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Tuesday 3 January 2023

Interview with Waterloo Road star Angela Griffin (Kim Campbell)

About Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell is head teacher. Waterloo Road is her first headship and she's been in the post for two years, arriving at the onset of the pandemic and pipping Deputy Head, Lindon, to the post. Kim has endured two very bumpy years of fire-fighting Covid, sickness, school closures, teaching in bubbles, stressed staff and pupils with a myriad of problems that so much lost learning and isolation have caused. This academic year, Kim is hoping for a return to something like normal. Or a new normal – whatever that looks like.

Angela Griffin Q&A

Welcome back to Waterloo Road. How has it been stepping back into school?

I have thoroughly enjoyed stepping back into school and taking Kim Campbell back on again, but, in all honesty, it feels like a brand-new job. It doesn't feel like I've gone back in time. I absolutely feel like I'm Kim Campbell rooted in 2023. She's a different woman. She's a different teacher. I mean, well, she's the head for example, which uses a completely different skill set than to be head of pastoral. This is probably where a lot of the conflict comes from for Kim in the new series because no matter what, at heart, she is a pastoral care teacher, but she has to now be a head.

The reason why she has progressed up the management ladder is something quite huge. A very big life event, trauma, has occurred since we last saw Kim, and that trauma has caused her to want to shut off her emotions more and try not to get as invested in people and other people's lives. So yeah, she's back, she's bigger, she's better and she's head-ier.

What was it that made you want to return?

There were so many different reasons why I wanted to return to Waterloo Road and the conversations in all honesty had been going on for quite a while. First, it got floated that Waterloo Road was going to come back. Then it was what capacity Kim would come back in and because she's moved on. Because you don't want to keep treading the same ground with a character, you know, you want something new.

When I got told what her story would be, and how she had developed and how she'd moved on, that made it really, really attractive. There were going to be some really great things to play and you'll get to see them, but there's a secondary element to why I decided to come back and it was the extracurriculars, I suppose, of Waterloo Road.

Cameron Roach, the exec producer, talked me through what he wanted to achieve with making a new series, it wasn't just about making an entertaining show on screen. It was also about creating a workplace that was massively inclusive for every kind of person, but really focusing on finding people from the North who don't have connections with the business. People who are from working class backgrounds, who you wouldn't normally find in the industry and inviting them in and training them up. Giving opportunities where opportunities are very, very, very, very scarce. I'm very aware of the fact that I was lucky to get into acting, it wasn't what I was supposed to do.  Where I came from, this wasn't where we're supposed to end up.

And I am really passionate about finding other actors who, like me, might not have the leg up that some people in the industry do, and Cameron matched my passion in that area.

And we've achieved it. I think. We are achieving it. It's not going to stop in fact.

Miss Campbell is head teacher. How did you feel when you found that out?

I found out that Kim was going to be head quite early on and it kind of blew my mind, because well it's just prestigious, innit! To be the head of Waterloo Road. There's been 10 series and to add to the shelf of heads felt like a real honour and a real privilege. Also, because Kim comes from pastoral, it isn't a natural path for her, that's not the type of person she is. It's about budgeting. It's about economics. It's about politics. She was just about the kids. So it meant a really interesting arc for her as to why she'd got there. So basically, I was just dead chuffed.

Can you tell us a little bit about where we find Kim in the new series?

Kim enters the new series of Waterloo Road as the head, I think she's going into her second year, but she's coming off the back of Covid. She's coming off the back of the cost-of-living crisis. She's coming off the back of the MeToo movement, of the Black Lives Matter movement, and school is a very different place to where we left it before.

The research I did before starting doing Waterloo Road pointed towards this. This is a much trickier ground now and kids are politicised, you know. They have a voice, and they know how to use their voice now. We're definitely not in Victorian times, there's definitely no 'be seen and not heard'.

They are heard, and they want to be seen and they have got something to say and which is brilliant, fantastic – it's quite hard to run a school like that.

It's quite hard to run a school when everyone thinks that what they think is the right thing. It's a microcosm. School of society, and it is really polarised. You've got people with very, very opposing points of view. They're excellent adults but a nightmare in school. So yeah, we find her slap bang in the middle of a very political movement and the students feeling very strongly about a point and she's trying to navigate that.

What's Kim's relationship like with the other teachers?

I think it's pretty good, as good as it should be for a head, possibly better. She's not there to be liked, she's there to manage. She is there to rule and control like a queen. Some people are happy about that and some people aren't. Some don't really go along with her way of thinking, her way of teaching or the way that she wants to run the school. So, there is definite conflict, but she's also respected by probably an equal number of teachers, so she gets on with them. Kim's not gone completely, the old Kim is still absolutely there, and she is warm and friendly. She wants to laugh. We do keep seeing glimpses of that.

