A Doncaster schoolboy is taking centre stage in a new David Walliams adaptation, set to air this party season, in what will be his first major role.
Elliot Sprakes, of Bentley, will hit our screens on New Years Day as the star of Billionaire Boy, a classic rags-to-riches story.
The Don Valley Academy pupil plays Joe Spud, the 12-year-old son of Len who becomes a billionaire after inventing a new toilet roll. However, Joe is not interested in his father’s new-found money and only wants a friend.
Elliot, who lives at home with proud parents Christian, 44, and Lynn, 42, and 10-year-old sister Sienna, had four auditions before being given the role earlier this year. Four weeks of filming followed in Sheffield, Rotherham and London, which was complete in October.
“The best thing about the process was meeting everyone, I’ve made really good friends with some of the other actors. The most challenging thing was the long hours,” said the young actor.
The 14-year-old added that he enjoyed acting alongside household names Daivid Williams, who plays dirty old dinnerlady’ Mrs Trafe, and John Thomsom who plays Joe’s dad Len, as well as Catherine Tate and Warwick Davis.
“It was awesome. John was really funny. He was telling jokes all the time. It was an honour to work with David after watching him on the television.”
Elliot received tutoring to ensure he did not miss out on school work, and when he wasn’t filimg he was learning - meaning he often had 11 hour days.
However, he struck up a close friendship with fellow young actor Nathan Waight, who plays Joe’s friend Bob in the programme, meaning he always had fun on set.
Dad Christian said: “He gets on really well with Nathan, if they are within ten yards of each other they will spring together. They didn’t know each other before, but they became inseperable. Nathan only lives in Manchester so it’s not too far away. It’s really nice because the friendship you see between them on-screen is genuine.”
Elliot is not the only South Yorkshire schoolboy that some viewers may regconise in the programme. Children from Oakwood High School in Rotherham were also cast to appear in the show.
“Elliot has met up with some of the other young cast as well, the children who played his classmates, they are all staying in touch,” added Christian.
The talented youngster first started acting as a small child, and at the age of seven his abilities were noticed by Kevin Spence, who runs JKL Youth Theatre.
“Kevin insisted that Elliot joined his drama group and he’s been really influential in his career so far. He started going to the drama class, at Hall Cross Academy, every Saturday. It really helped to build his confidence, he used to be so quiet. From there he started performing in local productions and it’s just grown,” said Kevin.
It was while Elliot was performing in Kes at Cast Theatre last year that Doncaster-based actress Sally Carman, whom he was starring alongside, recommended him to Cieka Bailey Associates, an acting agency. Just months after joining, he landed the Billionaire Boy lead role.
However, Christian said Elliot, who admitted that it was ‘weird’ to watch himself on-screen, is unphased by his new-found star status and is ‘just the same as always’.
“He really loves acting and it’s what he wants to do as a career, but he’s just treating it like a day job, it’s nothing special to him. He’s just the same as always, he’s very humble.
“He can still get quiet shy, at the premire in London both himself and Nathan were asked to stand up and neither of them would at first, David Walliams had to get them both up.”
He added that the whole family, including Elliot’s two sets of grandparents, will be watching the show when it goes out on BBC at 7pm on New Years Day.
“We’ve already seen it as we went to the premire in London and then a screening in Rotherham, and it’s fantastic,” he said.
“We can’t wait to see it again. We’re all so proud of him, we’re going to have a real celebration.”
Kevin Spence said: “Elliot has always been outstanding - very natural, spontaneous and thoughtful. Like many really good actors, he is brilliant at observing people, listening to them, and then using this in his work.
“He is very quiet and focused in rehearsal - always a good sign. Needless to say, everyone connected with JKL is very proud of him and we’ll all be watching him on TV on New Years Day.”