Exclusive Interview: Asha Banks


A Good Girl’s Guide
To Having It All

Ahead of A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, she recalls the roles that got her where she is today

Asha Banks

Photography by Luc Coiffait

Styling by Sarah-Rose Harrison

Make up by Lucy Wearing

Hair by Sophie Sugarman

Shot on location at Riverscape

At 20 years old, Asha Banks has an enviable CV, ahead of A Good  Girl’s Guide to Murder this month, she recalls the roles that got her where she is today and reveals her ambitions for the future

Asha Banks wears: top by Zimmermann; and jewellery by Tilly Sveaas and Skomer Studio Asha wears: top by Zimmermann; and jewellery by Tilly Sveaas and Skomer Studio

After discovering she had been given her role in the BBC’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder last year, Asha Banks spent the next three days sitting in the sunshine in the garden devouring the books by Holly Jackson on which the series is based. “I’d heard so much about the books from different people, telling me that they’re literally their favourite book series ever, but I hadn’t read them. When I got the audition through, I decided not to read them beforehand, because I think internally, I knew that if I read them, I would love them, and then I’d be so heartbroken if I didn’t get the part!” she explains.

“I did this Zoom meeting with the casting associate, who was wonderful, and I was sent, I think, the first three episodes maybe,” she recalls. “I read them straight away, and was gripped, and just desperately wanted to have the next set of episodes through. And I got a recall and went into the room with the amazing Dolly Wells, who’s our director of the first block, and Florence Walker who’s the producer, and the casting team who are just wonderful. It was so nice walking into this room full of women, who were all the core members of the team; I felt so safe. It was wonderful – I walked out and just had my fingers crossed until I found out that I got it. As soon as I did, I had the book ready to read…”

Asha Banks wears: waistcoat and skirt, both by Tod’s


Asha Banks wears: dress by Balmain Asha wears: dress by Balmain

The six-part BBC series is based on Holly Jackson’s smash hit novels and also stars Emma Myers (Wednesday), Anna Maxwell Martin (Motherland), Mathew Baynton (Ghosts, Wonka) and newcomer Zain Iqbal. “It’s a crime thriller, a murder mystery at heart,” Asha tells me. “It revolves around Pip, who’s played by the beautiful Emma Myers, and it follows her kind of deciding to reinvestigate a murder that happened in the small town of Littleton five years prior. I think it’s wonderful, I think that the script is just stunning, the writing is so brilliant. It was such a pleasure bringing my character to life.”

That character is Cara Ward: “She is Pip’s best friend,” Asha explains, “and in a lot of ways Cara is Pip’s sounding board throughout the investigation. She’s such an important person in Pip’s life, and I think she’s wonderful. She’s loyal, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s witty, and like I said, I think she was written so beautifully. I just think she’s a wonderful character, and brings a lot of sarcasm to ironic moments, which is always fun to play.” Indeed, everything about the job was fun. “Literally the most fun ever,” Asha exclaims, happily. “It was last summer; we were all in Bristol. And it was just a dream, the whole cast is so amazing, the whole team – everybody is amazing. It was just absolutely amazing. I mean, it was chaos – everybody is so full of energy, I feel like that says a lot. So many of us seemed to kind of morph into our characters, either that was just incredible casting and we are all quite similar to our characters anyway, or we just started to become them because the group dynamic was so good.”

Asha Banks wears: dress by Balmain Asha wears: dress by Balmain

At just 20 years old, Asha has been acting for more than half of her life. She landed her first West End role as young Éponine in Les Misérables aged seven. “It kind of feels like a dream, to be honest. I do feel so lucky to be able to have started when I was so young,” she admits, looking back on it. “Neither of my parents are in the industry at all – none of my family are. I’m sure it was probably obvious that I was a performer from when I was teeny tiny; I bet if I asked my mum, she’d say it was the most obvious thing ever! I went to this Saturday drama school, and they had an agency attached, and I kind of auditioned for that, and joined the agency. My first audition was Les Mis – I remember getting it through, and my mum telling me, and telling me I’d have a day off school. Me and my mum and my grandma all went up to London, and sat in a café before, and I was just so excited to have this day off school, and to have this adventure, and I didn’t expect it to go anywhere.”

Of course, it did. And more West End roles followed: as the Parsons Girl in the multi-award-winning and Olivier-nominated play 1984, directed by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan for the Almeida theatre; Duffy in the UK tour of Annie the Musical directed by Nikolai Foster; Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane; and as Pandora in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 at the Menier Chocolate Factory. She is very aware that she owes a debt of gratitude to her parents for making it all possible. “I’m so lucky to have people around me who were able to help,” she says. “It was almost as big a job for them as it was for me, taking me up to London literally every day for my whole childhood.”

