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Interview Sienna Arif-Knights-Enid Blyton’s iconic Malory Towers books brought to life on CBBC now on iPlayer

Sienna Sienna Arif-Knights plays Sally in Malory Towers available on BBC iPlayer.
Malory Towers is a new 13-part drama based on the iconic novels by Enid Blyton and following the adventures of Darrell Rivers as she leaves home for the first time to attend an all-girls’ boarding school.

The series is set in post-war Britain on the sun-drenched cliffs of the Cornish coast and explores a nostalgic world of midnight feasts, lacrosse, pranks, a mystery ghost and lasting friendships.

Both aspirational and inspirational, the show has also been given a contemporary twist telling the story of universal experiences such as shifting cliques, FOMO, bullying, crushes, peer pressure, and self-doubt. The girls keep an eye on each other and, like a family, are forever connected by their shared experiences. Time to catch up here.

 

Tell us about your character.
Sally is a very strong being, she’s not much of a talker, she likes to observe and she will only say something when it’s appropriate. She gives the best advice. Sally is the most truthful, loving friend you’ll meet, but if you get on her wrong side, she can switch.

How do other people see Sally?
I believe everyone sees Sally as the person they can go to for reassurance. She comes across as very timid until you are good friends with her. I think everyone loves Sally.

Describe the relationship between Darrell and Gwen and Sally?
Gwen and Darrell started off as rival enemies, and because Sally has a very close bond with Darrell, Sally dislikes her too. Sally is more unbothered by Gwen rather than Darrell, who despises her at times.

How does Sally’s character develop?
Throughout each episode Sally shows a different streak to her personality, it takes her a long time to really feel comfortable. Over time she grows as a person and character.

Do you have any sympathy for Gwen?
Yes actually I do, I truly believe that Gwen has an underlying side of insecurity about her, I think she just wants to fit in but she just goes about it the wrong way.

What was your reaction when you got the part?
I was actually speechless. I didn’t say anything, I just couldn’t believe it. I have never done anything this big before.

How did you prepare for the role?
I pretended I was Sally in lots of situations, I would think, what would Sally say?. I revised the script a lot, and I made sure I knew the ins and outs of the whole storyline (this really helps). I made sure I knew the backstory too.

What was it like playing the role of Sally?
It was a massive achievement for me and a blessing because Sally is the opposite to my personality. I am actually very outgoing and the joker of the group. I felt empowered and special to be even considered to play Sally.

Were you a fan of Enid Blyton before and what do you like about her books?
I wasn’t actually, so it was lots of fun getting to know all about what Blyton was about.

What are the key themes in the series?
Friendship, teamwork, feminism and compassion.

Do you think those themes are relevant for girls/young people today and why?
Yes I do, because Malory Towers is very much about friendships and empowerment, which is really important these days for young people.

How do you reflect on making the drama?
My experience was amazing! Having the opportunity to film in Canada and the UK and developing a friendship with the Malory Tower girls was unforgettable.

Why should people watch the series?
The reason why I think people should watch the series is because Malory Towers is the show to cheer you up, but it will also have you excited and tense. It is a family, fun, entertaining show to watch.

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