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Abigail Lawrie: "There are millions of Krystals out there"

The role of troubled Krystal Weedon in The Casual Vacancy is student Abigail Weedon's first role for television. Here, she talks about playing such a complex character and shares what her first experience of performing on a professional set was like.

On face value, you could easily assume that Krystal is just a messed up girl. How would you describe her and her background?

Krystal Weedon lives on an estate in Pagford, with her mum and her young brother Robbie. Her mum has struggled with addiction for all of Krystal’s life and she has to look after Robbie on her own. Krystal had a strong relationship with Barry before he dies. He was beginning to show her some sort of path and she had some hope for the future. When he dies she’s left alone again.

There’s something much deeper to her than just that, like the way she has to do everything for Robbie and the love and the care that she shows for him. She’s only 16 and I think it’s easy to forget that. She’s caught up in this mess, with all of these adults, and she’s still a child and quite vulnerable. It was that side of it that drew me to her I think.

You can definitely see two sides to Krystal and she’s not the stereotypical teenager who has gone off the rails a bit. There’s definitely a softer side and a naivety and vulnerability to her.

Krystal is at the centre of the story - it’s a huge part for you, did you realise what you were taking on?

I don’t think I did when I first started. But yes she is very central. That’s scary, but the script is amazing and Jonny [Campbell, director] helped a lot - he’s brilliant. I read the script and took it from there. Everyone’s helped out a lot and I’ve taken ideas from other people as well.

How did you master the West Country accent?

I just tried it at my audition and kept doing it. It’s weird when you have to go back to doing an accent after having a few days off, it’s trickier.

Krystal has an interesting taste in clothes…

I think Jonny wanted the scene when Krystal first comes into school to be quite shocking, so people would take away an impression of her. So that costume was very risqué. It’s very different from my usual clothes, which are quite plain.

What do you think a character like Krystal and her story will say to the audience? Do you think they’ll recognise her?

There will definitely be people who recognise her. I think the story is about helping each other, about collective responsibility and living in a community. Treating others how you would want to be treated - that’s the message. There are a lot of people who’ve been through a hell of a lot and there are millions of Krystals out there.

There are some big names in there, did you learn anything from the other cast members?

I’d never been on a professional set before - everyone was very focused. I was amazed by how much Keeley Forsyth (who plays my mum) committed to her character; I’ve never seen anyone work like that before.

What kind of advice would you give to young actors who are hoping to come into this industry?

Do school plays - that’s what I was doing before I did this. Little bits outside of school with drama groups, but loads of school plays. Just do as much of it as you can. If you enjoy it, keep doing it.