From Ripper Street to The Paradise, Kilburn actor Sonya Cassidy is taking our screens by storm – especially in the lead role of the new season of Humans
From a young age, Sonya Cassidy found herself inherently interested in human behaviour, and was fascinated in observing people in everyday life. This fascination has led her into a successful career in acting both on stage and, most recently, on screen in a show likely to feed straight into this interest in human behaviour.
Having been accepted into RADA straight from school, Cassidy moved from Bristol to London to follow her dream of becoming a professional actor. Clearly testament to her talent, after graduating from theatre school she was cast in Inherit the Wind with Kevin Spacey at The Old Vic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this launched the Kilburn local into the public eye and she appeared in TV shows such as Ripper Street and The Paradise.
But it’s important to Cassidy to do smaller venues as well as larger ones, as she loves the intimacy of small spaces and what this can bring to an audience. It takes her back to her humble roots, something that she is evidently still very in touch with. There are no airs and graces with Cassidy, no prima donna here, and she’s refreshingly grateful for the opportunities that she has been presented with.
What is also clear is how imperative challenging roles are to her and how much she wants to both test herself, but challenge the audience too. ‘I did a play called Mucky Kid at The Latchmere in Battersea which was based on the idea of children being born innately evil through cases such as the Bulger murder,’ says Cassidy. ‘I was playing a young girl who is released at 21 and has developed to become someone who can be out [of prison]. It really challenged so many different emotions and ideas.’ She is proud of the way in which it was received and the fact that professionals in child welfare said it was an accurate depiction of real problems in society.
Cassidy is modest and tells me how she continuously learns new skills from each different job she does. ‘I love the diversity of the roles that I’ve played, and I love that the older you get the more you can bring to a role,’ she says. ‘As an actor you are always observing things. You should be far more interested in other people than you should be yourself. You know, I know me pretty well I think, so that’s fine! But I can learn so much from watching another person.’
For Cassidy, the pull of the job is the character as opposed to whether it is stage or screen, so fortunately we can expect to see her in both in the future. And one of the most exciting appearances has to be in the casting of Cassidy in the new season of the critically acclaimed Channel 4 show Humans, which is aired on Sunday.
Fans of the first season of the show are in for an absolute treat, I’m told. ‘I was a huge fan of the first season – it’s so clever and well-timed. What’s been wonderful for me to realise is how much it appeals to such a wide demographic, which is so rare and great,’ she says. ‘I am playing one of the lead roles, and my character throws up new challenges for the audience and for the characters that we already know and love like Anita (played by Notting Hill local Gemma Chan). The scope of the new season in terms of what the directors are diving into is quite extraordinary.’
It is great to hear that Cassidy feels the local area has so much to offer young, budding actors. ‘We’re so lucky to have the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, which is such a lovely venue,’ she says. ‘The Youth Development programmes they do there are wonderful, especially with the state of the arts industry at the moment. It’s vital for places like this to offer young people the opportunity to act.’ With the Tricycle Transformed scheme underway too, in which the artistic director, Indhu Rubasingham, hopes to update the theatre and its amenities, there is so much hope for young people in the arts industry today.
Speaking of the future, I can’t help but wonder what plans Cassidy has for her next role following on from such a prestigious project. ‘At the moment I’m enjoying having a bit of time to travel a little bit, but most importantly I’d like the next job to be very different, and equally as challenging as the last,’ says Cassidy. ‘I think for an actor, the big dream is to still be working everyday. I’d like to still be acting as a little old lady.’
It’s the humble nature of Cassidy that is so endearing, and it’s uplifting to see that the child-like excitement for the stage that she talked of feeling while growing up is still, very clearly, there with her. ‘I feel very fortunate, and I have several cloud nine moments. It can just be small things like the theatre being packed every night, or the moments when you could drop a pin and hear it drop because the auditorium is so still and quiet,’ she says. ‘I quite often stop and just think, “this is really cool”, and I never want that to end.’
See Sonya Cassidy in Humans on Channel 4 this Sunday; channel4.com/programmes/humans