Newcomer Eva Morgan On Leading The Gathering, Channel 4

By Olivia Emily

1 month ago

The Gathering starts on 14 May at 9pm on Channel 4


Tomorrow night, The Gathering kicks off on Channel 4 – a mysterious whodunnit delving into the lives of teenagers and their parents in Merseyside after a violent attack on a teenager at an illegal beach rave. At the centre is Kelly, an elite tumbling gymnast on track to represent her country at the upcoming world championships, played by newcomer Eva Morgan. We sat down with Liverpool native Eva to hear all about the series, plus what it’s like to return home for your first big role.

Interview: Eva Morgan

Hi Eva, how’s it going? How are you feeling about The Gathering coming out?

It’s going good, thank you. I’ve seen quite a few episodes now, so I’m feeling quite excited. But obviously naturally, it’s quite nerve wracking. And I think, you know, it’s my first job. You never know what reactions are going to be, but I’ve had lovely support from my family and friends.

It’s your first role out of drama school. How does it feel to be leading the show?

It was a blessing! The collaboration and the support and how welcoming people were on set was brilliant. I never imagined this scale of a project would come about – and so quickly, as well. But I had such a passion for the scripts. It was so beautifully written by Helen and I just knew that I really cared about the project. I knew it was going to be a lot of learning, too. I’m really grateful for the experience, most definitely.

How did it feel when you got the call?

I was in London at the time. I was still at university, at drama school, and I was in work that day. When I got the phone call, I was by myself actually, and I just remember I burst out laughing. I don’t think I actually believed what it meant, but I knew it felt really special. I felt great pride for it to be set in Merseyside and Liverpool. I was really new to having an agent and the industry in general – I guess I still am – but they were so lovely about it. I remember actually calling my dad about it, and I don’t think he quite understood. And I said, ‘No it’s filming in Liverpool, dad,’ and I remember he said to me, ‘Eva, it’s your first job and you’re coming home.’ And I remember thinking that was the best thing ever.

Eva Morgan in The Gathering

Eva Morgan in The Gathering. © James Stack/Channel 4/World Productions

How does it feel to tell a story set in your hometown?

It felt really special. Growing up, there wasn’t much female scouse representation that I’d seen on screen. The way Kelly was written echoed certain experiences with me, too: I have such a loving and protective Dad, and I remember just thinking this character is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. For myself, and I imagine for a lot of people who’ve experienced going to Liverpool, there’s so much heart in the city. It certainly has my heart, that’s what I’ll say. To have that amplified on our screens with these characters that are so full of life and so many diverse stories was very special. Cinematically, as well: I think Liverpool is beautiful and the way they shot the show was so atmospheric.

Can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

Ultimately, it is a thriller – a whodunnit kind of thing – but it’s through the eyes of the audience. So it’s less so a police investigation and more the audience trying to figure out who’s done the attack to Kelly. There’s a lot of heart in it. Every actor in the show and every collaborator brought so much uniqueness to each storyline. It’s a lot about the responsibilities and challenges of young people, different parenting styles, class differences and how much that can play into elite sports. There’s a line that Jessica says in episode two: ‘elite sports doesn’t care where you come from, mum’. And that’s referring to Kelly having this talent, even if she might experience scrutiny because of her social background and things like that. But the show is thrilling. It’s full of life. It definitely has its twists and turns. And it’s scouse. It’s refreshing to hear some scouse voices.

Are you a gymnast yourself, or do you have experience with any other sports?

I’ve never actually trained in elite sports. I could never say I’ve been a gymnast or a parkour athlete. But when I was a kid, I was so energetic and full of imagination. I never did anything competitively: I played football and I’d be climbing trees, but everything was just different hobbies and passions. For The Gathering, we did a few training weeks with the world of parkour and the world of elite gymnastics, and I gained a lot of respect, because it’s much harder than it looks. When I approached the role of Kelly, I was so enthusiastic to make it look as real as possible. I did throw myself into it, and I probably should have had a bit more fear than I did. I was kind of flinging myself around the gym. But it was all safe, and I definitely tapped into the energy of when I was younger. I was more athletic when I was younger, but it was nice to get a bit more in shape when I was doing this role!

What else did you do to prepare for the role?

I think because it was my first ever role, at first I was like, ‘how do I even set myself up for this?’ Most of the learning and preparation was on the job. I mean, it was a constant learning process, whether it was like set lingo, or call times and working with actors. I had very generous scene partners, which is lovely, because you learn a lot. It’s nice to build that trust. But I definitely wanted to make sure I could physically and mentally prepare for it being hard work.

I was quite big on staying healthy because I wanted to work to the best of my ability, and also be able to give and be generous to other actors. I think what I’ve taken away from it going forward and setting up for more roles is that, you know, it might be scary but you’ll do it anyway. As you kind of stay grounded, you’ll always be supported.

Was there anyone in particular who really kind of helped you get to grips with that environment? Or that you’ve learned a lot from?

I love Vinette [Robinson]. I’ve spent a bit of time with Vinette, especially when we were doing Q&A panels and things like that, but I didn’t actually have any proper scenes with her. I worked more closely with Warren Brown, who plays my dad. We really built that trust, and that was beautiful and really nice to have on set. Because, you know, we were dealing with a lot of scenes that were a bit more heavy or emotional, but we had a lot of lighter moments in between. It was nice to have a laugh, and he put me at ease in those situations.

