PRU cast interview

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Belle (Pia Somersby), Halil (Jaye Ersavas), Hanna (Kosar Ali), Jaeden (Michael Boahen), Anthony (Tom Moutchi). Copyright: Domizia Salusest

Pia Somersby (Belle), Jaye Ersavas (Halil), Michael Boahen (Jaeden), Kosar Ali (Hanna), Kerry Godliman (Jean), Tom Moutchi (Anthony) and Umit Ulgen (Berdan) talk about their roles in PRU.

What can you tell us about PRU?

Tom: PRU is a show about four kids in a Pupil Referral Unit who have an array of charisma and confidence.

Jaye: A Pupil Referral Unit is for kids who are too misbehaved to go to a normal school. We get an insight into how a PRU compares to a normal school. There is a mixture of comedy and serious moments.

Michael: PRU is about a group of students who struggle to cope with the rules of mainstream schools and believe in their way of doing things.

Kerry: It showcases a world that isn't often seen.

Pia: PRU is filled with humour, charisma and lots of new talent.

Kosar: PRU is fun, vibrant and a ray of comedy.

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Belle (Pia Somersby), Anthony (Tom Moutchi), Hanna (Kosar Ali), Jaeden (Michael Boahen)

What can you tell us about your characters?

Kosar: Hanna is a true softie inside. She puts up a hard exterior and she's very prideful because she believes she has to be.

Jaye: Halil is the definition of a 'class clown'. He is never serious and he is always up to mischief. One minute you will be laughing with him but then you will be laughing at him. He honestly takes nothing seriously in life and goes with the flow.

Pia: My character Belle is very cheeky but also misunderstood, and at times she is her own worst enemy. She has moments of self-sabotaging and lots of doubt.

Michael: Jaeden is very outgoing and has a very vibrant personality. He can be a class clown, but he knows when to be serious when it comes to certain situations.

Kerry: My character is a weary art teacher who has the best of intentions but is a little tired! She started the job with a sense of 'I'm going to change the world and I'm going to pull out the best of these kids'. The reality of that world has slightly ground her down. However, she still wants the kids to do well and make them recognise their talents and abilities, even if they don't particularly want to see that.

Tom: Anthony is the kids' teacher and he is the vessel that helps them through their day-to-day struggles. He hopes to reintegrate them into mainstream education. He is loving, caring, witty and funny but when pushed to his limits, he can have outbursts.

PRU. Hanna (Kosar Ali)

Did you find any similarities between yourself and your character?

Pia: Belle and I are extremely similar, in a sense that Belle has a way of making the teachers give her chance after chance because they see the potential within. I felt that a lot growing up and I know for a fact that every single teacher I ever had, even back from kindergarten days, still remembers me to this day because I was always the class clown making everyone laugh (including teachers).

Michael: Yes. People always refer to me as a cheeky person. I'm always cracking jokes. I try to make a joke out of serious situations just like my character.

Kosar: Hanna is chilled when you don't push her buttons, so I guess I'm kind of like that!

Tom: I think the similarity between Anthony and I is in our caring nature for the youth.

What drew you to the project?

Michael: The storyline was very engaging. The culture within the story was very relatable and I can connect with my character, so this drew me to this project.

Umit: One of the main reasons I was attracted to the project was that it was a comedy. As soon as I read the script and my character description, I was excited as I could visualize the scenes. It was hilarious right from the start. From the first group read through, it proved that this was the case as everyone, including the actors, could hardly contain a straight face.

Pia: The fact that I could relate to my character a lot, plus I have been to several PRUs. I felt like I would have a deeper understanding of portraying her character to the audience as well as interpreting my own experiences.

Jaye: I've always dreamed of playing a character from my hometown in Turkey, so to be able to speak Turkish and bring my tradition to an English pilot was great. There are rarely any Turkish main roles in British TV so I'm truly grateful to be this character and to be in this pilot.

