Michelle Gayle is a recording artist, songwriter, actress and author. She started her career at a young age landing roles in popular children’s shows such asGrange Hill (Produced by BBC) and Press Gang (produced by Richmond Film & Television).
In 1990 Michelle joined the cast of the BBC’s long running soap Eastenders as Hattie Tavernier. After a few years on the show she left to pursue her music career and signed with RCA Records. Michelle went on to successfully have seven top 40 singles in the UK Singles Chart.
Since then she has appeared in a variety of roles across television, film and theatre including playing Belle in the West End musical Beauty and the Beastand being a panellist for ITV’s daytime chat show Loose Women. More recently she turned to writing and the rights to her first novel ‘Pride and Premiership’ were acquired by Walker books and was published in 2011.
Currently Michelle is appearing in the 4th series of the children’s TV series produced for CBBC by CBBC Productions and is here to tell us all about it.
Hello, thank you for your time. So you’ve joined the cast of CBBC’s Wolfblood for the 4th series as corporate boss Imara. Tell us about your character?
Imara is one of life’s survivors. She’s similar to a politician who has tough decisions to make. She’s extremely logical about protecting the secret, if people need to be dealt with – so be it. But TJ is her Achilles heel. She loves her son with every ounce of her body and he comes above everything else, even protecting the secret.
What’s the best thing about getting to play fantasy creature like a Wolfblood?
I loved being able to let go and ‘wolf out’. There are so many constraints in adulthood so being able to just go for it without worrying what anyone thinks is a great experience.
Are your young cast-mates aware that they’re working with a bit of an acting legend?
‘Legend?’ Ha ha – is that a euphemism for old? To be serious for a second, I’ve been acting for a very long time and most of their parents knew who I was. One of the cast members said that once their mum knew I was doing it, it was the first time their mum vocalised she was chuffed they were doing the show.
Do you let your children watch the show? If so what are their thoughts?
I do let the kids watch it, so they know why I’ve been away working. The four year old actually thinks he’s TJ and we often have to do Wolfblood role plays. The sixteen year old is a bit cool for school so it was a big deal when he admitted that it was ‘actually quite good.’
Wolfblood consists of a cast of young actors. You also started acting young. How did it impact your life being cast on such popular shows – Grange Hill; Eastenders at such a young age?
Sounds a bit dramatic but it changed my life. I was able to buy a flat at nineteen because I’d worked and saved so young. That would be impossible to do today because of the way house prices have gone.
You’ve also enjoyed a great working relationship with the BBC in regards to your acting career, in the face of the diversity discussion how has your career progression been with this in mind?
Yes the Beeb have been good to me over the years. I’m not sure how diversity or lack there of affected me as it was my decision to leave Eastenders to pursue singing. Then to take time off to look after my first child. It was much harder than I anticipated to get back in. Certainly the trend for period dramas and reality TV meant there were fewer parts for a black female. But along came the BBC once again with Wolfblood. I owe a lot to the Beeb.
What has been the most valuable lesson you learned whilst a young actress which you would pass on to your fellow cast members and young actors starting out?
Winging it on set is not a good idea! Do your prep, know your lines.
Your career is diverse covering a range of different areas including acting, singing and writing. Which one is your preferred talent and why?
I love them equally, as one would their children but I’m certainly concentrating more on writing and acting.
Your novel, Pride and Premiership was released in May 2011. Has writing always been a passion for you and can we expect more writing from you?
Writing has always been a huge passion. I was the kid that would come back with a thirteen page story when the teacher only required two. Fingers crossed, something very exciting is on the cards!
Have you ever thought about moving into writing for TV or film?
Yes. I’m obsessed! I’m plugging away at home dreaming about my first official cheque for a script.
Sorry, but I have to ask. I’ve been fan since the early 90’s and you still look the same what is your secret to your youthful appearance? Do have any health regimes that you follow?
Thank you. It’s nice when people pass comments but to be honest it costs me a lot of jobs. I don’t diet but I eat healthily and only drink alcohol when I go out – hardly ever at home. I also exercise two to three times a week. However, both my parents look fifteen years younger than their age so having their DNA has probably helped big time!
Finally, what’s next for you after Wolfblood, and is there any chance you will be back in the studio?
Definitely more writing and acting coming up. No more recording on the cards but never say never.