“Me and my MUM and my GRANDMA all went up to London, and sat in a café before, and I was just so EXCITED to have this day off school, and to have this ADVENTURE, and I didn’t expect it to go ANYWHERE”

That was clearly only a piece of the puzzle, though – how on earth did she fit it all in around school, I ask. “I look back now, and I actually have no idea!” she tells me, laughing. “I know that when you’re a kid, there’s often three teams in a show, so there would have been two other girls playing the character that I was playing. So, you wouldn’t work every day, but still, on the shows that I would do, I would go to school all day, then do the show in the evening, and then travel back to St. Albans where I live, and then wake up and go to school again and then do the show that night. So, it must have been really full on. But I think it instilled a resilience in me, to have to push through, and always be on top of my work, and be quite independent in that sense, which I think has really helped me in my adult life, too – that drive.” A crunch point came, when, on the verge of taking her GCSEs, she was offered a part in Spring Awakening at the Almeida. “I was 15 when I first auditioned for that, 16 when I got the offer, and I was just on the brink of deciding what I was going to do – whether I was going to do all my GCSEs, or whether I was going to have to drop some GCSEs so that I could do rehearsals,” she says, looking back on it. “I’d loved the show for so long, it was so exciting to be a part of that, and part of this exciting new version of that. It was kind of the biggest decision I’d come up to… I spoke to my family about it, and we were just about to tell the school that I was going to drop some GCSEs, and then lockdown hit.”

Asha Banks wears: top and trousers, both by Balmain; loafers by Christian Louboutin; and rings by Skomer Studio and Tilly Sveaas

Of course, with the lockdown restrictions in place, the curtains came down for arts venues not just in London, but throughout the world, and Spring Awakening, along with every other show, was put on hold. While it was a disastrous time for many in the industry, Asha very much appreciates the silver lining it presented her with. “I just was so lucky, and kind of ended up being able to get all my results for my GCSEs and to be able to do the show a couple of years after. So that was very lucky,” she says, with a smile. As well as giving Asha time to complete her GCSEs, the delay also meant she was able to accept a film role, her first, as Princess Pamina in the German musical film The Magic Flute. She tells me that going back to the stage afterwards felt like “working a different muscle” but she is grateful for the opportunities she has been given in both worlds. “They are completely different beasts, but both equally amazing. Most of my career so far, it’s been in theatre, so that was my initial love, and that’s where my love for acting came from. But having stepped more into the screen universe recently, I love it just as much, and I’m just so thankful that I can do them both. It feels like I’m always on my toes,” she says. “I feel like I’m at a point in my career where I just desperately want to do everything. I want to try loads of different things, and loads of different genres, and work with loads of different people. I’d love to work in theatre again, I’d love to do more film, basically just everything possible would be great!”

Amongst that desire to do everything is an ambition to make music. “It has been a massive passion of mine since I was young,” she tells me. “I had this tiny pink guitar that I used to play when I was really young, and I’d write songs for my mum and my grandma and all my friends when I was little. Back then, musical theatre was the perfect place to sync my love for singing and music, and my love for acting – I love it, I think it’s beautiful, and silly, and wonderful. And it’s kind of just developed from there; I have this amazing music manager now, who reached out to me a few years ago, and I’ve kind of started doing music properly, and been able to meet loads of people through that, and go into sessions, and write songs and just express myself. I love how it’s a different way of creating, so it goes hand in hand with acting because they’re both creative outlets for me. And I love being able to do both, but music just feels like something that I kind of have more control over. If something goes wrong in my life, I can write a song about it, and then it feels like a positive outcome, which is really lovely. I’m making loads of music at the moment, kind of finding my sound and finding the people that I love working with. And I mean, the dream is hopefully to release music in the near future, that’s what I’m kind of ploughing towards.”

Asha Banks wears bikini set and skirt, both by Michael Kors Collection and cuff by Tilly Sveaas Asha wears: bikini set and skirt, both by Michael Kors Collection and cuff by Tilly Sveaas

There’ll likely be more screen work to look out for before Asha’s first album, though: last month brought the announcement that she will be appearing in a lead role in the film My Fault: London. “It’s so exciting…,” she exclaims. “It’s based on the book Culpa Mía by Mercedes Ron. And it’s kind of interesting, these two jobs both being based on book series, because they already have this fan base that is so passionate about them, and it’s lovely stepping into a space where people are already so excited and passionate. I just finished filming that a few months ago, and it was my first lead. It was very overwhelming when I was first offered the part, because, you know it is Amazon – Prime Video is quite a big thing. And it was this first lead, and there’s this amazing Spanish version that already exists, and everyone loves that so much, so it was big shoes to fill… but I’m super excited about it. Our version is set in London, which I think brings a new flavour to it. And it’s kind of a love letter to London, at the same time as being a romance and a thriller. It’s just everything.”

Speaking of love letters to London, Asha herself has a particular soft spot for the Capital, where she took her first steps towards a career in acting. “I love it! It always feels like you’re in a movie when you’re in London in the summer. There’s so many nice spots to meet up with friends. I love Primrose Hill; I think the views are just beautiful. I’d love to live near there. At the moment I’m in St. Albans, I’m so happy at home, I love my family so much and we all really get on, but it is very busy in my house! My brother’s just come back from uni, so he’s working from my house, and my dad works at home, and mum works at home, and now I’m kind of between working at home and not… I definitely would love to move to London; that feels like a new chapter that will inevitably begin at some point soon.” If the story of Asha’s life to date is anything to go by, it will be an exciting chapter, no doubt.