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‘Turn Up Charlie’ Star Frankie Hervey on Building a Bond With Idris Elba

An entertainer taking a kid under his wing describes both the premise of “Turn Up Charlie” and the real-life relationship between actors Frankie Hervey and Idris Elba. In the Netflix series, Hervey plays Gabrielle, a spoiled girl in need of proper parenting, and Elba is the titular Charlie, a struggling DJ moonlighting as the girl’s nanny. Having no previous acting credits, Hervey was understandably nervous in taking on the gig. But under Elba’s tutelage, she gained confidence and inspiration to act more in the future. In the sixth episode, which takes place at a music festival, the duo’s relationship hits a major emotional inflection point.

Hervey: “It was my first job and it was completely nerve-wracking. I’ve done a lot of school plays. There were four rounds of auditions. They asked me how I was, and I said I was honestly quite freaked out. But when I met Idris, it was really amazing. He made me feel really confident. Off set we talk a lot. We hang out a lot. He really treated me like an intellectual, and we would talk about really interesting things. He would teach me things about acting. I didn’t even know what ad-libbing was, or improvisation, or anything like that, and he taught me all of that.

“[The Episode 6] shoot was probably my favorite. It had such a range of emotions. And we had that really vulnerable part where I tell him I want my dad to be more like him. You don’t hear that before in the show, this real seriousness. It’s usually just me joshing around in my American accent. I had to look in Idris’s eyes when I said that and all I could think was, ‘Don’t laugh, don’t laugh, don’t laugh.’ I was like, ‘Come on, we have to get to the end of this.’

“The way they set it up was like it was a real festival. It was the same off-screen as it was on-screen. It was still as cool. It was my first time [at a festival]. It’s my type of place. I really enjoyed myself. After filming we would wander around.

“I don’t swear. Having that in the script, [my response was], ‘Oh whoa, I have to do that? That’s rather impolite.’ I remember first acting, when I would say all of these rude things, I would apologize to the other actors because I felt bad. My parents found it at first kind of, ‘Oh my god,’ and then after a while they found it rather funny. They would say stuff like, ‘Oh I see you’re still in character.’ I’m never going to be able to live this down. It’s now kind of a thing of mine to just not be like Gabrielle to my parents. I try not to because then I think, ‘Is this something that would be in the script?’

“Everyone at my school has been really excited. Everyone is really supportive of me. [‘Turn Up Charlie’] made me want to act more. It gave me a lot more confidence in myself. It gave me a chance to express my feelings and act and do what I love. That changed my life. It made me so much happier in my school. I’m auditioning [now]. I took a break from it for a while because I needed to catch up on school. Now we’re starting all over again.”

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