Eve: Interview: Poppy Lee Friar

EVE-tx-card-image-717x478Poppy Lee Friar is currently headlining CBBC’s SF serial Eve, created by Emma Reeves and David Chikwe, but that’s just the latest in a long string of roles she has played over the last few years. She’s sung and been covered in blood in BBC2’s Beautiful People, turned up on Miss Selfridge, and fought off giant crocodiles in Lake Placid: The Final Chapter. In-between a round of auditions shortly after the broadcast of episode 4 of Eve, she chatted with Paul Simpson…



How did you get involved with Eve?

The same as everyone – just through audition. I was invited along to a big first casting where I had to perform a humorous monologue and met most of the execs involved with the project. That was so long ago. The audition process was lengthy but you know you’re in with a chance when you keep getting recalls. I remember reading the breakdown all those years ago and thinking I have to play Eve.


First of all, she’s not human, so as an actor that gives you the opportunity to experiment and really create something.

Eve was a blank canvas. She has the ability to mimic too; she has the ability to be anything she wants to be. She’s also quite temperamental, so she can change in a split second. I’ve been told that I’m quite creepy as Eve, which is quite hilarious and I think is a compliment, because I think it was important to retain that sci-fi element and remember that she’s the first of her kind.

Sci-fi as a genre has that enduring quality about it, and it’s always been an interest of mine as well: I’ve always loved Doctor Who, and just got into Red Dwarf, which I’ve been watching on Dave, and found funny.

Eve 1.4What I loved about Emma and David’s concept is the endearing quality of someone learning about life and her own character and the world around her, not to mention teenage emotion. What’s especially fantastic is that it’s a series and not, say, a film, because it’s a chance to develop the character over the episodes. She absorbs everything and everyone around her, and she changes dramatically from episode 1 to episode 13. It’s amazing – it’s like playing lots of characters in one. Episode 4, with the “Protocol Zero”, is a complete shift in acting style.

Eve’s character is completely unique. I think we’re lucky: all these character plans seem to have worked perfectly together and everything has evolved over the shoot. Eve became so real.

Did you reach a point where you could turn to the directors or writers and say that you didn’t think she’d do something because you knew her better?

There are always going to be moments like that because you’re playing Eve, you’re under her skin, and as an actor you have a different understanding. But I think because the scripts were brilliantly crafted and written, and Emma’s writing in particular is so sophisticated, that if there were any such moments, which I can’t remember there being, they were few. It was so well-structured. I had complete trust in Emma. We were lucky in that respect: there was no stand out moments that I was concerned or didn’t like a line or anything like that.

Eve ep 2One of the things that I loved about Eve was her mimicking. It is difficult for her because she is a highly advanced computer, she has a wealth of knowledge, but she’s a machine. She’s like an encyclopaedia but she doesn’t know how to interact. At first she stands out and is a bit creepy, even though she looks like a normal teenage girl, but she doesn’t know all these things and she’s very slowly understanding things, developing emotions, which makes her complex.

She’s a multi-faceted being: she’s highly sophisticated, but she doesn’t have a human brain or a heart, so she doesn’t know how to think or act or feel like people at the start.

Was it difficult to do the scene where Eve gets into Will’s personal space?

I loved that scene with Ollie. We almost became like magnets. I absolutely adore him, and think he’s a great actor. You do create a good chemistry over a series, and it helped that we became such great friends and bounced off of each other. At the start especially, it was all about playing it really straight – she doesn’t understand and is reacting differently to a normal teenage girl. The point was to always remember that in the early episodes, anyway.

The bit with the girl crew in episode 2 was hysterically funny…

I loved that!

Eve girl crewDid you find that the mimicking itself could become one-note, that it was difficult to find something of her growing? If she’s constantly reflecting other people, how much is she growing herself, and how much is she becoming a group of possibly-conflicting mirrors?

I agree with you, at the start it was very much about having a lack of identity, and not having her own character, so she was reflecting the people around her, which was interesting because there were so many great characters in the series. The experiences that she has in later episodes, she has to comprehend them in a human way; she develops these emotions.

