It’s easy to be skeptical of singers turned actresses, but no one can fault Jade Ewen of trying to bank on her looks. Whether she’s performing in front of thousands with her Sugababes band mates, showing off her impressive moves in dance DVDs, or displaying her feisty side in the hotly anticipated new music based drama ‘Steffi,’ there are many reasons why she is everyone’s favorite darling. But this is one good girl who’s turning bad.
The 25-year-old makes her latest splash in the mainstream with a starring role in YouTube series ‘Steffi,’ based on the best-selling novel ‘The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride’ by Andrew Croft, which tells the story of a South London Council estate girl, who is thrust from obscurity and into stardom. We caught up with the star to talk about her “bithcy, school girl” role, working with Jamal Edwards, being inspired by Whitney Houston, and to find what’s happening with Sugababes.
Where did you find time in your Sugababes schedule to rehearse for Steffi?
With acting stuff you don’t really tend to rehearse as you’re just given your scripts, which you have to go away and learn. You also have a schedule that’s created around that for the drama, but my Management were really excited about the project and they basically just made time. It’s something which I’m really glad that I’ve done as it ties in with music.
You’re often seen as the “the sweet one.” How was it playing a bit of a vixen badass?
My character is nasty – she’s a nasty piece of work but she’s one of those girls with a lot of pressure on her shoulders, which comes from her family and lots of various other things. So, she always feels as though she has to put on a show for people, which is all a bit of an act. On the inside, she’s quite vulnerable and insecure, but to mask that she’s a bit of a bitch who treats people really badly. I like the role because it’s fun. I don’t just want to be sweet and forgettable – you want to have a bit of grit and awareness.
What else can you tell us about your role?
My character sings in the show, which was obviously one of the first things that made me take notice.
I guess the thing that I liked about it was that it wasn’t like a cheesy or safe drama to do. It’s young and youthful, but it really does push the boundaries, which is quite cool. I was telling my brother, who’s 17, about the storyline and the plot, which to my relief he loved. He thinks it’s really cool, but he’d be honest with me, he would say, ‘look I think this idea is pretty wack and I don’t think you should do it,’ so it’s great that teenagers and people my age will be able to relate to it.
How does a 25-year-old put herself into the mind of a 16-year-old girl?
I have really fun memories of school, so I just based my character on a collection of people that I knew when I was at school. It wasn’t difficult for me at all, as I am also around my brother and his friends all the time. It’s the same as songwriting where you just have to change and adapt to your surroundings.
I remember reading that you attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School. So, this is obviously something that you’re happy doing?
I’ve been acting as long, as I’ve been singing and dancing. When I went to Sylvia Young, they try and encourage you to be what they call a ‘triple threat’ –you try and be as good as you can in every aspect of entertainment. For as long as I’ve been singing, I’ve been auditioning, in fact, I seemed to get more acting work before I ever had any sort of music success. It wasn’t much of a hard transition really, but you just have to be able to make a difference between stage and TV acting, as some things are a bit more subtle.
How were your nerves on set compared to when you walk out on stage to sing for your fans?
I don’t really get nervous when I am acting. I would love to say I am terrified, but I’m not. You get a lot of time to prepare so it’s not like you’re thrown in the deep end. Before you start filming the director gives you notes and you pretty much know what you are going to do in your scenes, but even if you manage to do a perfect take in one go, you always end up doing the same scene several times over. By the time you’ve finished that scene – there’s such a variety to choose from, that you know when it’s edited you won’t look bad. It’s a lot better than going on to stage and doing a live performance because as you know anything can go wrong.
What was your most awkward experience in school?
We had a mixed ballet class of boys and girls where we did a lot of lifting and partner work. My partner was like really overly excitable and because I was quite small he was keen to pick me. Our teacher then used us to do a demonstration, and I think as he was in the moment he got so carried away, he literally threw me above his head but didn’t catch me. [Laughs] We were meant to be the pros, and not only did I land really ungracefully on top of him but also on a hard wooden studio floor. It was really painful.
The series takes you back to your school years. Is that a period you’d like to revisit or are you content with where you are now?
