Interview: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Interview: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Carrie Hope Fletcher on her career, coming to Kingston and a life lived online
Those of us who, like myself, belong to the generation that discarded teen magazines and embraced the rise of teen girl vlogs instead, surely remember Carrie Hope Fletcher’s first big creative endeavour, the YouTube channel ItsWayPastMyBedTime. A collection of sweet and genuine short videos ranging from song covers to books to life updates progressively got more polished as time went by – just as her career, which led her full circle from acting, via YouTube, back to acting.
Carrie’s first gig came when she was five. It was a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial with Kelsey Grammer when her seven-years-older brother Tom – later a lead vocalist and guitarist of McFly – played Oliver Twist at the London Palladium. “I saw my brother doing something very cool. And I wanted to do the same thing!”
She was signed up to Sylvia Young Agency, and landed children’s roles in Les Misérables, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins. She left school age 16 and ended up writing a musical with Tom, which took a few years to pitch around (and still is “on the backburner”). And then she kicked off her YouTube channel, now renamed simply Carrie Hope Fletcher. “I’ve kind of just never really stopped,” she laughs. “I’ve always known that it’s the one thing I’ve wanted. It’s the only thing I’m good at. I can’t do maths. I’m terrible at science. I’m terrible at everything else that school could have probably thrown at me. Performing arts was always the thing that made me feel fulfilled in life.”
On YouTube, she amassed quite a following – predominantly, it seemed, of girls who either wanted be her friends, or wanted to be her. They cheered when she celebrated her first adult role – Eponine in Les Misérables in 2013 – laughed at her “I cloned myself” comedy attempts, and consoled her when she broke up with her various boyfriends.
Carrie skyrocketed herself to fame. But being always in the public eye wasn’t easy. She received more online criticism than any other stage actor her age I can think of. She has endless threads on popular gossip forums dedicated to ruthlessly criticising every detail of her Instagram posts, videos, relationships, interactions with castmates, bikini pictures, even hairstyles. “YouTube and acting made me very accessible. It allowed people to feel like they were more familiar with me than they really were,” she says. “Everyone gets a chance to have their own versions of fame, if you will. Now I’ve had a decade’s worth of experience in understanding what deserves a response and what doesn’t. And understanding that everyone has an opinion but it doesn’t make them right,” she elaborates.
From Les Mis, her career accelerated. In 2016, she rejoined the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to play Truly Scrumptious. In 2017, she appeared as Wednesday in The Addams Family and a year later she went on to play Beth in Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, and starred as Veronica in Heathers. In 2019, she once again returned to Les Misérables – this time as Fantine. It’s been her favourite role so far: “It felt like I was growing out of my 20s and maturing in a way that I’ve never felt before. Playing a character who is a mother and has to sacrifice a lot for her daughter really landed at the right time in my life to completely understand it.”
Les Mis also brought Carrie her very favourite moment of her career: “It was the 30th anniversary concert. We did a rendition of One Day More with the original cast, I ended up standing next to Colm Wilkinson [the original Jean Valjean], who leaned in after we’d all sung the final note and whispered, ‘you were excellent’. I will never forget that.”
Then came 2020 and the world closed down. She was cast in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brand-new production, Cinderella, but the show suffered a delay of almost a year due to the pandemic – and then closed early and suddenly in June this year. “It was tough and really frustrating for everyone involved, from front of house to backstage, to producers,” she admits. “But the camaraderie that everyone felt in that building was unbelievable. Everyone in that building pulled together to make the show what it was every night.”
And now she comes to The Rose to play Grusha Vashnadze in Bertolt Brecht’s rarely staged play, The Caucasian Chalk Circle. It is her first ever straight play and she can’t contain her excitement. “The play poses a lot of questions but the question most specifically attached to my character is, what makes a mother? Is it the bond of blood or the nurturing? There are a lot of songs in so it doesn’t feel entirely out of my depth. But there’s a lot more meat to the script than I’m used to.”
She praises the rehearsal process at the Rose: “Every morning, we sit down, and we go through the show scene by scene and we split up every scene where the intentions change behind the characters. And then we dissect everything line by line, intention by intention. This is definitely something that I’ve never done before in a musical.”
Aside from being an actress and a YouTuber, Carrie is also an author. “I feel like everything I do is a form of storytelling,” she says. She had a blog that Giovanna Fletcher’s (her sister-in-law) agent happened to like it a lot. “It was about the things that I thought I knew when I was a teenager when I thought I knew everything. Doesn’t everyone? Then you suddenly realise that you will always know less than you think you do.” The blog ended up becoming her first ever book, All I Know Now. Two of her fiction books (that’s where her “heart really lies”, she says) came out this year. With This Kiss is a women’s novel and The Double Trouble Society is a children’s book dedicated to lovers of anything spooky and Halloween-y.
Reflecting on her career, Carrie admits, “With the rise of social media I would hope that my career would have gone a similar way had I not been the sister of Tom from McFly.
“How to take everything that people say with a pinch of salt, this is what I struggled with. But there was no question that I was ever going to do anything else with my life.”
Image: Carrie in Caucasian Chalk Circle. credit: Michael Wharley