Feature: From child actor to Salford graduate - Meet Grace McIntosh
Grace McIntosh grew up on screen to an audience of thousands by starring in a long-running children’s TV series. Now, as she prepares to graduate from the University of Salford, she is ready for a career in an industry she’s known for over a decade.
Starring as Eleesha Rahad on CBBC’s The 4 O’Clock Club for seven years straight from the age of 11, Grace up all her summers to film in Manchester with her on-screen classmates, missing holidays, birthday parties and shopping trips back home in Wakefield.
Pulled in by the pedigree of Salford’s BA Media and Performance course, Grace headed back across the Pennines for a degree that would allow her to pursue her passion for both acting and getting behind the camera.
Grace has made the most of her time in Salford to get further industry experience, filming adverts for Compare the Market, working on the Black History Schools project during the COVID-19 pandemic whilst also doing some voiceover work here at Media City.
Currently starring in Channel 4’s The Dog Academy as an on-screen receptionist, Grace is more than ready to make her mark in UK television.
“If auditions are like that, I’ll come every week.”
From the age of six, all Grace wanted to do was perform, so she convinced her mum to let her attend a musical theatre school on a Saturday morning so that she could get involved in local theatre.
Her pursuit to perform led to auditioning with a local casting agency at the age of 10 and Grace soon began taking auditions.
Her very first audition was for the role of Eleesha.
“It was dream-come-true stuff,” Grace says. “I had dreamt of being on TV and I remember really enjoying that first audition, which was basically a workshop playing games with others. I thought if all auditions are like that, I’ll do one every week.
“It started getting more serious as I was being sent scripts but at the same time I also got a recall for another audition that I’d done for a different show. I ended up doing a screen test for that series but I was unsuccessful despite getting to the final two.
“A week later, I got the 4 O’Clock Club.”
Grace joined the show in its third series as one of five new main characters and did a 13-week shoot in the summer of 2013 – just as she was leaving primary school and starting high school as an eleven-year-old.
“I had my first few days of High School off from filming as I didn't want to miss them. Of course, word travelled very quickly around the school and I had a lot of people coming up to me asking if I was going to be on TV. It did make making friends a little bit difficult at first then after a while it was fine.
“That first shoot was seriously crazy. I felt massively out of my depth and was very nervous but that didn’t last for long as we got on really well and the crew and our chaperones were great which made it a lot easier to settle in.”
“All the key moments I had in real life, I would share with Eleesha”
Grace gave seven summers of her childhood to the 4 O’Clock Club and the role of Eleesha means a lot to her.
She said: “As I grew, she grew. We literally grew up together! When I started, I was in Year 7 and by the time I left, I was leaving sixth form so our lives were very much intertwined.
“When I started, she was known for being very ditzy, having her head in the clouds, always being the last one to get the joke, but as she got older, she found her feet a bit more. It’s mad because in her last few episodes, she was learning to drive and in real life, I had only passed my test two months beforehand so it felt like all the obstacles and key moments I had in real life, I would then share with Eleesha.”
As Grace was in college, the balance between her home life in Yorkshire and the set in Manchester started to tip and at the age of 18, she was ready to say goodbye and move on to new things.
She added: “I was still having fun but probably not as much fun at that point. But that happens with a children's show. When I left, it felt like it was a natural time for it to end.”
Grace’s classmates had also grown very used to the fact that she was on television by that point.
“It was who I was,” she added. “All of my friends just got really use to it and it wasn’t a big deal by the time I left and nobody treated me differently. I still had the same experiences that others were having at school and my friends were always really supportive.”
“Visiting the campus made my choice a no-brainer.”
When it came to finding the right university for Grace, she was instantly sold on the course at Salford.
She said: “It really pulled me in. When I finished at 4 O’Clock Club, I was gravitating towards working behind the scenes and particularly the role of the producer. I realised I wanted to work in TV but wasn’t really sure whether that was in front of or behind the camera.
“This course allows to do both performance modules and also get behind the camera to do directing, script writing, editing. When I visited the campus I was blown away by the facilities. It made my choice a no-brainer.”
Her first year on the course was beset by the difficulties of learning during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but over the three years, Grace was able to expand her skillset to give her more choices come graduation.
She added: “In the first year, learning was really tough as you were watching people from a distance. However, come the second year, we got right into the swing of things.”
Despite the pandemic, Grace was also able to continue professional work during her studies. Alongside her mum, she filmed an advert for insurance comparison website Compare the Market, worked with Black History School on their educational content, interviewed electric car owners around the country for LV Insurance and then did some voiceover work for a children’s show here in Media City.
“I just want to be working in TV!”
Her latest gig, as a receptionist in the fictional Dog Academy, was filmed in Shropshire in July 2022 over four long weekends.
In the show, Britain’s top dog specialists and trainers help exhausted owners create a long-lasting and positive relationships with their animals.
On the role, Grace said: “It was an amazing thing to film. I love dogs and could never have them as a little girl so it was a really enjoyable experience.”
As Grace now enters her last few weeks as a Salford student, she’s eager to get started in the industry that she’s known for over a decade.
“I feel like I’ve given my all at university and now am looking forward to getting started and applying all these skills to what I want to do.
"I have started working as a production runner on a show being filmed in Manchester as I was just so eager to begin building my off-screen credits too and I want to get a mix of every role that I can try.
“I just want to be working in TV! That’s where I am at my happiest.”
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