It was fun but I don’t envy kids. When I see my own brother having to do revision and GCSEs, I always tend to be happy about not being in his shoes. The friends were cool, the dancing and singing bit was fun, but I did not like the last two years of school as it was just an enormous pressure. So, I have to say that I’m glad that I don’t ever have to do that again.
Over the course of the series, your character seems to spend a lot of time being feisty. Is that a secret side we don’t know about?
I guess I do have a bit of feistiness, but it takes a lot for me to bring it out. I’m pretty passive, but if I’m really pushed or passionate about a subject, then it comes out. My character in the show can be quite malicious. She does things to other people’s detriment, but I wouldn’t say that I am anything like that, as I just tend to say my point and move on.
The drama tells the story of an unknown singer rocketing to worldwide fame from a life of obscurity. What are the highs and lows that are connected with being a celebrity?
The highs are getting free stuff [Laughs]… When I was broke and I needed things nobody was giving me anything, but now I am in a privileged position – people are always giving me stuff, which is nice. I love travelling, especially as I wasn’t in a position to be able to travel as much as I do now. And of course performing as it is my passion at the end of the day. The lows are being tired most of the time, as you have to get up at like 3:30 in the morning and going to sing live on TV, while you’re just desperately trying to keep your eyes open.
I also get travel sickness. I do not like being in a car for too long, when you’re doing radio tours, and you have to drive for eight hours – it’s not fun at all when you also have to do it constantly for a week or two. Sometimes you have to answer the same questions over and over again, whilst pretending you’re really enthusiastic is also not very cool. Sometimes you have to answer the same questions over and over again while being really enthusiastic, and things that are written about you in the papers that are generally not true, is also not very cool.
You also star alongside Jamal Edwards. What surprised you most about him?
I was surprised at the fact that he was acting, I didn’t know that he had an interest in acting. When we were speaking, he said that he didn’t attend any stage school or have much training, but he did seem to just deliver his lines really naturally. It’s obviously a hidden passion of his. It was a nice surprise, and hopefully he will have the confidence to go on and do more.
You are naturally very beautiful. Was it a relief to need little to no makeup?
Initially, they told me some things that I was really quite worried about. At first, they were saying they were going to go for it with the makeup, and I was like ‘really?’ They were like ‘yeah’ – bright lipstick and loads of eye shadow. I was saying to myself, ‘I really don’t want to end up looking like a clown.’ Luckily for me, they didn’t go ahead with the idea.
You seem to have been heavily influenced by Whitney Houston. Are you hoping to follow in her footsteps, career-wise?
If I can have a fraction of what she achieved, I would be the happiest person in the world. I absolutely love her. I think she is so ridiculously talented, so yes I would love for that to be my own reality. However, you have to work very hard for those things to come – I’ll just keep going.
Are you currently single?
No, I am not but I don’t really put it out there. I have been in a relationship for about a year and a half now.
Who’s your celebrity crush?
Until I met Usher, I didn’t think he was so hot. I love his songs, and I think he’s an incredible artist.
We have to talk about the Sugababes. What’s happening? Will you ladies be releasing new music anytime soon?
We do have plans to do so. There’s so much happening at the moment. I’m doing ‘Steffie’ as well as a solo project which I am really enjoying, and I think I can say the same for Heidi and Amelle. We’re all just kind of taking the opportunity to explore other areas and aspects of our careers. I think we will probably come back together again at the end of the year. There will definitely be more recording, but there is no release date anytime soon.
There have been a number of groups reforming lately. As ever, people have different views. Are you worried about this?
No, I think it’s encouraging. If groups can come back and still enjoy success then great for them. At the moment, everything is just competition, especially when you look at the Internet and shows like the X Factor where there are new talents constantly emerging. You’ve just got to get on with it and do it for the right reasons, if you make good art, then I think people will see that, and it will shine through rather than being famous for five minutes.
There are plenty reasons to tune in to ‘Steffi’ and one of them is to soak in scenes full of Jade Ewen goodness. The series premieres today on YouTube channel ThisIsDrama.
(Photo credit: Stefan Podhorodecki)