PRU is a comedy about a group of teens struggling to navigate adolescence in a pupil referral unit, a school for excluded kids.
After a successful pilot episode aired in 2021 on BBC Three, the series returns for a new four-part series. With a slight shift in cast, the youth comedy will again focus on, “Four beautifully complex but seemingly self-destructive teens look for a new start in a school for excluded kids.”
TBB spoke to two of PRU’s lead cast actor Michael Boahen and newcomer actress Nkechi Simms …
Please introduce yourself …
Nkechi: Hi, I’m Nkechi Simms and I’m a young, Black British actress from Camden.
Michael: My name is Michael Boahen also known as MBBANTS. I’m from Ghana and I was born/live in Edmonton Green. I’m a content creator and actor.
Please describe your life right now in a word or a sentence?
Nkechi: Right now my life kind of feels like I’m living the dream.
Michael: I would describe my life in one word – ‘movie‘.
Please tell us about your characters in PRU?
Nkechi: I play Sienna, the new girl at the PRU, who arrives and causes some well-intentioned chaos.
Michael: My character’s name is Jaeden. He is one of the main roles in the show.
What was it about the PRU script that excited you?
Nkechi: I watched the pilot of PRU before I ever saw a script or got an audition, and I thought it was amazing. When I got the audition, I read the script and immediately connected with the storylines and themes of the show. Truthfully, I didn’t think I was funny but through the process of auditioning, I discovered, I’m pretty jokes.
Michael: The script was well written for my character, Jaeden. He’s a relatable character to a lot of people,
especially me. That’s why I was so excited to play the role and accepted it from the start.
You’re pretty new in the acting game, can you tell us how you got into acting and why?
Nkechi: I went to stage school when I was younger, but it was expensive and I couldn’t keep going. When I was about 19, I did a year of drama at college and I went to a summer school at The Royal Central School of Speech & Drama but I wasn’t ready for higher education. I was lucky enough to find The Big House, a charity that works with young people who have faced challenging circumstances and want to use creativity to find their potential. Through them, I was able to face up to, and process my own lived experiences, and channel that positively into my acting. I’ve found that acting allows me not only to express myself but also to highlight stories that I feel need to be told. It brings me a great sense of joy and pride.
Michael: I got into acting because I knew it would be something new for me and my career. It was a great experience and I enjoyed it. Hopefully, I can carry on and experience more things in the acting scene.
Nkechi – With your personal experiences of the school system, why do you believe a show like PRU so important?
I really struggled in mainstream education, I left aged 12 and never went back. I bounced from PRU to PRU and felt like I’d been written off and left without any support. I was lucky enough to find my way back to something I really care about, but there are other young people who maybe won’t be that lucky.
PRU highlights that those young people who show challenging behaviour can be stigmatised and labelled, when actually what they need is a supportive environment and people that encourage them. If young people are provided with the opportunity to learn and grow they can be more than their mistakes. You don’t have to be defined by your mistakes. PRU does a great job of showing the multitudes of young people’s experiences in an education system that I feel is fundamentally broken, but it’s a show that is funny and heartwarming in equal measure.
Michael – Highlighting the pressures that black boys can often experience whilst growing up isn’t often shown from this perspective – what are some of the themes we can expect to be explored in PRU that will potentially highlight some of these issues?
You’ll see certain scenes that really show how life is in the real world for certain people but there are also scenes that are relatable to everyone in any type of way.
Could you share a time on set that really validated why you said yes to this project?
Nkechi: Across the board, I loved being there. Fully Focused created such a supportive and nurturing environment to work in. I did have one magical moment on set when we were on Bluebell Hill – I looked back at this huge crew behind me, and out across the view of what felt like the whole world and I just paused and thanked the universe because I was just so grateful for what was happening around me.
Michael: A time that really validated why I said yes to the project was whilst filming the pilot with the crew. After everything was done, I knew this is something I really wanted to be a part of and help grow into something.
What’s next for you?
Nkechi: Right now, I’m performing in the stage production of Mission at The Big House. When I finish that in June, I think I’d like a holiday. But ultimately I’m open to whatever comes next. I just want to keep telling stories that I’m passionate about.
Michael: Levelling up. That’s the only thing I can say that’s next for me.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU …
- A book you have to have in your collection?
Nkechi: Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
Michael: I have a couple of books but there’s one book that stands out. It’s called Hustle Harder Hustle Smarter written by 50 Cent.
- A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?
Nkechi: Starlight by Dave
Michael: There are a few albums that I could choose. Albums from Drake, J Hus, Dave. There are a few. I can’t really pick one.
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?
Nkechi: Queen & Slim is one of my favourite movies, but I feel like Fishtank is the epitome of a great British film.
Michael: I can watch Snowfall, Sense 8 and Prison Break repeatedly
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)?
Nkechi: I can’t remember the first play I saw, but I did see Hamilton when I was 18 and it was one of the first big shows I saw. I was blown away by the music and the scale of the production. Hamilton’s story inspires me to fight for change.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week?
Nkechi: I’m sad about the current state of the world, and mad that changing it can’t happen overnight. But I’m glad that I’m seeing so many people speak up for each other and stand together. It feels like change is coming.
Michael: Nothing’s made me sad or mad this week but I’m glad I’m able to make content with my friend.
PRU is currently available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.