Greatest Days stars on playing two versions of the same character

The cast of Greatest Days, the new movie musical based on '90s kids' love for UK boyband Take That, sat down with The Digital Fix for a new interview.

aisling bea and the cast of greatest days

At the heart of Greatest Days is a group of five friends… across two generations. So, the main cast of this ensemble musical is pretty stacked, with two actors playing the characters of Rachel, Zoe, Heather, and Claire. Strangely, Debbie, their fifth friend, and glue of the group, doesn’t have a present-day counterpart — but more on that later.

The tight-knit schoolfriends of 1993 were united by their love of Take That (referred to in the movie as ‘the Boys’) before a mysterious tragedy tore them apart. But when they unexpectedly get the chance to attend a surprise reunion tour in Athens, will ‘the Boys’ bring this fractured friend group back together?

Here, The Digital Fix spoke to eight members of the new movie’s core cast to see how they navigated playing different versions of each other.

Zoe, one of the more reserved members of the girl gang, is played by Nandi Hudson in 1993, and Amaka Okafor in the ‘present-day.’ Despite being the group’s ‘nerd’ and focusing on her studies, the character has big dreams about going to university — and is forced to confront those unmet ambitions when she reunites with her friends 25 years later.

When it came to playing ‘present-day’ Zoe, Okafor told The Digital Fix that going down memory lane was key. “It really made me think of my mates from, like, my teenage years,” she explained. “I texted them immediately because we used to have this little Take That ritual before our A-Levels. Before every exam, we would stand in the hallway at school, hold hands and sing ‘Never Forget.’ That definitely helped me prepare!”

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Meanwhile, Nandi Hudson, who played a young Zoe, turned to Top Of The Pops reruns to get into character. This is something Eliza Dobson, who played a younger version of Heather, also did — but told The Digital Fix that she couldn’t get her head around the fact that it could only be watched live.

Unlike Zoe, the character of Heather was a lot less academically-minded and more fashion-minded — so Dobson did a lot of research into the ‘90s fashion world in order to get inside her character’s head. “So, at one point, my wall at uni was just covered in the fashion of the time!” she added. When we meet Heather in the present day, she has turned her love for jumble sales into an international fashion career and is fluent in several languages.

“ It was much easier for me because I was just playing a woman that lives now,” Alice Lowe, who played present-day Heather, noted. “But I had to do a bit of fluent Greek and Italian speaking, so I had to do a bit of work with native speakers on getting the accent right.”

aisling bea as rachel in greatest days

Getting the language right was also important to Jayde Adams and Carragon Guest, who play the present and past versions of the character Claire, respectively. “It’s all about us actors working together on one role, so I asked Carragon to read out all of my lines so I could get some of her vocal inflections,” Adams explained. Similarly, Carragon said that she and Jayde “watched” each other, so they could pick up “little things” like body language and “facial expressions.”

As for Lara McDonnell, who played the 1993 version of the lead character, Rachel, it was just about being authentic. “For me, I think regardless of whether I play Rachel in the ‘90s or what decade it was, I just really related to her because she’s just a 16-year-old girl,” McDonnell explained. “I really related to her just on a personal level, because she’s just a normal 16-year-old girl who loves her friends and loves a boyband, which I think is what I think so many people love about the film.

jayde adams and the cast of greatest days

Building upon this, Aisling Bea, who played present-day Rachel, told The Digital Fix that it was all about immersing one’s self in the source material.” I think with everything, you’re trying to just connect with what’s happening in the scene and what’s going on with the character, and how you carry that around with you,” she explained. “So I knew that Rachel had a secret at the start, and the audience didn’t really know what it was.”

Mysterious! To find out Rachel’s secret, here’s how to watch Greatest Days — or get a feel for the vibes first with our Greatest Days review. Otherwise, stick to the classics with our guide to the best movies of all time.