Warren also helped me with scripts. I got myself an iPad during filming. I didn’t have a laptop or anything – I was kind of just reading the scripts on my phone. But I kept seeing Warren knocking about with an iPad, so I asked him about it, and he uses this app called Scriptation that he uses to annotate things. So I got one and it seemed to be the talk of the set, me and my new iPad. Everything was interesting, even the way they set up the camera. I mainly trained in theatre, so screen work was very new, and it was all in as we go. But everyone learns from each other, which is nice.

We’re not going to get into spoilers but, when reading the scripts, what reaction did you have to the ending?

We didn’t actually get episode six for a while. I signed onto the show and I didn’t know if I’d done it myself! I remember being really interested to know, hopefully the audience will be interested to find out as well. Within the show, there’s storylines from different young people and their parents or their caregivers, and I think what’s nice about the final episode is that things are tied together, and everyone has this beautiful beat, like a final moment. I don’t want to give too much away, but the ending is definitely bittersweet. I had a little half sad, half happy smile by the end.

Gymnasts sitting in a gymnasium in 'The Gathering'

Eva Morgan (right). © James Stack/Channel 4/World Productions

What experiences did you draw on from your stage work when transitioning to on screen?

Obviously, screen is very different to stage. With stage work, you get to rehearse, you get to discuss a lot of things. The pace of things is very different on screen. I didn’t panic – well, maybe I did a little bit – but I thought, ‘how much time do I have to do this?’ And actually, in a lot of scenes, a lack of preparation makes it quite organic. You get these beautiful, happy accidents that come out in those moments. You can do as much preparation by yourself for the screen, but really, the life and heart and the beauty of the scenes come out through the other scene partner. If you’re not kind of getting to rehearse with them, it happens when you’re there, which is kind of nice.

Were there any roles on set that you found out about for the first time during filming?

I was definitely thinking that a lot. The thing is, I never fully knew the name of every role, but I just knew that it was all important, especially lifting equipment or camera equipment. I don’t know why, but I was always fascinated with the costume department. I got on really well with the costume department and makeup – they were all so lovely, kind and supportive, and really made me feel at ease and comfortable. I would sometimes go into the costume trailer and Annie who was part of the costume team on set was always steaming the clothes. I’ve never owned one of these in my life. I’m one to use an iron, although I hate an iron. I’m awful at it. So I bought myself a steamer. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? What did you take away from the experience? A steamer!

When you were at drama school envisioning the kind of actor you would be or dreaming about the kind of roles that you would take on, what is something that you would love to do, or something that you really picture yourself doing?

Now I’ve witnessed Vinette in the show, playing this kind of maybe-villain, that kind of character really appeals to me. She is so apologetic with it, and so brilliant. I really admire that. So villains or characters that have a lot of layers to them really excite me.

I’d love to work with different accents, but I really love different time periods as well. I’m a big fan of Tennessee Williams. I think his plays are phenomenal. I love The Glass Menagerie. Going back in time and playing a role like that and a different time period is always so interesting, especially if issues within the plays can still resonate today.

I’m so early on in my career, so I’ll see what comes, and I’m open to a lot of different stories. But I definitely want to be a part of stories that are a voice for change. I think that’s really important. Now I’ve done The Gathering, and I think that’s why I was so drawn to Kelly – being from a working class background and to see that written with such truth and beauty. I can only hope it resonates with other people. I think representation is very, very important. So I’d definitely like to be a part of stories that other people can see themselves in.

When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?

It’s funny. I only came into the knowledge that it could be something to do professionally and properly when I was about 16 or 17. As a kid,  I was really imaginative, I had so much energy. I was always creative in some way, whether that was art or music, especially. I wasn’t very academic. I had so much energy and it had to go somewhere. I used to go to an amateur drama group on a Monday night, and it was never about acting, it was more about confidence and socialising. But I had to go somewhere on Monday night! I went to a normal high school, and I took drama for GCSE. I didn’t really enjoy school at all. But my drama teacher, Cath Walsh, took me to my first professional piece of theatre that wasn’t like a pantomime at Christmas. We went to Manchester to see it, and I was moved. I was just moved. I remember thinking, ‘I would like to be a part of that, too’. And my teacher encouraged me that that was possible, that it didn’t matter where you came from if you had that passion and that drive. If you put in that work, then you can do it.

That’s also where I discovered Tennessee Williams, in that classroom. I auditioned for drama school, which I don’t think I actually knew how competitive it was. I don’t know if that worked to my advantage, but I kind of just threw myself into it and thought I care about these texts and you’re going to watch me act and see if you like it, and one school did!

I think I was always just fascinated with films. I was always always a big Peter Pan fan. That was a bit of me. I still am a big Peter Pan fan. I think it’s that idea of being taken to another realm. The music and the storytelling… I think a lot of actors do see acting as storytelling and I think if in my little Eva mind, if I could somehow be a part of that storytelling, I’m going to lead with that.

Eva Morgan Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Heartbreak High

What I’m reading… Different, Not Less by Chloé Hayden

Favourite film of all time… Lady Bird – and Peter Pan

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Raye, Olivia Dean, Lucy McAlpine, Billy Martin

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Go to the theatre, and take up a hobby. It’s never too late!

Cultural guilty pleasure… Married at First Sight Australia

WATCH

Eva Morgan stars in The Gathering, which starts on 14 May at 9pm on Channel 4, with the boxset available to stream from midnight. channel4.com