Lower Sixth Former Ellie-Mae Rooke is set to appear on our TV screens in Emmerdale, after overcoming stage fright to become a star of school productions - and then land the part of an extra in the TV soap.
Ellie-Mae has been signed up as a ‘regular supporting artist’ and will appear in the background of Emmerdale scenes on a regular basis. She has already met several of the soap’s main characters during filming in Leeds, and could be asked to deliver small amounts of dialogue in future.
She says her enjoyment of acting was marred by shyness and stage fright when she was younger, but that changed when she moved up to Pocklington Senior School and started studying drama: “I owe a lot to Mr Heaven and the other Drama Department teachers, who recognised that I had a talent for acting and have helped me to build my confidence, develop a stage presence and become the person that I am today,” she said.
“When someone tells you that you are good at something, it gives you the confidence to take it forward. I now have a real passion for writing, directing and acting.”
Ellie-Mae impressed in recent school plays Animal Farm and Daisy Pulls it Off and has helped direct these and junior play productions. The big break on Emmerdale came after she heard its casting directors were looking for families to appear in the background during scenes. Her mum is already a supporting artist on the soap so Ellie-Mae auditioned to join her.
She said: “I was sent pieces of script and asked to make a video of myself acting to camera at home. It was a bit weird to begin with, trying to avoid eye contact with the camera and you feel a bit silly, but the directors just want to see how you are in front of a camera.”
They were sufficiently impressed to invite Ellie-Mae to the ITV studios in Leeds, where she found herself alongside the soap’s familiar characters: “There is a very relaxed atmosphere at the studios and everyone is very friendly and chatty – they are just normal really! I’ve met some of the main characters such as Megan Macey, David and Tracy Metcalfe, Paddy Kirk and Chas Dingle. It usually takes 6-8 weeks for filming to air, so the scenes I have just done will air in May or June.”
Ellie-Mae also appears in local Performing Arts Etc summer school productions and has previously helped teach drama at Pocklington’s Stagestruck Theatre School. She said she finds television acting a very different experience: “In stage acting, you have to rehearse a lot as you only get one chance to impress! On a set it is different because you can retake the scene.”
She added: “Being on Emmerdale has taught me a lot about TV production. Discovering the work involved in putting just one scene together for an episode was fascinating. There are so many people involved and several cuts are taken, with different camera angle, lighting or set construction. A one minute to minute-and-a-half scene can take over an hour to shoot.”
The Lower Sixth former is studying Theatre Studies, Psychology and English Literature A Levels and aiming for a Theatre Studies course at university. Her contribution to drama across the board has led her to being awarded Drama Colours, and she is the Sixth Form Drama Prefect. Ellie-Mae has also recently been signed up as a supporting artist for a TV series set in Scarborough.
Pocklington School Head of Drama, Alan Heaven, said: “Ellie Mae has been an inspiration to others throughout her time at the school. She is dedicated and professional in her approach and we all wish her every success in this first step on an exciting career.”