Teen dream gives Anna a starring role

CELEBRITY culture is all around us - in magazines, on television and in the fathomless depths and immeasurable expanses of the internet.

Anna Gilthorpe, The Gemma Factor
Anna Gilthorpe, The Gemma Factor

CELEBRITY culture is all around us - in magazines, on television and in the fathomless depths and immeasurable expanses of the internet.

Small wonder it’s the fashionable teen dream to be famous - or at least to look like someone who might sashay along a red carpet.

Ironically, this obsession with celebrity has earned a starring TV role for North East actress Anna Gilthorpe.

Anna, who grew up in Gosforth, has the title role in The Gemma Factor, a new comedy series which makes its debut this evening on BBC Three.

The BBC plot synopsis tells us that “Gemma Collinge wants to be famous and hounded by the world’s press by the time she turns 21.

“Six weeks to go and her dream inches closer when Halifax agent Kenny Grantham invites her in for a chat.”

Anna has achieved what Gemma dreams of achieving but the former Newcastle Church High School pupil clearly had bags of natural talent and a healthy dose of ambition.

“At school I always wanted to be a singer and was always in the school play and the choir,” says the bubbly 23-year-old.

“I kind of always wanted to do something like that but I didn’t really have any idea of how to go about doing it.”

Still, she earned a place with the National Youth Music Theatre as a teenager and appeared at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.

Then, coming up to leaving school, she successfully auditioned for the Royal Academy of Music where she studied musical theatre.

“I graduated in 2006 and since then I’ve just been trying to get as much acting work as I can,” she says.

Her CV may be short in years but it’s pretty rich in variety with her singing talent very much to the fore.

She has appeared in a few productions for Pimlico Opera including, most recently, Carmen.

In 2008 she was in a production of Mack and Mabel which spawned the girl group The Tootsie Rollers, of which she is a member.

She has also had a brush with TV although it wasn’t the kind of role fame-mad youngsters like Gemma Collinge dream of.

“It was an episode of Holby City and my character had been in a car crash and was badly burned. I was three hours in make-up and you couldn’t even tell it was me but I did get four lines when I came out of a coma.”

The Gemma Factor was first made as a BBC pilot with Anna auditioning for a different role before she was offered the leading part of Gemma.

“It got pretty good feedback so the BBC decided they wanted to commission it for a series, which meant everyone had to re-audition.”

Filming took place last summer in and around Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, where The Gemma Factor is set. It gave Anna the chance to draw on her repertoire of accents.

“Gemma wants to be famous before she’s 21 and the fact that she can’t sing, dance or act doesn’t seem to be a problem for her,” says Anna.

“I don’t know about my friends but I reckon a lot of girls these days just want to be a Wag (a footballer’s wife or girlfriend) or get their 15 minutes’ of fame.

“People don’t seem to think they have to have talent or work hard to be successful. It’s just today’s society and that’s what Gemma’s like. She just wants to be in Heat magazine.”

Anna, possibly on the brink of celebrity herself, is thrilled that The Gemma Factor also features another North East actor, 25-year-old Ross Adams, from Shotley Bridge, who plays Jeff, “Gemma’s stylist and gay best friend”.

Ross trained in Salford and he and Anna have become good friends in real life.

Although she is now based in London, Anna’s parents - Ian, a lawyer, and Jill, a marketing consultant - still live in the North East, at Felton, near Alnwick.

They and Anna’s two sisters will no doubt swell tonight’s audience. The Gemma Factor, also starring Nigel Havers, is on BBC Three at 10.30pm.

At school I always wanted to be a singer and was always in the school play and the choir

 

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