Scene-stealer: Child star Lenny Rush's rise to fame

By December 4, 2022Entertainment

Lenny Rush is getting rave reviews that other actors can only dream of – and yet he's just 13 years old.
He's the "fearless" scene-stealer of Children in Need according to one critic, while another calls him "phenomenal" in Daisy May Cooper's dark comedy, Am I Being Unreasonable?
His latest show, CBBC's Dickensian drama Dodger, with Christopher Eccleston as Fagin, has just snapped up a Bafta in the week it returns to TV.
So it's no surprise he handles talking about his five-year career with aplomb.
Sitting on a sofa in his Essex home after a day at school, he's articulate and thoughtful – and funny.
His mum Lisa is sitting nearby, but he's obviously used to handling interviews by himself.
"Sometimes people think acting is glamorous. But even though it's hard work, I actually love it. It's so fun," he says.
Lenny started acting with local drama classes at the Pauline Quirke Academy, and was quickly signed up by an agent.
But he was already used to being in front of a camera, having appeared in CBeebies documentary Our Family in 2017, which offers snapshots of family life.
One scene shows Lenny, his younger brother Bobby and their parents peeling vegetables for a roast dinner.
Lenny's early comic talent is immediately apparent – he grabs a stick of broccoli, transforming into a blushing bride, batting his eyelashes as he clutches his green bouquet.
Lenny went on to play Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol twice – on stage for the Old Vic, and then for BBC One – along with roles in BBC children's shows Apple Tree House and The Dumping Ground.
On BBC One's Am I Being Unreasonable? he stars as Daisy May Cooper's often-exasperated son Ollie. It's a role that requires the young actor to deal with some pretty adult themes.
Lenny says he really picked up on moments when Ollie was "vulnerable", and says: "What I really liked about that series is that at one point, we feel sorry for every single character."
"What a gift they have in Rush, who has the comic chops and emotional range of an actor twice his age, and the kind of chemistry with Cooper that is an absolute joy to watch," wrote The Guardian's Lucy Mangan.
There's no doubt he is able to convey great depth with just a look or a comment, displaying skills and maturity way beyond many children his age.
He has a disability – spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDC) – a rare condition that results in short stature and skeletal anomalies, and a cleft palate.
Might this have given him more life experience to draw on for his acting?
"I think – it's not nice to say this – but sometimes having a disability, people really take in the fact it's a DIS-ability. And I really don't think it is at all."
Instead, he draws on the upsides, saying: "Like when I did Tiny Tim, they were looking for disabled children.
"So without having the disability, I wouldn't have been able to have done it. So I think there's more positives than negatives."
Some of his more recent roles, including Ollie and Morgan, have not made his disability central to the part.
Lenny's agent put him up to play Ollie even though the character, as written on the page, did not have a disability.
When he landed the part, the writers barely changed a word. He may travel around on a Segway, but his condition is just accepted as part of family life.
Lenny also got to experiment with improvising for the first time in his scenes with Cooper.
He admits he was "very nervous" about working without a script in front of the cast and crew, but his co-star was his safety net.
"I knew that if I got any bits where I didn't know what to say, she would always back me up."
He is proud of one particularly funny scene – Ollie's birthday – which scored an impressive 820,000 likes on the BBC's TikTok account.
Ollie has to wear a truly terrible birthday cake hat from his nan, who has also given him Duplo, which is more suited to a toddler. He then has to speak to her on the phone and pretend he likes his gifts.
To get out of the call, he takes the phone and says the line is breaking up, rustling handfuls of wrapping paper and missing words out, before hanging up.
"That bit was my idea," he says with a grin.
It's "refreshing" this role isn't about his disability, but he adds: "Even if people do know I have a disability, that's fine.
"My mum always says, 'Because you've got your disability and you're different, people remember you'."
How does he feel about being a possible role model for other children?
"It's an honour," he says. "For someone to see another person with the same thing as them on the telly – I think it gives them hope that it will be all right, you know."
He himself has been inspired by Warwick Davis, whose acting credits include the Star Wars films, Harry Potter and Willow.
They both have SEDC, and met after Lenny worked with Davis's daughter, Annabelle, in The Dumping Ground.
"Warwick's lovely," Lenny says. "He does a convention for people with dwarfism called Little People UK.
"We all go there and we have a disco in the night, it's great."
He really enjoyed being part of the event, saying: "To be honest, sometimes, especially when you're out where I live, in a small town, you don't really see a lot of little people, do you?
"You don't feel lonely, or the odd one out. You just kind of feel like the only one.
"It's crazy, you go to the convention, and there's all the other little people."
Nowadays, he's a recognisable face on TV, and was recently asked to take charge of Pudsey's Celebrity Call Centre, herding unruly celebrities including Mo Farah, Richard Madeley, Mr Blobby and even Lord Sugar as they took donations from the public.
"It's everyone's dream, to be honest, bossing around celebrities," Lenny laughs.
The sketch saw Lorraine Kelly playing against type by swearing like a trooper between calls.
"She let a few F-bombs slip out," Lenny laughs, but admits he wasn't in the room when she actually let rip.
"That bit was cut in."
A post shared by Lenny Rush (@mrlennyrush)
Recalling Peter Andre's cameo, he says: "I remember sitting there, and Peter Andre walking in, and thinking, 'I've got to tell Mum about this, she'll go crazy!'"
Lenny also gets some great lines in Dodger, which has just won best scripted programme at the Bafta Children and Young People's Awards.
There, he plays Morgan the crossing sweeper, who has just been promoted to a shoe-shine.
The show's upcoming Christmas special, which sees Dodger crash a festive party at 10 Downing Street, also gives a bit of backstory to Fagin.
"You get a little glimpse of him, he's lost some people in his life," says Rush, but adds it's a feel-good episode, with "everyone coming together, having fun – that's what Christmas is really about".
Next, he has voiced an unnamed Disney+ show, and will be in horror film The Queen Mary, starring Alice Eve, although he admits he's "a bit of a scaredy cat" and prefers thrillers.
Having caught the improvising bug, the young actor also wants to work on mockumentaries like Ricky Gervais's The Office and Cooper's This Country.
As for working with her again, he says with a smile: "Oh I'd really like to. Maybe Daisy could write something, let's hope so."
The Christmas-based episode of Dodger is broadcast on 4 December on CBBC at 17:35 GMT.
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