‘We shouldn’t have had to tell this story’: An interview with Three Girls star Molly Windsor

‘It’s hard to even comprehend what actually happened’

Three Girls aired on BBC on May 16th, and people are still talking about it. The drama told the story of three vulnerable girls who were groomed by men in Rochdale for four years; real life recordings of harrowing events were brought to life for people to really understand exactly what went on.

Though the drama was distressing to watch, most of us couldn’t look away: partly because of how shocking the events were, but also due to the inspiring acting by the girls themselves – especially Molly Windsor, who played main character Holly.

We spoke to Molly about how it felt to act in such an important yet difficult series. Here’s what she had to say.

Hi Molly. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m 19 and I’m based in Nottingham. I started training at The Nottingham Actors Studio when I was 11 years old. At 11, I was cast as Lucy, the lead in a Channel 4 feature film called The Unloved, directed by Samantha Morton. From then I was hooked.

After that I carried on training at The Nottingham Actors Studio, worked on a couple of projects and left college having completed my A-levels. I still train at The Nottingham Actors Studio, which I can’t recommend enough.

What made you want to act in Three Girls?

I believe it’s a story that needed telling. What happened to the girls is horrific, they were let down by authorities that were there to protect them, and our authorities continue to fail thousands of young people all over the country.

I wanted to be part of Three Girls, and join the phenomenal director Philippa Lowthorpe and the incredible cast and crew to tell that story.

How did it feel to act in this drama, knowing it’s based on a true story?

It was hard. It’s hard to comprehend what happened and I can’t claim to begin to know what it was like for Holly. I felt the huge responsibility we all had, but Philippa’s strong direction and sensitivity made me put all my trust in her, reaffirming the strength we had collectively to tell the story.

Three Girls is more then a TV drama because it is telling that truth. We should not have had to tell this story, this should not be true, but it is. I felt very angry and I still do. But we feel hopeful because we are finally speaking about what happened, and surely that’s a starting point to encourage a dialogue and lead to change.

How was it to act in this series at such a young age?

I’ve felt overwhelmed, I think I would have regardless of my age. There are many things I’m yet to learn but this series has always been about the girls, and I know in my heart that the girls needed their voices to be heard and this story to be told.

Three Girls has made me determined to stand by them and fight for change.

(Left to Right) Amber, Holly & Ruby

Did you have to undertake any training in order to portray your character to the fullest?

I did get a lot of help from wonderful people around me, including Philip Hill-Pearson who gave me heaps of help with the accent.

It would feel wrong and irrelevant for me to talk about training and methods. Holly is a real person and I couldn’t talk about her as a character. It was never about me, the actor, and never should be.

Was there anything you found particularly shocking/distressing when you read the script?

I was shocked at the attitude the police and social services had towards children who were victims of sexual abuse. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to go to the police and at a huge risk when the abusers are making such horrific threats – but to then have to battle to be believed and to be ignored.

The court scenes are taken from transcripts, and I was horrified at the way in which the victims are used tactically as vehicles as well has having to endure the insensitivity and ignorance of those that ought to know better.

There was such a lack of respect for these people and to put Amber on the list of offenders absolutely disgusted me.

Some viewers found it too distressing to watch. How did it feel to be in front of the camera?

It’s not a nice watch and I appreciate that but this is still happening. We showed what was necessary. We didn’t indulge in the drama or try and scare people.

We just told the truth, which is distressing but we can’t ignore it anymore and hope that it’s going to go away on its own. It felt exposing to be in front of the camera but that’s my job and I never thought about it if I could help it.

Holly, Ruby, social worker Sarah and Amber

What have you learnt most about being a part of something that holds such importance?

I’ve learnt so much from working with such an incredible team of people, professionally and personally.  It’s incredible to see how powerful Three Girls is and what an impact its making.

I’ve been given a voice as an actor, I carry a responsibility and each day I continue to learn how to use that voice.

Is there anything you’d like to say to viewers?

It’s a tough watch, so thankyou all so much for watching and for your incredible responses. Three Girls was born out of the courage of all those involved in the actual events to talk about it again, work with the script writer Nicole Taylor, director Philippa Lowthorpe and BBC producer Simon Lewis.

This has been happening to thousands of young people for years and still continues to happen. We can’t allow it go on anymore, we need to ask why these girls weren’t believed, why nothing was done to stop the abuse. Grooming is a manipulative, implicit form of abuse that isn’t talked about as much as it should.

I know the girls, their families, Maggie Oliver and Sara Rowbotham have been shouting about what’s been going on for years. It’s time to start listening.