The emotional development of the character was a very important thing that we discussed early on. Initially, it is about the mimicking which you find humour in, and then as the series progresses, she really does seem to understand more situations, and becomes more human.

For you, what was the biggest challenge of playing her?

I think what I wanted to really remember was the fact that she was this machine, she was the first of her kind, but I wanted kids to be able to relate to what she’s going through, see what she’s experiencing without her being so alien that she confused them. I wanted the humorous elements as well.

Hopefully it looks quite minimal, but it did take a lot of work: there has to be so much focus. She’s multi-faceted, sophisticated and highly advanced, but the real challenge was to play every single experience as if it’s the very first time, and at the same time, magnifying it and being either fascinated by it, or confused, or enjoying it, almost in a child-like way.

Eve 1.5She’s unpredictable and temperamental. The character flips on her head a lot, which I really like and I think she ends up being herself and being a person having learned so much. All these character traits relate to each episode and the different situation she finds herself in, so it’s easier having a whole series to develop her character over time.

Absolutely everything needed to be addressed: movement, style, voice, eyes, posture, emotional development – how rapid and slow that would be. Hopefully it does look minimal but it took a lot of effort and attention to detail on all parts to create her because she was so different.

It all came from a place of love because I absolutely adored the role from the get-go.

Her ability to turn on a dime is obvious from the start – smiling and then turning it off instantly…

I really enjoyed playing all that.

eve castAssuming the show goes to a second series, where would you like to see her go?

There’s so much scope. It really could go anywhere. I’ve had a few chats with the producer and Emma and talked about their ideas, but there are so many different aspects to it. I do like the whole creep scary side to it. It’s dynamic and it’s interesting to keep her as a threat. She is dangerous; she could potentially do a lot of damage. But there is the whole humour element, which I absolutely love. The possibilities are endless. I guess it’s a case of finding what the favourite stuff from the audience is, what the kids would like to see more of, and developing from that, I guess.

In each episode, you get so much. They’re all different. Every episode could be a short film, because so much happens. It’s so interesting; there are so many shifts in mood and tone. In that respect it is really special. There’ll always be something to keep kids entertained.

I’m so grateful for the comments from children and adults. I think Eve could run and run like Doctor Who. It’s got that enduring sci-fi appeal mixed with other genres too. It seems to be really popular.

Children’s TV is so important, and really should be recognised as a powerful tool for shaping future adults; it’s a huge honour to be on CBBC. You always remember shows you watched as a kid. I’d love for Eve to be an iconic piece of kids TV history. It does feel special – maybe I’m biased! – but it does have a lot of scope for another couple of series.

When you look at a script, what attracts you to it or a character?

dead gorgeousThe writing is very important. I studied photography and film study at college, so I’m really interested in the other side of the cameras as well. When I read something I read quite visually.

I love playing unusual characters. It seems to be a theme in my life that I get to play unusual characters – I got to play a ghost, now I’m playing a robot. The whole concept of the fish out of water comedy and Eve being a robot completely just rocked my world. I had to play the character, and obviously I was completely honoured to hear that Emma thought of me for the role because she was involved with Dead Gorgeous all those years ago. I know that her writing is sophisticated and she’s great. For me, it was initially the fact that Eve was a robot is what drew me to the part, because it let me adopt a whole new acting style.

Also accents are my thing – I’m always doing accents, and Eve being American attracted me to the role. I’ve just finished playing a Scottish girl in Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate.

I saw your showreel up on YouTube and the Carrie sequence was very unusual.

I’ve been really lucky – I’ve had so many diverse roles. That was from Beautiful People, a BBC2 comedy series years ago. I had to sing in that as well, the Barbra Streisand number ‘Don’t Rain on My Parade’. I loved it – I love singing as well, and I get to sing in series 1 of Eve as well, which is great. I have been very lucky in that respect: I’ve got to play so many great things.

Eve continues at 5.30pm on Mondays on CBBC and CBBC HD

Thanks to Matthew Robinson and Joe Powell for their help in setting up this interview

Click here to read our interview with Eve co-creator Emma Reeves



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