Best known for playing the role of Hattie Tavernier in EastEnders …
Michelle Gayle has also repeatedly appeared on stage, performing in the touring production of Son of a Preacher Man and playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast at the Dominion Theatre.
Additional to acting, Gayle is a recording artist who has achieved six top 20 hits and a Brit Award nomination. Her first novel, Pride and Premiership, was also published by Walker Books.
This October, Gayle returns to play Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. We caught up with Michelle to find out more about what it’s like performing the iconic role and how she feels about returning to the theatre…
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Michelle Gayle. British, of Caribbean descent (Jamaican Dad, Grenadian mum). I’m an actress, writer, and singer.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
You first joined the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in 2019. Before then had you read the novels and watched the movies? If so, which was your favourite novel/ movie?
I watched the movies with my youngest son. Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite at the time.
Who was your favourite character?
When Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione in 2015 there was some pushback against Hermione being played by a Black actor. In the past, you’ve also shared the racism you experienced on the set of EastEnders. How far do you think things have changed in 2021 to make the theatre and television industries supportive of Black talent?
I think there is more willingness to understand what is required of an ally. It is sinking in that they have to be bolder.
Since you joined Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Covid-19 has meant that theatres have largely been closed. How does it feel to be returning to the role this October?
I am beyond excited to be getting back on to the stage in front of an audience. I tried to shut it out for so long to cope but performing means so much to me.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set nineteen years after the final novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What might audiences recognise about Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and how far have things changed for her in those nineteen years?
I think people will recognise how quick-thinking Hermione is. Things have changed now that she is a mother; at this stage of her life, it’s a struggle to pursue her ambition and need to right wrongs whilst being a good mother.
Given the huge fanbase for Harry Potter, have you felt any pressure to characterise Hermione in a particular way?
It’s a pressure to play such an iconic character but thankfully the producers have been good about allowing me to find who Hermione is 19 years on.
Do you see any similarities between yourself and Hermione?
I am similar in the sense that I abhor injustice and also try to solve problems.
Of course, we have to ask some magic-themed questions: what house do you think you’d be in if you went to Hogwarts?
I am Gryffindor.
Is there a spell that you wish you could cast in real life?
Apparition. No need to be beholden to Uber after that. Lol.
Have you got any other projects on the horizon that you’re excited about?
I’m very excited about a TV drama I have to-created with Alex Von Tunzelmann. It is currently in development so fingers crossed.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
- A book you have to have in your collection? The Great Gatsby.
- A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? The Miseducation of Lauren Hill
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? When I was young my best friend and I watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles constantly. Never stopped laughing.
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? My dad took me to see Madonna at Wembley Stadium when I was young, I wasn’t a fan of Madonna so I wasn’t keen on going but her performance that day blew me away.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Injuring my shoulder has made me sad, so painful it has brought tears to my eyes. The UN appointing Matt Hancock as special envoy to Africa has made me mad. The opening of the show has made me glad.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child returns to the Palace Theatre on 14th October. Find out more and book tickets here.