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Image / Living / Culture

Aisling Bea: ‘I feel lucky that my era was just girl bands shining down’


By Sarah Finnan
13th Jun 2023
Aisling Bea: ‘I feel lucky that my era was just girl bands shining down’

Fresh off the roaring success of her 5-star BAFTA-winning series This Way Up, in which she stars alongside Sharon Horgan, Aisling Bea has taken on a new project – trying her hand at a movie musical for the first time. 

Cast as the lead character of Rachel in Greatest Days, the cinematic adaptation of Take That’s smash-hit stage musical The Band, Bea admits that while being in a musical wasn’t necessarily a dream of hers, this movie is exactly what she thought being an actor was all about when she was younger. 

However, despite using lots of the band’s most famous tracks, this isn’t a Take That movie. “People keep saying this is a Take That movie, but it’s not about Take That,” Bea explains. “To be absolutely clear: I, spoiler alert, do not play Gary Barlow in the origin story of Take That.”

Directed by Coky Giedroyc (How to Build a Girl), the film follows a group of five school friends who have the night of their lives seeing their favourite boy band in concert. Twenty-five years later, their lives have changed massively but they’re brought together again when Rachel (Bea) wins tickets to see their beloved band’s reunion tour… in Athens.  

A feel-good story of love, friendship and the resounding power of music, Greatest Days will have you bopping along in your cinema seat as you hum along to all your favourite Take That hits. 

We caught up with Aisling over Zoom this week to talk about the project, who her favourite girl band is and why this movie made her nostalgic for the past.

Did you have a boyband phase in your youth? 
I didn’t, just girl bands, the Spice Girls, All Saints… I think I was sort of lucky. I often think you know, with boy bands, you can love them and it’s a great way of getting together with friends but with girl bands, you can associate yourself as some of them. When the Spice Girls came out, they all had such different personalities and I was like wow. I suppose I’m supposed to say Take That, but the real answer is I just loved girl bands. I feel lucky, and I know Adele talks a lot about that as well, that she felt lucky that her era was just girl bands shining down. 

In the movie, you and your friends are kind of like a girl group in and of yourselves – you each have your own distinct style and personality. If Louis Walsh called you up tomorrow and said you could be in any girl group you wanted, which one would you choose and why? 
Well, I’ve left my phone number at his house, at his house in the UK, in his garden… because Louis is in charge, he’s the puppet behind every musical group. What one would I want to be in? Little Mix, maybe? Would they take me, do you think? I think I’d be a lot more of a dancer in Little Mix because their voices are quite incredible. But yeah, I think I wouldn’t mind joining Little Mix. 

The dancing in this movie was quite incredible too. Did you find that hard to pick up or were you a natural?
All of us loved it. Jayde [Adams] obviously did Strictly after she shot this and we all loved those bits. Normally on acting jobs, you spend a lot of your day having tea breaks and then having to go in and do crying or loads of lines so on this, to do physical stuff and singing actually releases a lot of stress and tension. Especially the singing and dancing. Even if w we’re stressed on this job, we’d often kind of like jump side to side and be able to do the songs and dances and the dancers in this, the five guys who play the boys, they’re just the sweetest, most gorgeous group. To see how dancers act as opposed to actors, like actors tend to kind of look after themselves a little bit – I include myself in that – whereas dancers really look after each other, so I learned a lot from those young lads and being around the young lads and they’re just abgorgeous group of people.

That’s so interesting, I never considered the fact that dancers very much work as one.
They always waited for each other to go home, they always waited around to watch each other’s stuff and cheer each other on. Actors will do that in a sense but if they get their break, they’ll always f*ck off. Actors will look out for each other in terms of the job, but I was really quite inspired by them. They all had a really tough pandemic, because so many of the places they had worked, including all of this ensemble, had been shut down, so this was a massive deal for a lot of them. For a lot of them, this was their first job post-pandemic. 

What a first job to start with! This movie is about love and friendship but it’s also about the resounding power of music and how song can be intrinsically linked with memory. Are there any particular songs that remind you of specific times in your life?
God, yeah, I mean, there are so many. You know that show in the UK, Desert Island Discs? It’s why so many people always go, ‘What would you do if you went on Desert Island Discs’? Because the whole of that reveals someone you might not think’s personality. I remember once listening to the Lib-Dem leader, Nick Clegg, and he had like the Cheeky Grls song or something because it reminded him of his little kids bouncing around. I remember thinking, God that’s a bit of that person you wouldn’t normally see because it’s talking about a dad with their kids jumping on the bed. Or I remember listening to Courtney Love’s one and she had a piece of classical music and it showed what a passionate music fan she is, of all genres. So in terms of myself, “You Got The Love” by Candi Staton and the subsequent Florence & The Machine song that samples it (“You’ve Got The Love”) always remind me of my sister. If that ever comes on at a nightclub, or Sinead went to see Florence & The Machine and she put the phone up to the speaker so I could hear it. Wherever we are, we always send it to each other.

Was being in a musical something you always wanted to do or was this outside your comfort zone?
I don’t think so, I didn’t even think of it in film. But maybe in the last few years, with things like Mamma Mia and LaLa Land, suddenly, I think it’s becoming a lot more like the old school type of filmmaking where you expect someone to break into song in the middle of something – which hasn’t happened probably in about 50 years. But now I think audiences are expecting it a bit more. It wasn’t necessarily a dream, but I think if you’d asked me as a kid, what I thought being in a TV film would be like, it probably would look a bit like this with all the singing and dancing and, big costumes.

Did this movie make you nostalgic for the past? 
Definitely. In the middle of this, I had to leg it to one of my friends’ from school’s wedding, as in from secondary school. So I had to leg it from set to her wedding and it was a real kind of meeting for this wedding. It definitely made me want to reach out a little bit more, and I hope that’s what this film does – encourage people to reach out. I think when we’re at this age, you can ask for perspective and what you thought the narrative would be because you see your teenage years with the perspective of an adult, not actually with the perspective of other people and how you all go through it probably with a lot going on. So I hope that it makes everyone want to reach out and maybe look back with more kindness, kindness for each other. 

Greatest Days opens in Irish cinemas nationwide this Friday, June 16.