Simona Brown has had a short career, acting for only four years. In that brief time, she has won roles in some very successful dramas, BBC television’s The Night Manager being one, and there’s much more to come from this vivacious young actress. Proud of her south east London roots, Simona is shortly to be seen in Channel 4’s Kiss Me First. Andrew Peters finds out more about the actress who is starting to make waves.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT: A & E NETWORKS
Q Simona, you first wanted to be a singer when you were small and liked Whitney Houston, so what changed your mind and made you want to become an actor?
A Singing was the dream. Whitney was a huge inspiration for me growing up.
I studied musical theatre for my first two years at The Brit school (Croydon) where I studied singing, acting and dancing. Of the three art forms I enjoyed acting the most, so I continued with theatre in sixth form and started looking for an agent.
Q What encouragement did you receive and from whom?
A My mother and sister have always been very supportive of my dreams.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT: PETE DADDS | CHANNEL 4 TELEVISION
Kiss Me First
Skins’ co-creator Bryan Elsley’s Kiss Me First is an innovative, state-of-the-art thriller that combines live action with state-of-the-art computer-generated virtual world sequences in a television drama first. Tallulah Haddon will play the central role of Leila, a reserved 19-year-old who becomes addicted to a multiplayer, online, role-playing game. While on the site, Leila meets Tess (Simona Brown, pictured above), a cool, confident party girl who harbours a dark secret. Tess invites Leila into Red Pill, a secretive, invite-only part of this virtual world led by charming and manipulative, Adrian (Matthew Beard). Although the young adult members of Red Pill have never met Adrian in the real world, they all instinctively trust in his leadership, however, they are unaware of the fate they're about to face.
Q You grew up, and still live, in south east London. Do you have fond memories of the area?
A Growing up in Peckham was fun for the most part. I did experience some bullying in primary school, but oddly enough being isolated was somewhat of a relief. Being part of the cool clique was too stressful. I think that’s when I really got into reading and creating my own short stories.
Q Olivia Colman has just won the What’s On Stage award for best actress in a play. Did you enjoy working with her (along with Tom Hiddleston, Tom Hollander and Hugh Lawrie) in The Night Manager?
A It was very insightful to work with Olivia. She has a playful energy, which is great to have on set. I would love to work with her again.
Q You’ve been working pretty much non-stop since 2014. Can you tell us a little about your other work?
A I’ve been mostly focused on acting since I started in 2014. I like to write in my spare time and I’m keen to learn more about directing as it’s something I could see myself doing one day.
Q What was your first big break?
A I think Roots. It’s a project that challenged me and I’m very proud to be a part of.
Q Who have been the biggest influences on your acting career to date?
A My biggest influences have been Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Naomie Harris and Vera Farmiga. The list, however, is endless.
Q What’s been the highlight to date?
A Filming in South Africa was an amazing experience. It’s where I had my first encounter with elephants!
Q What’s the most important aspect of being an actor?
A I think it’s remembering to trust my instincts and to have fun!
Q If you could choose a role, current or past, what would it be?
A To play Nina Simone. She had such an interesting life and character.
PHOTO COPYRIGHT: DESMOND LINGARD
Profile: Simona Brown
Actress Simona Brown studied acting at the Identity School of Acting and has since starred in a number of exceptionally-received television shows. She has been seen in The Night Manager, as well as in a starring role in the A&E remake of Roots (pictured above) where she played the role of Jinna, Kunta Kinte’s love interest.
Simona is shortly to be seen as the lead in Channel 4's new drama Kiss Me First, of which Piers Wenger, head of drama at Channel 4, says: “This is a thrilling and truly ground-breaking series which takes an emotional look at the lives of a group of young gamers and the truth which exists behind their online lives.” Adapted from Lottie Moggach’s best-selling novel by the makers of Skins, Kiss Me First will premiere on Channel 4 in the UK and Netflix internationally very shortly.
Q Do you push yourself hard to learn and improve all the time?
A When I’m not working I read quite a bit and I take various acting classes, which I get a lot out of. I think it’s important to keep training. I learn something new every time.
Q You’re soon to be seen again in the Channel 4 and Netflix drama Kiss Me First. Can you tell us a little more about this?
A Kiss Me First is a thriller in which a group of misunderstood young adults meet on the online VR game Azana. I play the role of Tess, a vivacious, insatiable young woman who struggles with the real world and uses the game as a form of escapism to avoid her depression and inner demons.
Q Would you regard Kiss Me First as ground-breaking drama with its mix of live action and virtual animation?
A It’s exciting to be a part of a new form of storytelling. I think Kiss Me First will be the first of many live action/virtual reality dramas.
Q So what have you lined up to do next?
A I’m currently filming The Little Drummer Girl for BBC/AMC.
Quick fiveFilm or book? Book – Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Favourite food? Caribbean
Tea or coffee? Tea
Favourite holiday? Portugal
Hot or cold? Hot
Kiss Me First is coming soon to Channel 4 and Netflix.Instagram: @simona.cb