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Starring roles on the BBC, work with The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, performances in The West-End and with The Open Air Theatre, these are just some of the accomplishments in the back catalogue of young local actress Ava Merson O’Brien. I find that my inner 12-year-old is already Ava’s biggest fan, internally screaming as I pull up to the driveway of Ava’s picturesque Pendle home.

I am greeted by a bright-eyed and fresh-faced Ava. I was completely taken aback by her Pixar princess like features and beaming smile. On paper, it’s difficult to understand how someone of only 18 (yes, 18!) has managed to accomplish so much but upon meeting Ava in person the penny drops. It becomes clear as to why she has a portfolio most young aspiring actors can only envy. It’s not just the way she looks but the way she presents herself, her kind voice, lovely manners and within our first few utterances it was obvious Ava has a strong work ethic and exudes devotion for acting.

Ava Merson O'Brien Photo: Alex Cowland
Ava at her Pendle home. Photo: Alex Cowland

In true British fashion, with cups of tea and biscuits to hand, Ava was ready to share her latest endeavors with Northern Life.

“I’ve just finished filming my fourth series for the BBC, Hetty Feather…I’ve been quite busy. Ava plays Harriet Summers in the BBC children’s drama based on a book written by Jaqueline Wilson. This is her biggest role yet and seems to suit her taste perfectly, “it was the first children’s period drama and I am an avid lover of period dramas. I could sit and watch them for hours on end. Step aside Downton Abbey, this BAFTA nominated drama really is a great watch and what a first prime-time TV role to land! I feel like playing popular character Harriet is only a stepping stone on Ava’s path to greatness…

“I’VE ALWAYS WATCHED BLACK AND WHITE FILMS BECAUSE MY PARENTS WATCHED THEM, AND THEY WERE THE ONLY FILMS I REALLY KNEW”

The BBC series is based on Jacqueline Wilson’s best-selling children’s novel of the same name, so of course I had to ask Ava if she’d had the privilege to meet the famous author, she smiles, “yeah, she came to set a few times! It’s her baby. I know my character was different to the books but she was happy with the outcome of it, how the overall story was portrayed and that it was so popular with kids.”

Wow imagine meeting such a national treasure and gaining her approval. Surely that can place a firm tick in Ava’s successful childhood acting career check box! However, her theatrical bucket-list doesn’t end there. It seems she has now set her sights on more mature roles. “I finished filming Hetty then I went straight into a short film called In The Limelight which was quite an interesting experience because it was very small scale, a lot grittier compared with what I am used to.”

Ava Merson O'Brien 
Photo credit: Alex Cowland

The darker, more edgier roles seem to strike a chord with Ava as she also admitted her dream role to play wouldn’t even be a female character! “On Netflix, my favourite TV series is Hannibal and I think about Mads Mikkelsen’s character and how I would love to play him.” Ava has a surprisingly mature palette, not only taking inspiration from her mum who works in theatre but also from iconic leading ladies of yesteryear. “My favorite film from when I was young is What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?, although it’s not the most PG film!

“I’ve always watched black and white films because my parents watched them, and they were the only films I really knew. When I first watched What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? I thought it was just amazing, I loved it, I didn’t feel scared at all because I knew it was acting. I realised I was more into horror films. I’m a huge fan of Bette Davies and Joan Crawford, they are icons.”

It’s great to see Ava taking inspiration from these classic actresses and even flying the flag for feminism herself in her most recent project. “The next thing coming is called Female Faces and it’s part of a charity organisation. It is multiple short films that have been pushed together as one project. For each short film there is a different director, musician and female face. It focuses on the exploitation of females, but in different, more creative ways other than the usual black and white. I’ve always wanted to be a part of something that has a good meaning behind it, and this is going to be shown worldwide. It is such a good project and as a female in the business it is nice to feel quite connected to something.” It appears she really is the full package, although youthful in looks she seems wise and conscientious beyond her years…

“EVEN THOUGH I AM YOUNG, I SEE IT AS A POSITIVE BECAUSE I’M HOT AND FRESH WITH IDEAS”

Ava as her character Harriet in Hetty Feather

Therefore, it came as no surprise to me to find that Ava is also the director of her own business. “It is a big part of my life really, it’s called AKM Talent Management, we manage actors’ careers or any creatives. We’re based in London and Manchester we source work from both ends of the scale. It’s a lot of work. I’m a perfectionist in every respect, so I think when you’re a director of a company you have control. Even though I am young, I see it as a positive because I’m hot and fresh with ideas. The industry is so creative, but people can get so regimented that they don’t really think about the fun.”

Innovative is another string to add to Ava’s huge bow of talents, but where Ava really gains my respect and probably yours is her work ethic. Most 18-year-olds would rather spend any of their free time pondering Instagram rather than getting a part time job. Not young starlet Ava, she jokes, “I have spent most of my life in a car or a hotel. It is quite nice to be at home sometimes. We are constantly commuting, even if I am just needed for one day I will commute, get the train down and then back in a day.” She shows true dedication and maturity.

Being in the business since she was just five, with her first starring role in West End production The Sound of Music she now manages to balance the lights, camera and action of a growing acting career in London with a tranquil countryside laidback lifestyle in the small Lancashire village of Fence. It seems as if being able to retreat in our idyllic Lancashire surroundings in her spare time is working wonders for Ava who is proving to have a remarkable up and coming career as she was keen to tell me, “It just feels a lot calmer here, it feels like two completely different places. In London anywhere you go you still feel like you’re in a working in environment. You miss the comfort, the calmness and the freshness of being here, you can reset your buttons here. London is all go, go, go and it’s nice to get away from that.”

Maybe we will lose Ava to the big city one day, who knows? But one thing is for sure Ava is young lady destined for greatness, fortuned with not only talent but also blessed with idyllic family values, a carpe diem attitude to life and a sharp business mind. We wish her the best of luck.

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