What is it about Kim that you like playing?

The thing I love about playing Kim is her passion. She really, really believes in the kids and I find it fascinating. I'm a mum. I've got teenagers and I've spent quite a lot of time in secondary schools and it's just hats off. Hats off to these adults who give their lives for not enough money, not enough respect. She does it ferociously. She really, really believes in the kids, she believes in what she's doing, and she's willing to go to the ends of the earth for kids she hasn't birthed. I mean, obviously I do it for my kids, but for kids that are a bit naughty and a bit annoying, they've got as much right as every other kid as far as Kim is concerned. And it's always good to play something the opposite of what you are.

She's really ace Kim. I'd be her mate.

There are some really incredible performances by the young class in the series, what can you tell us about them?

The young cast in this show are really quite phenomenal. Their professionalism, their talent, their warmth, and their socialising. They've got it all. They've really, really got it all. The talent that is there, is really really quite incredible. And you know I have done these shows quite a few times, and I've watched people come through the ranks and I'm now watching them in hit shows on every kind of streaming platform and in Hollywood movies.

And this generation is not going to let us down. In fact, if I was going to say anything I would say that they are even more professional. They know what they're doing here. Because we've seen what's happened, they know what they're in. And they're really respectful of the fact that they feel very lucky to be in the show. None of them take it for granted. And they work their socks off. Honestly, they're so good.

Do you think there are more challenges facing kids today than when Waterloo Road first aired?

I think the difference between kids going to school now and when Waterloo Road first aired is vast. I mean we all know social media has changed everything; it's changed life as we know it. In terms of school, the access that kids have got now. I mean there are some amazing things too. The access to help, to advice, to people. You know someone struggling with who they are, you can go online and find people just like you and that can be less isolating for some kids. There are positives. I'm not just going to slag it off and say it's awful. But what it also does is, for example, kids have always been bullied. People go to school, some kids get bullied, some people don't. The bullying ended when you got through the front door, you know some people might've even got chased home from school. You get into your front door and it is gone, so you get 12 hours of peace. It doesn't end there anymore.

Now, that bullying and intimidation intensifies once someone's gone into their front door. They're upstairs in their bedroom and they've got their phone there and people can still get to them. I think that is horrific. I think you know, we used to have magazines, we used to have Just Seventeen and all this kind of stuff, and we'd go oh, "I wish I looked like them", but that was if you could afford the magazine, you had to go to the shop and buy it. Whereas now it is a scroll, oh this is how I should look, oh this is how I should be, why haven't I got this?, Oh my gosh, there's a party going on. Look, I haven't been invited but all my mates have. It's an onslaught and I think it's changed for them in so many different ways, but social media has ramped up those already quite horrific teenage feelings. And I think that is one of the biggest, biggest challenges that the pupils of the new series of Waterloo Road have in comparison to the pupils in the original series.

Would Kim have enjoyed teaching a young Angela at School?

Kim would have loved to have taught young Angela; I think. I loved school. I love seeing my mates. And when a good teacher came along, who could engage me, then I was theirs. You know, I was putty in their hands, and I wanted to please. I'd always stand up and read, and I'd always hand things out. I wasn't shy, I wasn't retiring; I always had an answer. I didn't care about putting my hand up. Not in a rude way but I was there. I wanted to learn.

Now as an adult I know that there were crap teachers and if we even saw the slightest chink of vulnerability, then I wouldn't have any of it. So, I think that Kim would have enjoyed it, because I think she would have been able to get the best out of young Angela, but I wasn't a walk in the park by any means.

What do you think audiences will take from this new series?

Ultimately, I want them to be entertained. I want them to meet their new mates. I want them to become part of the Waterloo Road community and feel like they belong. I want them to be able to identify, whether it be their daughter, their sister, their best friend, I want them to find somebody within the show who they really relate to and to give them some comforts of going, yeah do you know what? I'm not the only one, oh yeah that does happen, oh yeah of course, well it happened over there. But I want to entertain, you know we're making TV, we're not making a documentary over here, this is about entertainment. I want to challenge people, I want to make them think maybe they don't agree with some points of view. I hope that in the show that they're showing everyone's points of view anyway. So, I hope that everyone feels like they're being spoken for in the show. But ultimately, I want them to just really bloody enjoy it and I want them to fall in love with the characters and ultimately become their mates.

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