TBB Talks … The Sea Beast With Zaris-Angel Hator

Zaris-Angel Hator is a stage, screen and voice actress she made her lead West End debut in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical in 2016 and has gone from strength to strength in her career both on stage and on screen. In 2019 Zaris Angel joined the all-female cast of [BLANK] at Donmar Warehouse, she has also starred in Black Earth Rising, The Midnight Gang for BBC and currently stars in Netflix’s The Sea Beast.

The Sea Beast follows young Maisie as she embarks on an adventure as a stow away on the ship of a legendary sea monster hunter, as they launch an epic journey into uncharted waters — and make history to boot.

We spoke to Zaris-Angel about her role as Maisie, working with a stellar voice cast including Marianne Jean-Baptiste and how she navigates her career whilst having Sickle Cell…

Please introduce yourself…

My name is Zaris-Angel Hator and I’m 18 years old.

What word or sentence best describes your life right now?

Exciting!

Your first big role was being cast as Matilda in Matilda the Musical on the Westend in 2016 how important was that role for you and how did you make the transitions from stage to film (The Midnight Gang), to voice work (The Sea Beast)?

It was an extremely important opportunity as not only was it my debut in the industry, but it was also something I never thought to be possible. It gave me a lot more confidence and I think it was an inspiring experience in lots of different ways. I think the transitions just came with auditioning mainly, just like anyone else. I was extremely blessed to then be involved in The Midnight Gang and now The Sea Beast.

You have sickle cell and stated in an interview that during your time on Matilda The Musical you had a flare-up and were assigned a Roald Dahl Nurse who helped you with your condition. Could you tell us a little more about that experience and what a Roald Dahl Nurse is?

On my opening night of Matilda, I was doing my final rehearsal for the performance, when Sickle Cell decided to act up. I started having immense pain in my back and was luckily treated in time for the performance. I’ve always had a Roald Dahl nurse and didn’t even know she was one until recently. She’s been the person to always help me with managing the condition, from giving me advice on how to prevent a crisis during my run and doing my regular blood tests at the hospital.

L-R: Zaris-Angel as Matilda with Sharlene Whyte as Mrs Phelps in Matilda The Musical

Has having Sickle Cell affected the trajectory of your career in any way and how do you work through it?

It has definitely tried its best to stop me and it hasn’t been easy during my career. There are lots of things I have to do to keep it in check like making sure I have enough rest and medication, however, I’d never let it get in my way as my career is one of the most important things to me. I love it too much to let Sickle Cell get in my way. It’s just an inconvenience I’ve had to and will continue working through.

You are the voice of Maisie in Netflix’s The Sea Beast, she is courageous and has a strong moral compass that carries her through the film. What do you think a character like this that possesses such determination can show young children? What stood out to you about the character that made you want to take on the role?

Maisie is such an amazing character as she is not only incredibly brave and courageous but she also has a lot of love and passion and I think that’s what drives her to be confident in what she does. I think teaching young people that while being kind and caring to everyone it’s ok to have your own voice and opinions and as long as you do it right it’s ok to voice it out too. It’s something Maisie does very well in teaching and that’s one of the reasons why I love her.

What did you enjoy the most about voicing Maisie? Were you at all nervous about acting with Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Karl Urban?

I loved everything about being Maisie from her sassy funny remarks to the more vulnerable side of her. It was enjoyable to explore all of that. I suffer from anxiety and I was incredibly nervous in the beginning not only to work with these amazing people but also to be able to portray Maisie right. I soon realised that there was no right or wrong and I could bring my own touch to bring her to life.

How different is the process of acting on screen and voicing a character?

Well, firstly, this film took around 3 years to do which is quite different to acting on screen. I’ve always been a huge animation fan. Whenever I watch animated movies on my own I always rewind a scene back several times looking at all the different ways the characters move and express themselves and that’s what actors do on screen. I still act with my body in the recording booth as even though people won’t see my face they need to be able to hear the emotions in my voice. The difference is on-screen people can actually see both my face and hear my voice.

This film was 3 years in the making, was it hard to keep your voice consistent throughout or did you record it all at once and the animation came after? Is it harder to build chemistry with the other actors not being in the same room (you also worked throughout the pandemic so couldn’t be face-to-face)?

It wasn’t really hard to keep my voice consistent as even though I couldn’t see any of the animations while recording, I had a real understanding of who Maisie was and felt like I actually was her. Chris Williams, the director, did a very good job of reading the other characters’ lines with me so I had an idea of what the other characters’ emotions were that really helped as I am yet to meet any of the other actors in person.

Your next role will be in the upcoming series Power where you play Sima, is there anything you can tell us about your role without any spoilers?

I don’t really want to give too much away yet about that one. Let’s just say I’m excited for people to meet her.

In Power you are acting alongside some really promising talent such as Precious Mustapha and Toheeb Jimoh, what was it like working with them? What did you gain from the experience?

I definitely gained a lot from working on this show as I hadn’t done a role like that before. It was inspiring to see how different actors prepared for their roles and the approaches they used. It definitely was like a type of class to me and I tried my very best to soak up all the lessons to be learned.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

  • Your favourite book to read? My favourite book at the moment is the Disney Twisted Tales series

  • Song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? I love music so much, it’s a massive part of my life and I don’t really have just one song that I can sort of relate to. There are too many to choose from.

  • A film/TV show that you have watched/can watch repeatedly? There are two TV shows I watch repeatedly, they are Dance Moms and Komi Can’t Communicate. And a film I can watch repeatedly is Encanto.

  • The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you? The first stage production I saw was Matilda and it meant the world to me as after that I stepped into the role.

The Sea Beast is out on Netflix now.

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