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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Spirit Warriors: cast interviews

Seventeen-year-old Jessica Henwick proves that girls can prove a match for the boys as she leaps on to our screens as hero Bo...

"I've never seen anything like it," reveals Jessica of Spirit Warriors.

"I've never even heard of anything like it being shown on British television – this is a big deal. There's jaw-dropping fight sequences and it'll keep you on the edge of your seat."

Even though she's been training since she was seven years old, this is Jessica's first professional acting role – and she had to totally transform for the part.

"I got a phone call a week after my final audition asking if I was willing to cut my hair. At the time my hair was nearly waist-length and they wanted it in a bob to look more warriorlike," she reveals.

"Of course I said 'yes'. It's my first professional job and I completely understand why they did it. My character wouldn't have long hair."

So what's Bo like?

"She's very strong-minded, strong-willed, confident and stubborn – she always thinks she's right but she does learn across the series to listen and take criticism," reveals Jessica.

"She gets along with her younger sister Jen but I think she finds her quite irritating."

Just like Bo, Jessica has had her own experience of trying siblings...

"I have two brothers so I know what it's like to have that sibling rivalry," she explains.

"When I was acting the relationship between Bo and Jen, it reminded me so much of my own relationship with my younger brother Josh, so I incorporated that experience into the role."

Jessica also had to undergo serious martial arts training for the role...

"I trained for a month with Jude Poyer, an amazing martial arts expert and choreographer," says Jess. "We had one-on-one training – I've never exercised like I did for that month, it was hardcore. It was a wonderful experience though and I learnt so much."

However, all that training didn't totally transform Jessica into a graceful ninja...

"Towards the end of filming I was doing a scene where I was running whilst holding a green glass spirit piece – but I dropped it and snapped it in two," she confesses.

"I was freaking out, worrying that they might not have another one and we wouldn't be able to finish filming. Everyone cracked up because of the look of shock and terror on my face. But in the end they just glued it back together!"

Gilles Geary, 15, makes his TV debut as the street-wise Trix...

"It was all very overwhelming," reveals Gilles (pronounced Gill-les) of his first experience on the Spirit Warriors sets – due to the amazing special effects that are used in the show, the actors had to do a lot of work on blue screen.

"It was pretty hard as we had to react when there was no one there," explains Gilles. "We had to act with Shen the dragon among these amazing landscapes that weren't there, so we really had to use our imagination."

What's his character Trix like?

"Trix is quite a mysterious character, he's the one you know least about in the series," reveals Gilles.

"He's grounded and he'll think about a situation before he rushes into it. If he has an opinion quite often he'll keep it to himself and you'll only see it through his facial expressions, or he'll say it in a calm way. He can also be quite dark sometimes. I'm nothing like him, but it's fun to play someone who's different to me."

All of the characters have a special spirit power; which power would Gilles like?

"I think it would probably be quite cool to be invisible," he laughs. "It would be very useful!"

Rapper Lil' Simz on why she'd never be friends with her character Vicky...

Lil' Simz, 15, fought off tough competition to bag her first big acting job playing loud-mouthed Vicky.

"Going into the audition and seeing tons of different girls auditioning for my role, I knew I had to go in there and perform my best," she reveals.

But Simz claims she wouldn't get on with her character if they ever met...

"I'm too quiet – I'm laid back and keep myself to myself whereas Vicky's very loud and demanding," says Simz.

"I think we would clash. Vicky's very outspoken, she knows what she wants and wants everything her own way. I think during the quest she actually realises that the world doesn't revolve around her and that it takes teamwork to get the spirit pieces."

Apart from being a talented actor, Simz is also a rapper...

"Acting rolled off of the back of my music. Quite a lot of musicians and rappers act and that's what inspired me," she explains.

"I started rapping when I was about nine but only started taking it seriously in 2008. I took a break from rapping for Spirit Warriors but I'm releasing a single in January."

The show's youngest cast member Alicia Lai plays Bo's younger sister Jen...

Alicia may only be 11 years old but she's already played one of the leads in a West End show.

"I was in Into The Hoods. It's a dance show, but with a bit of acting as well."

And the young actress takes her dancing very seriously: "I do a lot – I take lessons in ballet and street dance."

Is Alicia anything like Jen?

"Yes, I love food and I'm really cheeky too," she giggles. "I'd love to have her power of super-speed, as I'm okay at running but not that good!"

What was Alicia's favourite episode?

"In one I get crowned Monkey King but it all goes a bit wrong when Hwang turns up and unleashes his evil warriors – the Nians. It's really fun and I got to do a stunt where I hung upside down. The monkey costumes were so good – they wore wigs, loads of make-up and had no eyebrows!"

What was her favourite thing about being in the show?

"Just being chosen as Jen and getting to work with loads of different people," says Alicia.

"I like learning stuff so I was curious about what happened behind the camera and I even got to look through the lens."

Fifteen-year-old Karl Rodgers plays Martin, the shy outsider...

"Martin's an interesting character because he hasn't got a lot of confidence at first, he's not quite in the group and they don't respect him," reveals Karl, who's appeared in CBBC's Summerhill as well as episodes of Hotel Babylon and Holby City.

"But as the story develops certain things happen that make the other characters think, 'hang on, he's not as useless as he looks.' He goes from a boy with no confidence to a Spirit Warrior with the strength to fight off enemies."

So what is Martin’s spirit power?

"He has Spirit Sight, so he can project his vision out – he can see for miles. He can also see around corners, through mountains, up hills and through valleys. His job is normally to tell the others which way to go."

What was Karl's favourite storyline?

"In one episode I managed to get Chi power and you can't beat blasting Hwang across the room! It was great fun. It's also the first time that Martin showed he had some leadership skills and he wasn't the guy always hiding behind the others."

Star of the Pink Panther movies and Last Of The Summer Wine actor Burt Kwouk is the voice of Shen, the Chinese Water Dragon...

Shen is the Spirit Warriors' guide. Elderly and frail (he is, after all, a spirit), Shen finds leading the warriors very tiring. But, despite his world-weary front, Shen knows that their mission is deadly serious: if he can't guide his young charges and help them to achieve their full potential, the Spirit World will fall under Li's terrible dominion.

Established actor Bendict Wong, star of TV shows Frankenstein, State Of Play and movies Sunshine and A Cock And Bull Story, plays the show's super-villain Li...

Dark warlord Li has sworn to destroy our five Spirit Warriors, and claim the Spirit World for himself. A Machiavellian man of action, he is tormented by his injuries, which prevent him (so he says) from leaving his palace and mean he must rely on his second-in-command Hwang, whose loyalty and efficiency he constantly questions.

Actor and martial arts expert Tom Wu plays henchman Hwang...

Formally a Spirit Warrior, Hwang was corrupted by Li's temptation of unlimited power and so became his super-powered lieutenant. Now he roams the Spirit World, doing Li's bidding.

Manipulative and sneaky, Hwang will stop at nothing to capture the 12 spirit pieces for his Master. However, he is not impervious to persuasion, argument or further temptation – something the Spirit Warriors play on.

Daphne Cheung plays the woman with a secret, Bo's mum Fei-Yan...

In episode one Bo and Jen find their mother Fei-Yan mysteriously injured. She is reluctant to tell them what has befallen her but provides them with the magical amulets that soon transport the two sisters into the Spirit World.

As the series progresses Fei-Yan regularly appears to Bo in a vision, guiding her. But what is Fei-Yan's dark secret and how does she know of Shen and the quest to reunite the 12 spirit pieces? As the series concludes all is revealed!

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