When the fifth season of Channel 4 school drama Ackley Bridge was announced back in the November, the news came with a big update – Top Boy star Ashley Walters would make his directorial debut, helming five of the episodes.


Now, as the new season gets set to launch next week, the cast have spoken about working with Walters and explained how he forged a relaxed, creative environment on set.

At a recent Q&A, Megan Morgan, who steps into the role of Marina Perry this season, after being portrayed by Carla Woodcock in season 4, said: "Working with Ashley, at first I just kind of had to pinch myself a little bit. I was like 'this is crazy!' I first met him in the casting process and he was amazing. He gave us more time for emotional scenes, which is needed when filming is so fast paced as well.

"He’s really big on energy, especially with Marina when I was doing my first scenes. I was very nervous and he was like, 'we need energy. She's a firecracker, she owns the school.' He gave us the freedom to play and really trusted us all, so I couldn't ask for a better director."

Marina (Megan Morgan), Fizza (Yasmin Al-Khudhairi), Johnny (Ryan Dean), Kayla (Robyn Cara) in Ackley Bridge season 5
The cast of Ackley Bridge Channel 4

Meanwhile Yasmin Al-Khudhairi, who returns to the series as Fizza following her debut in season 4, said: "It was so much fun working with Ashley. I watch Top Boy and everything as well so I had to like rein it back when I met him. I was like, he’s here to do his job, let's see if he’s a good director. But his naturalism that he has in acting, he definitely brings to directing as well, which I really respect.

"And it does make a difference when your director has a history in acting as well, because he just does really understand. I think he has a very funny, chilled out presence as well, which really helps. You can tell when the crew as well are bonding with the director and it puts everyone at ease and it makes a big difference."

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Asma (Laila Zaidi), Fizza (Yasmin Al-Khudhairi) in Ackley Bridge season 5.
The cast of Ackley Bridge season 5 Channel 4

Laila Zaidi, who plays new teacher Asma, also highlighted Walters's role as an "actor's director", and said that it helped engender a level of mutual respect on set.

She said: "I think a big thing is respect. Nobody's job is more important than anybody else's and we all need each other to make this show. So everybody respects everybody. He's an actor's director, he approaches it the same way we would, which really is so helpful. And obviously he's lovely and very talented. So it was just a really relaxed, enjoyable environment."

Walters's series Top Boy is set to come to an end with its upcoming fifth season, which just recently announced that a Marvel star would be joining its cast.

Catch Ackley Bridge on Monday 11th July – Friday 15th July, with two episodes airing per night on Channel 4. The show will also be available as a box set on All 4, where seasons 1-4 are currently available to stream.

While you’re waiting for season 5, take a look at our other Drama coverage or find out what else is on with our TV Guide.


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