Simona Brown, a south east Londoner through and through, tells us about meeting other SE London greats Olivia Coleman and John Boyega, and her latest role in Kiss Me First, which she describes as ‘a new era for TV’
Lead image: Simona Brown photographed by Desmond Lingard
‘I have always been quite a dramatic child, or so I have been told,’ laughs Simona Brown as we settle down to speak ahead of her role in the highly anticipated Channel Four and Netflix drama, Kiss Me First.
‘I enjoyed being in the spotlight and fancied myself as a singer or a complete music, dancing and singing sensation – I thought I’d be the next Mariah Carey!
‘My mum told me I had too much creative energy so she got me involved in extra-curricular groups before I joined the Brit School when I was 14 to do musical theatre. I quickly found out some harsh truths though and I realised that singing wasn’t actually my strong point, so I focused on acting.’
Brown has featured in some of the most exciting dramas to hit our screens of late. Her role in the critically acclaimed BBC adaptation of the John le Carré novel The Night Manager immediately springs to mind.
‘It was exciting to be involved with that, and I think I was in a state of shock for the whole filming process as I was just sat opposite Olivia Colman and I’ve always watched her on screen,’ says Brown.
‘She’s a really great, warm character to be around. And then Hugh Laurie would just stroll up with cakes for everyone – I used to watch him in Stuart Little! It was bizarre to be around so many big acting names and it was great to watch and observe and take it all in as a valuable learning experience.’
It was exciting to be involved with The Night Manager. I’ve always watched Olivia Colman on screen and then Hugh Laurie would just stroll up with cakes for everyone
Brown, who worked part-time supporting her mother while studying at the Identity School of Acting, is certainly not one to shy away from getting her teeth stuck into a challenge, especially when it came to her latest role Kiss Me First.
‘I had to approach it with an open mind and complete honesty because it was a very collaborative job. Throughout the years, I’ve become more settled in my self and I know now that my opinion is valid and is actually essential, so I use it now.’
— Kiss Me First (@KissMeFirstTV) April 2, 2018
Brown has fond memories of growing up in south east London, and she felt that the area supported her dreams and aspirations when she was a child: ‘My school was quite arts-based, for some reason we even had the option to play steel pans. Although, when I got to secondary school it wasn’t as cool, so that was when I moved to the Brit School to find my voice.
‘I’m a south east Londoner born and bred and I grew up in Nunhead before I moved to East Dulwich in my teens,’ says Brown. ‘But I’ve recently relocated to the Abbey Wood area.
‘It’s quite a change in pace from the buzz of other parts of south east London, but it has lovely parks and I’m really enjoying being so close to and going into Greenwich a lot, wandering around the park and checking out the Observatory.’
And she loves coming home after being away filming. ‘Sometimes I’m like a house mouse, just catching up with life,’ laughs Brown.
‘When I’m here, I love to go to Ganapati, which is a really good South Indian restaurant that is very authentic.
After a night out, I always go to Bagel King in Camberwell as it is open 24 hours and the food is great – you can have any filling you want.’
I ask Brown the highlight of her career so far: ‘It would actually have to be when I was in LA with my agent and he took me to Soho House and we met John Boyega.
‘He must have seen my show-reel and he said that I was really good!
‘That was a huge moment for me, especially as I was just starting in my career, so it was great to hear positive affirmations come from someone that comes from the same area as me and has done so well in the industry.’
So what can we expect from Kiss Me First?
‘It could be the start of a new era in television,’ says Brown. ‘I think that’s because of the cohesion of live action and virtual animation and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before.
‘It could be an insight into what the future holds in a social media and gaming aspect. It feels like the very near future and there is a sinister undertone to it.’
Kiss Me First airs at 9pm on Mondays on channel4.com