Many young people dream of fame – but for one local teenager this dream has become reality.
In 2016, at the tender age of 17, Carla Woodcock from Wheldrake landed a role in Netflix drama Free Rein.
Now the show has been lauded at the Emmy awards, winning Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing Series and Best Directing in a Children’s Programme.
“I keep having to pinch myself!” says Carla, of her new-found success. “It’s all so surreal and I’m so unbelievably grateful and proud to be in the position I’m in, to be part of an Emmy award winning show.”
Free Rein follows the story of American teenager Zoe Phillips as she spends the summer at her mother’s childhood home in England and bonds with a mysterious horse. Carla plays Susie, one of the horse-mad British girls who befriends Zoe.
So how did Carla land such a prestigious role?
Carla’s career began at 11, when she started drama classes at Stagecoach York. At 13, she began having acting lessons with Frances Simon, York-based LAMDA teacher and talent agent. “Carla really stood out back then as having star quality, and progressed quickly through the LAMDA grades, obtaining Distinctions each time,” says Frances.
As a professional actress with experience in TV, radio and touring theatre, Frances is well-placed to act as a talent agent for young people seeking professional acting jobs.
Whilst working on Grade 7 LAMDA, Carla was invited to join Frances’ agency, Nurture Talent, to be put up for professional work. “When the casting brief came through for Free Rein, I knew it would be perfect for Carla as she had horse riding experience and was extremely talented.”
After several auditions and recalls, Carla and Frances waited with baited breath to hear whether Carla had been successful.
Frances recalls, “The call came through while we were on our summer holidays. I was camping in a field with very little phone reception – it was excruciating. But when we heard that Carla had been successful, we were overjoyed!”
Now, after two successful series, the cast are about to start filming series three. Carla reflects on what she’s learnt so far. “Growing up, all of my training was for stage and theatre, where you have to make your movements big enough so even the back row can see what’s happening, but on camera it’s better to keep things natural. The camera always picks up on the little details and movements.
“Free Rein was my first big job and it’s helped me to mature as a person. While I have a lot of amazingly supportive people around, I can’t rely on parents and teachers to keep me focused anymore – I have to do that for myself. I love this new independence, it’s allowed me to have more confidence in myself and what I do.”
Talented youngsters from across York who may wish to follow in Carla’s footsteps are being encouraged to contact Frances, Carla’s personal manager on Free Rein, at Nurture Talent Agency.
“Carla’s success is great news for Northern performers. The jobs are there – and, with the right combination of talent and hard work, they are accessible.
“As a Mum myself, I’m used to working with young people and nurturing their talent. I have such a big heart for acting, and love to share my passion with the next generation!”
In September, Frances will be opening up her agency books to more talented young people. Aspiring young actors and actresses aged 5-25 years are encouraged to get in touch with Frances via her website https://www.francessimon.com/
Frances will also be starting her LAMDA exam teaching in September, so any interested young people can book by contacting York Theatre Royal box office on 01904 623568 or https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/page/LAMDA_courses.php
Free Rein season 1 is available on Netflix, with season 2 coming next month.