Downton Abbey actress encourages young people to join National Youth Theatre

Daisy Lewis in Silence by Moira Buffini. Photo: National Youth Theatre.

Daisy Lewis in Silence by Moira Buffini. Photo: National Youth Theatre. - Credit: National Youth Theatre

An actress who has starred in one of television's best known period dramas has spoken of how joining the National Youth Theatre helped to kickstart her career.

Daisy Lewis played school teacher Miss Sarah Bunting in ITV's Downton Abbey, a character that viewers saw befriend Tom Branson, ruffle the feathers of Lord Grantham and the Dowager Countess, and challenge the traditions of 1920s society.

The actress, who has also appeared in television shows such as Doctor Who and Lewis, credits the National Youth Theatre with teaching her a huge amount about her craft and also helping her to grow as a person.

And now aspiring young performers in Norfolk are being given the chance to follow in her footsteps as the National Youth Theatre has announced it will be holding auditions at Norwich Theatre Royal in February next year.

About being on Downton Abbey, Daisy said: 'I still pinch myself. It was an incredibly special experience, and again being part of Downton Abbey was much like being part of NYT, being part of a company of actors who stand for excellence... It was the best actors of every generation, and Hugh Bonneville, an ex-NYT member, was leading the cast.'

When asked what she loved most about working on the show, she said: 'Working with Dame Maggie Smith. She is one of the wittiest women I have ever met. I absolutely love her, she is just a genius, and that writing, being able to speak those lines. There's no part of Downton that wasn't brilliant.'

She added: 'I feel extremely lucky but none of that would have been possible without the NYT. These things start off by learning your craft and you do not know where it is going to end.'

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Daisy first saw an advert for NYT auditions when she was 13 and, while unsuccessful the first time around, she was picked to join the organisation the following year and was a member of the NYT until she was about 22. Among her NYT highlights were performing in the shows Silence and Blue Moon Over Poplar.

She said: 'NYT hasn't [just] helped me become an actor, it has helped me to become a person...What the NYT gave me was a voice, it gave me perspective on my place in the world...It taught me hard work. It taught me how to be a grown up.'

She encouraged young people to sign up for an audition.

'Give it a go. The worst that could happen is that they say try again... the best that could happen is that you make lifelong friends, you get to experience London, you get to perform in front of a paying audience and you get to make a difference.'

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