, but it just happened to be Coral.

We've got to talk about that scene between Libby and Coral where she fakes being pushed down the stairs. How much of that did you do? And how much was a stunt double?

We did have a stunt double who was actually doing the falling down the stairs. But there's a shot at the top where Libby looks to Coral, then looks at the stairs and jumps. I actually did that jump! They were holding a crash mat down at the bottom. It was really fun.

Someone else who Libby clashes with is Kelly Jo, why do you think that is?

I think Kelly Jo is the first person to see Libby's true colous, in the sense that everyone else like Samia, just sees as this nice girl. But Kelly Jo sees her for who she actually is and what she's actually doing. So I think Libby is quite threatened by Kelly Jo and starts to wind her up.

They're very different, Kelly Jo and Libby, in the way they act and their morals. So they definitely know how to wind each other up which is really fun to play.

And I love working with Alicia (Forde, who plays Kelly Jo). She's one of my best friends on the show. She's such an amazing, incredible actor. Ever since I started, she really took me under her wing and really helped me. She's given me loads of advice and we just have so much fun together. We're quite similar.

During this series, Libby betrays Kelly Jo by having sex with her boyfriend, Dean. Why Dean?

I think she sees Dean and obviously finds him really attractive. Then he pays her a lot of attention and she really likes that attention, because see she's a massive attention seeker. She knows that he's going out with Kelly Jo and kind of loves that as well. She knows that that she's got him wrapped around her finger, in a way.

What are some of your favourite scenes to film?

It definitely has to be when I fell down the stairs, because that was so cool to see the stunt double, who is incredible, throw herself down the stairs five times! But also, I would say any scenes with Alicia who plays Kelly Jo because we always have a lot of fun together.

Waterloo Road first aired almost 18 years ago, it took a bit of a break but now it's back. How familiar were you with the show when you auditioned?

So I hadn't watched any of the old ones, but when I heard that they were doing it again and the first series came out, I binged it all and watched the old episodes as well.

Why do you think the show has lasted so long and is so popular?

I think all the storylines are incredible. They tackle real life issues that people struggle with every day. And with so many storylines running through the series, I think Waterloo Road is very relatable for some people.

How does it feel that the show is where you and your sister, Phoebe, both started your careers?

It's really nice that we both started on the same thing. Waterloo Road was both my first role and her first role. And the show really does explore, as I said, all those real life issues and topics that are really important to raise awareness to.

So I feel really happy and good that it means a lot to a lot of people. And that we've both been a part of it. It's nice. And she's given me a lot of advice, she's very encouraging.

What was the biggest thing you've learnt so far, doing Waterloo Road?

Well, because it was my first acting acting job, I've learnt so much. I've learnt everything you can learn really. Working with new directors, because we have a new director every two episodes. So working with new directors and seeing their different opinions and ways they work, has been really amazing.

Angela Griffin directed my first full episode and it was amazing. It was so cool that she was my first director because she really understands both the acting side of it and the directing side. And she's just so professional. I feel lucky that she was my first director.

Also, how the camera works, because I had no idea before I started of any of this, really. So I've really enjoyed learning everything that goes on behind the scenes and what the experience of filming a TV show is like. So I learnt a lot!

Have you watched the series back? Do you enjoy watching yourself back?

I have watched it back. I definitely prefer watching other people's scenes. I'm a bit more relaxed and chilled when their scenes come on, but no, I enjoy it. It's good.

I know you're filming series 14 of Waterloo Road now, anything you can tease about what's in store for Libby in the next series?

She's definitely changed. We see a different side to her. And I guess she kind of had to change really, she couldn't carry on acting like that.

We definitely see her genuinely happy in the next series and not chasing anything, which is really nice.

Waterloo Road is available to watch on BBC iPlayer


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