interview JANA LETONJA

British actress and singer-songwriter Asha Banks is starring in ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’, the TV adaption of the New York Times bestseller, which was released on BBC on 1st July and will be also streaming in US on Netflix from 1st August.

Asha, fans are currently able to watch you in BBC’s series ‘A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder’. Tell us more about the story of the series and your character Cara.

‘A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder’ is a crime thriller/murder mystery based on the best-selling novel by Holly Jackson. It follows Pippa Fitz-Amobi as she decides to re- open a closed murder case that happened in her town 5 years ago. Andie Bell was killed by her boyfriend Sal Singh and shortly after that he then killed himself, but Pip doesn’t quite believe it.

I play Cara Ward who has been Pip’s best friend since they were four. She is more like a sister than a friend to Pip, so is always by her side and is her constant and gives her a sense of normality while she’s getting deeper and deeper into this quite distressing case. Cara is dead-pan and dry, but really caring and loyal to the people closest to her. 

The series is an adaptation of the novel of the same name. Have you read the book or maybe even all three of them before you started filming the series? How much does the story differ between the book and the series?

I had definitely heard of them, but hadn’t read the books by the time I was cast. As soon as I was offered the part, I had them waiting and read them straight away. It was like another win, I was offered the part and I got to read the books knowing that. So surreal. But yes, I read them before we started filming so I felt like I really had an insight to the characters beyond the script. 

Obviously some bits have to change to make it work for a TV series, but I think the characters and the reasons people love the book have been written into the show beautifully!.The book by Holly Jackson is so wonderful and detailed that it was the perfect recipe to make into a show and the characters are so well rounded and actually feel real, so it was an honor to get to play one. 

It was also just recently announced that Netflix will be streaming the series from 1st August. How exciting was hearing this news?

So exciting. When filming, we were all really hoping it would stream worldwide somewhere, mainly because we knew a lot of the fans from the book weren’t from the UK so I was already panicking for them thinking how are they going to watch it. But when I heard the news, it was just so wonderful and a bit daunting. Netflix is a beast with such a huge reach, but hopefully it can help get the show to new people and new audiences who haven’t necessarily read the book.

You started performing at the young age of 7, when you starred in the multi-award winning musical ’Les Misérables’. How has stage work prepared you for acting in front of the camera?

When I look back to the fact that I was 7, it baffles me, but I feel very lucky to have been able to do what I love from a very young age and I think it’s probably shaped me into who I am today. I’ve just always had the most wonderful time working in theatre. It’s so different to film and TV and, depending on which I’m doing, I definitely have to flex different muscles. What I love about theatre is the prep work and rehearsals that are such a big part of it, and I think I’ve tried to take that into the few screen roles I’ve done, even if the rehearsals are usually by myself. I also think it has instilled a resilience in me that has carried through to my adult self and really helps with this industry. Rejection is such a huge part the experience of being an actor. The audition process for a child, particularly in theatre, is ruthless.

What excites you the most about theater, and what about TV and film? Which of the two gives you a bigger feeling of creative fulfillement?

That’s such a hard one. I think with theatre, the thrill of performing live is just electrifying. There’s really nothing like it. It feels so vulnerable to go out on stage and be so excited, but kind of terrified at the same time. I love being able to try new things every night. Obviously, you get that immediate feedback from a live audience and that’s incredible.  Also, you get to do it again and again, so you’re always finding out new things about your character and being able to have so much fun whilst doing it.

With TV and film, I think it’s such a different craft. The audience often has to be with the characters for a longer period of time and get to know them in such detail that you have to be so believable as that person that people get lost in the world of the film or series. So I honestly couldn’t pick which gives me more creative fulfilment. I find them both so rewarding, but in different ways. 

How did your passion and interest in performing develop? Was that any particular moment that inspired you in pursuing it?

I don’t really know to be honest. I don’t think I can remember not doing it. My first time on a stage in front of an audience was my primary school nativity play. It was called ‘The Little Fir Tree’ and I played the little fir tree, my first lead. I took that very seriously indeed. And then when I went to my ‘Les Mis’ audition, it became clear that this was definitely what I wanted to do. It was my first audition ever and I was just excited to have one. But when I was in the room, I think I realised that I was desperate to do well and really wanted to get it.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the acting industry and you look up to the most?

Emerald Fennell is certainly one. She has achieved so much in the industry. She’s an actress and also a writer. She won an Oscar for her screenplay for ‘Promising Young Women’. Margot Robbie is amazing. A talented actor, but now also a huge producer and really important in the industry.

And I really look up to some women who have had really incredibly long careers, both on stage and screen. Actors like Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, when you look at their careers, you see how versatile they are as performers. They both started very young, on the London stage, so are very inspirational as it’s a similar start to me.

If you look into the future of your fast growing career, what are your biggest goals for it?

I’d love to push myself. There’s so many different ways to go in this industry and I’d love to give lots of different things a go. I think it’s really hard to plan what comes next so I’m excited to see what comes up and where that can take me.

I’m just starting in screen work really, but the amazing people and especially wonderful creative and inspirational women I’ve met so far in the industry is really encouraging. I have connected with such great mentors already, so I am so excited to work with and meet more people who inspire me every day.  I’d love to work in film more. I’m so interested in the film-making process and I think working on my most recent project, ‘My Fault: London’ I got much more of an understanding into how it all works, and I found that incredibly fulfilling, so would love to learn more about that. 

Tell us more about yourself outside of acting. What are the things you enjoy in life the most?

I am a singer and songwriter too, so when I’m not acting, I’m most likely in the studio. Music has always been something that I’ve wanted to do seriously and I feel so lucky and excited that I am now. It’s been so fun writing with some amazing people and I love having another creative outlet alongside acting that I have as much passion for. I can’t wait to release music, hopefully sooner rather than later.

You have just been announced to star in Amazon Prime’s upcomimg film ‘My Fault: London’, which will be the UK version of ‘Culpa Mia’. Tell us more about this exciting upcoming projects of yours and what can we expect from it.

‘My Fault: London’ is a British remake of the Prime Video Spanish Original film ‘Culpa Mia’, based on the best-selling book by Mercedes Ron. The film follows my character Noah who moves from America to London. As she’s discovering London for the first time, she also finds herself balancing an electric relationship with ‘bad boy’ Nick, played by the wonderful Matthew Broome. Noah spends the summer adjusting to life in London, making new friends, but her estranged father is released from prison and starts tracking her every move. She’s then forced to deal with her past, while falling in love for the first time. It’s a romance at its core, but has racing and thriller elements to it too.

It’s so exciting to be a part of this movie and it’s my first leading role, so it feels like a dream come true. I had the most amazing time filming and made friends for life with the cast. I can’t wait for people to see it.

photographer DEBORA BRUNE
photography assistant LAURA SCHEUREN
styling assistant ALFRED HUMPHIRES
editorial director & interview JANA LETONJA