The Innocents, Netflix’s latest original series, is a supernatural drama that will remind viewers of a mix of Sense8 and the movie/book Every Day. The genre-bending show follows teenagers in love Harry (Percelle Ascott) and June (Sorcha Groundsell) as they run away from their UK homes and quickly discover that June is not all she appears to be. While the show is incredibly compelling, its power lies in the strength of the naturalistic performances by its young leads.
We had the wonderful opportunity to chat on the phone with Zimbabwe-born, UK-bred actor and producer Percelle Ascott recently and the following is a condensed and edited version of that fun conversation.
Brief Take: You are so great as Harry on this series! What made you want to go on this journey?
Percelle Ascott: Thank you so much! That really means a lot to me to hear that. For me, it started last year February, in my first audition, I think I got the role in June. And yeah, it was just a journey of different auditions, and I think that the nature of this kind of product is that you have to find the right Harry and June. Chemistry is always a difficult thing to find, but at the same time, every new actor and actress would provide a different energy. So that’s the reason for this process, but I was fortunate enough to get the role.
BT: Did you bond with your co-star Sorcha Groundsell?
PA: Yeah. Ultimately, this is our first big project as newcomer actors, so we were able to share the whole experience. Leading this kind of project we sometimes felt overwhelmed or anxious, but having each other go through the same journey, we were able to check in each other with how we were feeling, take pride in each other, and I thought that ultimately brought us closer together.
BT: What did you like best about working together?
PA: I just thought that it was her openness. This series required us to be emotionally open and willing to be open in all sorts of ways. Also, collaboratively, working on how the shifting works and working on the backstories of the characters, we had to be open to suggestions and ideas. Some days I would say “yeah, I’m struggling today”, and she would say it to me sometimes too, but it helped to free and honest with each other.
Brief Take: What did you like best about playing Harry? He’s such a great guy.
PA: [laughs] I think my favourite part of playing Harry is the conflict that he goes through, which was my favourite aspect of the show. Throughout most of the series he’s struggling to accept June’s condition and ultimately he discovers what it means to really love someone. Love is not this thing that we feel, it’s everything that goes with it. For me, it showed the realistic truth of how we, in our every day lives, would deal with someone who’s a shapeshifter. How would we deal with that and would we say no? I think Harry says no and he struggles to understand it and, in the end, he understands her and loves her for who she is.
BT: I’m curious where the show was filmed, because it really lends itself to the mood of the show.
PA: Yeah, it does! We filmed it in Yorkshire and also London and Norway. It’s a British production but it doesn’t feel like it. Having the Norwegian landscapes makes it almost Scandinavian noir.
BT: Did you get to explore those landscapes a bit in your down time?
PA: [laughs] Where we were staying, we were about an hour away from your local grocery story. But you know what, it was nice. As a cast were were together and away from our phone signals, and we got to jump in the Fjords and we had a swim in the freezing cold [laughs], and then we went to Bergen Town Center together as well. So those were things that we went and explored together as a group.
BT: Recently you got to do some press with Sorcha and Guy Pearce – not too shabby.
PA: [laughs] He’s a nice guy, not just off set but on set as well. He makes us all so relaxed when we worked with him. There’s no ego or star attitude to him at all, even though he’s got such huge accolades in his career. He’s a selfless person and there are a lot of things that I’m going to take, moving forward, into my acting career that I learned from him. He’s very intelligent in the way he digests each script and everything he does with his character and with his choices, they’re all so well thought out. There’s a level of disciple there because Guy really searches for his character and that’s something that I can certainly learn from and expand on in my career.
BT: Did you have a favourite scene to shoot?
PA: Oh yeah, there are many! I think any thing with the Polk family, with Harry’s Mum and Dad. I think also with Sorcha, the conversational moments, there’s a scene in episode 7 where we’re each coming to terms with what the other person wants to do. Then also in episode 8, the finale, there’s a scene in that episode that was very difficult to shoot but also, watching it back, I thought we achieved what we set out to do.
BT: What do you watch on Netflix?
PA: Right now I’m binge watching The Rain, but I’m an episode away from the finale. Then I also watch Black Mirror and a lot of documentaries. There’s tons of stuff to watch and I need to get through all of them! [laughs]
BT: Who’s your dream collaborator?
PA: You know what’s funny? I never thought in my trajectory that I’d get to work with Guy Pearce and I did. He was someone that I’d pick among the long list of actors and actresses that I’d dream of working with. I want to work with people who challenge me and who I can learn from. Kevin Hart, Will Smith and Dwayne Johnson inspire me too because they’re able to mix their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit into their comedy projects.
BT: Have you heard anything about a season 2 of The Innocents yet?
PA: No. Not yet. Right now we’re just eager to have the whole world watch it.
The Innocents season 1 is currently streaming on Netflix