Actress and musician Ella Hunt has come a long way since her early days dancing around in a tutu on a farm in North Devon. Now, the 20-year-old entertainer is making her mark in the industry and tackling authentic roles that speak to her. She stars as Anna in the new zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse, an 18-year-old girl who must fight for survival during Christmas. She chats with us about what drew her to the role, the challenges of filming, and what she hopes the audience takes away from the movie. Catch Hunt in Anna and the Apocalypse—in theatres now!
For those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! I’m Ella Hunt, I’m 20 years old, and I’m an actress, musician, and aspiring filmmaker. I grew up on a farm in North Devon, in the very rural English countryside. I’m half Swiss, and I come from a family of artists. And I recently moved to New York where I am shooting a new TV show for APPLE.
When and how did you get your start in the entertainment industry?
As a kid I spent most of my time in a tutu, dancing around the kitchen, putting on performances for my family, and insisting on being called “Pink” (my favourite colour). My mum had been an actress, and as soon as I found out what an agent was I was begging her for one. And her answer was always that “when the time is right, an agent will find you.”
When I was ten, I took part in a school production of The Mikado (the Gilbert and Sullivan musical set in Japan). I had been cast as Katisha, a very comedic, miserable, elderly lady. I was wearing a fat suit and a wig for the role, and it just so happened that the boy I was playing opposite’s Dad was an agent. After the performance, he approached my mum and said that I should act professionally and he’d love to represent me. She couldn’t say no because she’d already told me “when the time is right an agent will find you.”
Let’s jump right into your new film, Anna and the Apocalypse. Can you tell us about the premise and your role?
AATA is a zombie-musical, set at Christmas! It’s a coming-of-age story about what happens when a zombie apocalypse breaks out in a small Scottish town and a group of young people’s loss of innocence. I play Anna who is a smart, aspirational, 18-year-old girl in her last year of school. She is desperate to get out of her small town and see the world, but all of her expectations are dashed when she wakes up to discover a zombie apocalypse has hit and she and her friends have to fight for survival.
I admire that [Anna in Anna and the Apocalypse] is not just a hero; she’s as vulnerable as she is confident and as afraid as she is courageous.
How did you get involved in the project? What drew you to the script?
I had been reading a lot of scripts and more often than not the young characters did not feel real or like they had a young person’s perspective. Anna did.
Musical, comedy, and horror is a crazy combo. Why do you think it works so well for Anna and the Apocalypse?
I think music and horror are similar in that they both elicit a visceral feel. And the songs are used to expand on the characters’ experiences and internal dialogue. It’s undeniably a lot of genres to juggle, but John McPhail’s vision for the film was so clear from the start that it never felt like a tricky task.
What do you admire about your character, Anna?
I admire that she’s not just a hero; she’s as vulnerable as she is confident and as afraid as she is courageous. And I’ve always admired that in the way that Ryan McHenry and Alan McDonald wrote her.
What challenged you the most when getting ready to film Anna and the Apocalypse?
The physical stuff! I’m extremely clumsy, and although I’ve always been athletic, I goof around and am self-deprecating. I had to drop that when I started playing Anna because I had to believe that she could be a badass zombie-killer to survive! Big shoutout to Emma-Claire Brightlyn, our fight coordinator, for helping me get there.
Take us behind the scenes of Anna and the Apocalypse! What was the most exciting part of filming?
The production team was 50/50 working ratio men to women. That was the first time I had that working experience and it made a world of difference.
The film has received a lot of positive reviews. How does that make you feel?
Happy! And inspired to continue making projects with creatives that aren’t afraid to break the rules and take risks!!
What do you want people to take away from the movie?
I’d love for people to come away from the film humming the songs, craving sugar candy canes, and perhaps thinking a bit about the world we leave behind and how we live today.
In an article on Vogue.co.uk, you mention that “inner confidence is the most important thing.” What experiences helped you come to that conclusion?
In that interview, which was related to fashion, I said “I believe inner confidence is the most important thing, but at 20 I’m still working that one out.” So in answer to your question I’d begin by saying I’m definitely still working that one out! I come from a family of artists who have always encouraged me to express myself creatively, but when I started working in the industry I had some experiences that knocked my confidence but not my passion for the profession, and in order to enjoy doing what I love and pursuing a career in the arts I’ve had to build my inner confidence and strength.
What do you do to help build your inner confidence?
I sit at my piano and write music, it’s my way of processing my thoughts and unscrambling the world. And I spend time with my family.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Dancing around the kitchen in a pink tutu.
What’s your favourite song at the moment?
Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” I like to make character playlists when I’m taking on a new character, and “Both Sides Now” is on my Dickinson playlist.
What would you be doing if you weren’t acting?
Speaking Spanish, curating The Prado, and living in Madrid.
What’s your favourite thing to do during the holidays?
Reading for pleasure.
Can you tell us a little about Dickinson and your character?
Dickinson is my first American TV show. It’s written by the incredible Elena Smith, and it’s an adventure into the life of the great American poet Emily Dickinson, played by Hailee Steinfeld, and I play Emily’s closest confidante, Sue Gilbert.
Give a shoutout to someone in the industry that you look up to!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Don’t use plastic!
STORY DARREN BRIDGES
PHOTOS VICTORIA STEVENS