Kosar: The setting of the story being based in a PRU drew me to the project and I really wanted to explore that more.

Kerry: The aspect of showing a world that isn't normally seen always interests me; with a lot of drama on TV there are often a lot of repeated scenarios in storytelling. I haven't seen a piece of storytelling about young people that have been excluded from mainstream education for one reason or another and I'm always interested in showing worlds that aren't normally seen. This is a reality for thousands and thousands of families, so why don't we get to see those stories more often?

PRU. Jean (Kerry Godliman)

Tell us about the casting process...

Umit: The casting process was very different due to the current restrictions. Firstly, there was an email asking about my availability and whether I would be interested in the project. I jumped at it as it was a BBC project and it was a comedy. The second stage was a meeting with Teddy Nygh, Leah Henry and with a young actor Jaye Ersavas who plays my son Halil. The moment I met Jaye and we read the scene together, it was apparent we had a great chemistry.

Jaye: I was sent a post on the Fully Focused Instagram page, where there was a casting call for a young Turkish male actor. After applying, they then emailed me to join an Instagram Live audition but unfortunately I couldn't make it, so alternatively, after receiving the script, I auditioned over Zoom - I even wore my old school uniform! They liked my performance and told me they will get back to me which they did!

Pia: The casting was a long fun process consisting of monologues, an online Instagram Live audition, a Zoom audition and finally, an official audition took place. When it got to the stage that I knew I was being seriously considered for the role, that was scary. When I got the shout that the part was mine... well, I gave thanks to God and danced all night!

Michael: The casting process was quite interesting - it was my first ever audition. I also had to do my audition on Zoom, but it did make the process smooth for me and I enjoyed it.

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Halil (Jaye Ersavas), Jaeden (Michael Boahen)

What was your school experience like growing up?

Pia: My school life was up and down, a lot constantly changing or getting expelled from school. I think working on PRU helped me to remember how hard life seems when you're that age with all those different feelings and emotions, and coming into adult life.

Jaye: I enjoyed breaks, lunchtime and after school but I hated lessons! I used to always get in trouble. I just hated sitting in a room doing work, but I loved Drama. That was where I was most connected and behaved but in the rest of my lessons, I was the class clown. My teachers definitely had a love/hate relationship with me! It came to the point where I didn't want to anything else apart from entertain people, make people laugh and learn how to act.

Michael: My experience at school provided me with some of my best experiences, especially at secondary school. My experiences in school influenced me to be the creative person that I am today. I wouldn't change those experiences for anything.

Kosar: My school experience was interesting. I used to get in a lot of trouble when I was growing up, but I eventually fixed up.

Kerry: Mostly okay! It's interesting to reflect on education at the moment because a lot of parents like myself are having to do it with our kids. Oftentimes you don't really think about your own education, but now that I'm doing home schooling with my children, it makes you think, what was my education like? I went to a comprehensive school that had previously been a secondary modern that my dad went to so weirdly, I went to the same school as my dad! I did what I needed to do, and I got what I needed, but I wouldn't say it was a great school.

Tom: I loved school. It had the best parts and memories of my life. In the earlier stages of school, I couldn't speak English as French was my first language. I learned English and made friends immediately and integrated fully into school.

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Belle (Pia Somersby), Hanna (Kosar Ali), Jaeden (Michael Boahen)

What was it like to work with the rest of the cast?

Kerry: It was great because the cast were mainly young people with very little experience. There was a kind of rawness to their process which I found interesting. It was lovely to work with young people as they weren't jaded, and their positivity was really energising.

Michael: The crew were great! There was a great chemistry between us. It felt as if we knew and worked with each other before, even though it was the first time we had met each together. On set we had a lot of fun and pushed each other to do well and we learnt a lot from each other.

Jaye: It was an absolute honour and pleasure working with the cast and crew and I enjoyed creating a great relationship with these guys. To just be in a room with people who love the art as much as you do and create something beautiful people will watch and love was a great experience. I would love to do it all over again.

