CJ Daugherty author of the bestselling Night School series introduces us to the cast of the Night School trailers.
When I write the Night School books, I always see the action in my head, like a film. I can visualise the fight scenes, the love scenes. Every stone of Cimmeria Academy is clear in my mind.
So when the first book came out, I decided I wanted to really see it on film. My husband, Jack Jewers, is a filmmaker, so I sought his help. Together, we started the Night School YouTube channel.
The first trailer we made for peanuts. Jack used stock footage and free music. After that my publishers pitched us a bit of cash. For Night School Legacy, armed with a production budget, we began assembling our cast and crew.
We tackle all the trailers as mini-films, rather than adverts. Each one tells a story and captures the essence of the book. The popularity of the films astounds me – so far, the Night School YouTube channel has more than 200,000 views.
The actors have fans around the world. So I thought I’d give you the chance to get to know them.
Jessica Sargent as Allie Sheridan
The first actor we hired was Jessica Sargent to play the books’ main character, Allie. We found her through a friend who teaches film at a nearby college. Her grey-blue eyes, oval face and feisty personality are all Allie. And Allie’s knee-high Doc Marten boots suit her so much, she wears them between shoots.
When we first cast Jess, she’d just turned 20 and was still in university, studying drama. Now graduated, she’s living in the south of England working as a professional actress.
Did you always want to act?
No! I used to be really shy. But then in primary school, the lead role in our big school play dropped out and I was chosen at random to fill their shoes. Somehow I found that I loved being on stage. I never looked back.
What acting work have you done lately?
I recently shot my first principal role in a horror film called ‘Scareycrows’. I had to be on set for a full month shooting in Devon. It gave me a chance to experience what filming is really like: Early mornings, fatigue, lots of waiting, hard work and so much fun. I loved it.
In the new book trailer, you and Campbell fight using martial arts techniques. It looks real. How did you prepare?
I’ve done fight training before but nothing like this. It was a hardcore day of exercises, stretching and games to keep us alert and responsive.
You knocked Campbell down about 50 times that day. Did you feel bad about that?
Both Campbell and I are non-violent and typically British so at first we kept apologising for hurting each other but, after a while we just let go, and we were kicking and shoving. The more violent the better!
Allie’s red, knee-high Doc Martens are a recurring part of her life. You wear these in the role. How does it feel to step into her Docs?
It feels awesome! I mean how could you not feel super cool in those boots? She’s a Rubik’s Cube of a character – with many sides and emotions – and I love playing those. And feeling what she feels. She’s real to me.
Campbell Challis as Carter West
Campbell was the second actor we cast. He’d just turned 20, and we found him through a casting website. In the books, Carter is a moody, brooding character who Allie slowly falls for. Without spoken words in our trailer, we needed an actor who could convey that darkness with just a look. Campbell was that actor.
He captures Carter so perfectly, whenever we meet I find myself calling him ‘Carter’. He’s very nice about it.
Have you always wanted to be an actor?
I decided when I was 16 that this was what I wanted to do. I’ve always been fascinated by acting, and how films and TV programmes are made.
How does it feel to step into Carter’s troubled shoes?
Over the years I’ve learned that the characters pick you – there’s no better example than Carter. The more I get to know him the more I see parallels with my own life. I get where he’s coming from and who he’s trying to be. What he’s trying to prove. It’s that mix of brooding lover and vulnerable schoolboy that I love about him.
You had to knock Jessica down a LOT when we were filming. What was it like fighting together?
I studied stage combat at drama school so I knew what was coming. But Jess is a formidable force – I didn’t quite realise how strong she was! Once we got into the routine of throwing each other around, it was fun. But please don’t make me fight her again. She’s dangerous.
What do you do for fun?
I love running, and I compete in marathons. My friends and I make short films for fun. And I’m into Japanese books and haiku poetry. I love how the writing is simple but meaningful.
Do you get fan mail from Night School readers?
The night school fans are some of the best fans on the planet! It’s quite a strange feeling to do some acting work and find it is appreciated all over the world.
Louise Clarke-Clare as Sylvain Cassel
Louis is the youngest member of our cast – when we first cast him he was sixteen years old. Now seventeen, he’s still in school and training as an actor, dancer, musician. I’ve seen him dance, and believe me – the boy has MOVES.
You do modelling, dancing, acting, singing… What’s your favourite?
I have a massive passion for performing arts and basically my life revolves around it Everyone who knows me, knows I love to be in front of the camera. Dancing takes A LOT of hard work and determination. You can sweat buckets in a dance class and come out hardly being able to walk but I love it. On the acting side, Night School has been the most amazing experience. Sylvain is just a mysterious, smouldering character that I love to play.
What do you do when you’re not training?
I love to travel, and I am currently writing this from Barbados where I’m on holiday! I’m not even joking.
The sea looks beautiful in the new trailer but I stuck my foot in and it was FREEZING. How did you manage to look so sultry walking in and out of it?
That was an experience I will never forget – I’m scarred for life! Just kidding. It was an absolutely stunning day so it certainly made the going into the cold water easier. And, to be honest, it was ok after I got used to it. There were stones on the sand though, and the hardest part was trying to look cool when my feet were killing me.
A lot of the readers are in love with Sylvain. Do they write to you?
The feedback from Night school fans has been stunning. To be able to wake up each morning to tweets from such lovely and passionate people all over the world makes my day.
Daniel Carmel as Nathaniel
For the Night School Resistance book trailer we finally cast Nathaniel, the bad guy in the Night School books. The one Allie is always trying to understand and to defeat.
We never had a question who we wanted for this role. It was always Danny. A talented 29-year-old actor, he’s worked with Jack before, and we both were blown away by his performance. On set, he captured Nathaniel perfectly. He even provided his own suit and sunglasses, for the perfect Nathaniel combination of chic, handsome malice.
Have you always wanted to act?
My Dad was a cinema projectionist and, as a child, I used to scour antique markets for old cinema reels, projectors and then fix them up. It was enchanting to see early films by classical actors, and I wanted to be just like them, but with a modern twist.
In the trailer you embody Nathaniel’s dangerous intensity. Is it hard to play someone who causes so much pain?
Having read Night School Fracture, I got a real feel for Nathaniel and the kind of manipulative, ambitious and sinister guy he is. There are things I admire about him and so I tried to portray that – the calm, calculating and dangerous person he can be – someone who has all the time and resources he needs to get his way. He can wait. He has patience and a keen eye – things I admire and identify with, although he uses them for selfish reasons and arrogant gains. I’d endeavour to do just the opposite.
Would you rather play good guys or bad guys?
Playing a ‘good’ character sits well with me; but doesn’t present too much of a professional challenge. So, as an actor, playing a dangerous character is more interesting for me. It presents a chance to go out of my comfort zone. And I like that
Get to know the actors better