Pia: Working with the cast and the whole production team was a pleasure and one of the biggest blessings I have ever received. I'm really looking forward to the world getting to take us all in. I hope I can leave a good impact on everyone who watches and they can relate in their own ways.

Umit: I really enjoyed every second on this project, working with Teddy who brought his experience with these kids on to the screen. I worked with Kosar Ali in a film called Rocks last year and it was great to see her again. Working with Jaye was special. He was fun, confident and very natural in his acting. He is a very talented young man in the early stages of a great career.

Kosar: It was the best working with the cast. They are such joyous, beautiful, funny, talented and tender humans.

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Anthony (Tom Moutchi), Halil (Jaye Ersavas), Berdan (Umit Ulgen)

Were there any highlights during filming?

Kerry: When we were workshopping we played warm-up games and exercises that I hadn't done for 20 years since I was a drama student, so that was great. You don't usually get a chance to do that in the professional world, so you start to forget the value of it until when you're doing it and you think, oh yeah, this does warm us up and get us in the right headspace!

Kosar: Being able to create something with passionate people in such strange times was so refreshing.

Pia: I treasured every moment, therefore I can't give a highlight, but I just know that the people are going to love PRU because it brings a lot of life, youthfulness, laughter and you feel for the characters. It will hook you in!

Jaye: The entire experience was a highlight! It was so fun on set and there was great banter and energy between cast and crew.

What do you hope audiences can learn from the show?

Tom: I hope audiences learn not to count out people based on their transgressions. These kids are counted out by society but they are all beautiful inside and full of potential.

Michael: I hope audiences can learn to not judge a book by its cover and try to learn and understand different perspectives. You can never know what someone is going through in life.

Kerry: I hope we can de-stigmatise these environments, pull them into the mainstream and discuss why they exist, how they exist, how people work, and what the objective is for those communities and the hopeful futures that those kids.

Umit: Kids in PRU are often associated with bad behaviour. 'Naughty kids' per se who do not have a place in mainstream education. The truth is these are the kids who have learning disabilities, mental health issues, who may have had experiences with bullying and therefore developed school anxiety, or they're just plain geniuses who find ordinary education dull. But because of the lack of understanding from both their families and the education system, these kids face social exclusion and developing social phobias. They might have excelled in certain areas but it's difficult to spot these kids and the areas they might succeed in life. I hope audiences can just watch this and try to understand not every kid fits in the system as it isn't sufficient enough to nurture every single kid - especially so-called 'troubled' ones.#

PRU. Image shows from L to R: Jean (Kerry Godliman), Belle (Pia Somersby)

What can viewers expect and why should they tune in?

Tom: Something, clean, fresh and exciting.

Jaye: Viewers should tune in because this is something fresh, with fresh actors that have not had past credits. So, it will be something that hasn't been seen before!

Pia: Expect to be blown away and have you laughing on stitches on the edge of your sofa!

Michael: This is a show for everyone, regardless of your age. These teenagers are going through life experiences that either the viewer has been through, or they possibly know someone who's been or is even going through it now. The project is filled with an exciting storylines and you get to see incredible actors paint out the story.

Kerry: I think there is something about young people on TV that is fresh and energising as it is captivating, to watch young people at the very beginning of their lives. It's all about identity and becoming who you are and when you're at the beginning of that journey as a young person, it is fascinating. In terms of a demographic, the kids in this programme are not a demographic that might have been seen before. So, audiences will be shown something they may not know or understand. With a teenage daughter myself, it was really funny because the slang that's used by the students was slang that I have to live with! So, having characters on screen saying words like 'leng' and 'fam' made me laugh as I identify and live with these words. It's quite funny just seeing these characters speak in the vernacular that local teenagers around me speak.

Kosar: If you want to see action-packed comedy, then PRU is the place for you!

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