St Albans' Rachel Andrews stars alongside James Nesbitt and Eddie Izzard in new Netflix series Stay Close

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Stay Close, with Rachel Andrews inset.

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Stay Close, with Rachel Andrews inset. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc. / TTA

A St Albans actress will appear on screen in a new Netflix series also starring Eddie Izzard and James Nesbitt.

Former Beaumont School pupil Rachel Andrews stars in Stay Close, the latest Harlan Coben adaptation for the streaming site.

Rachel appears as Bea alongside a stellar cast including Cold Feet's James Nesbitt, Eddie Izzard, Bancroft actress Sarah Parish, Richard Armitage from The Hobbit movies and Spooks, Vera and Torchwood star Cush Jumbo, Line of Duty's Andi Osho, and former EastEnders regular Jo Joyner.

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close.

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close. - Credit: Supplied by TTA

In the compelling thriller, the emerging St Albans talent plays the best friend of Kayleigh Shaw, played by rising star Bethany Antonia, the eldest daughter of Megan (Cush Jumbo) and Dave (Daniel Francis).

Stay Close will be available to stream worldwide on Netflix from New Year's Eve – Friday, December 31.

Stay Close can be seen on Netflix from December 31.

Stay Close can be seen on Netflix from December 31. - Credit: Netflix

Represented by St Albans Film Festival founder and director Leoni Kibbey, Stay Close is Rachel's first supporting lead acting job. 

She's since filmed a role in feature film Lady Chatterley's Lover – an upcoming movie with Jack O'Connell and Emma Corrin – and played a lead in a moving Christmas advert for Shelter.

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Stay Close, though, is her breakthrough role, and you'll recognise Bea in the series due to her green hair.

On winning the part just months after signing for Herts-based talent agency TTA Adults, Rachel said: "It was very surreal, definitely.

"It was very zero to 100. That's how it felt because everyone there has so much more experience than me or they trained at drama school." 

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Stay Close.

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc

The teenage newcomer shot the eight-part drama earlier this year, dividing her time between St Albans and on location in the Manchester area from mid February to wrapping in July.

"The cast were so lovely," said Rachel during our chat after completing the first block of three episodes directed by Daniel O'Hara.

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close.

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc

"On one of my first days on set I was doing a scene with Richard Armitage and Bethany Antonia and both of them were saying to me, 'Rachel, this is your drama school. This is your training. So relish it.'

"I've definitely taken that into all my other days at work, really to try and absorb everything I can."

Richard Armitage as Ray Levine in Netflix's Stay Close.

Richard Armitage as Ray Levine in Netflix's Stay Close. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc

Rachel said screen acting was "a steep learning curve", with coronavirus safety procedures an added complication to the whole filming process.

She describes Stay Close's plot "as very engaging".

"If you've read the book you know the basic premise of the series as a whole. But it is slightly different from the book, there's a few different twists and turns dropped in.

"My character is very cool to play, very quirky, mischievous, loves a bit of drama, and wears really cool funky outfits with lots of sequins.

"I do lots of driving around in an adorable little yellow car. Very Mr Bean!"

Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close.

St Albans' Rachel Andrews as Bea and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc

On how she broke into acting in the first place, Rachel said: "Throughout my time at school, at Fleetville primary and then secondary at Beaumont, I was interested in drama. I did it for GCSE and A-Level.

"And it's always been my only focus. But interestingly enough, I never was really the lead roles in plays or anything, even though I was so keen.

"It was very much an undying passion that I had for it. It was always the dream."

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close.

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close. - Credit: Supplied by TTA

Being part of the 'COVID class of 2020', Rachel didn't get to sit her A-Level exams that summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, and after considering various courses, Rachel opted to take a gap year.

"With coronavirus, it was a bit bleak looking," admitted Rachel.

"You couldn't travel, and you couldn't visit any of your friends at uni, or anything like that.

"And I was like, 'right, I need to better myself in some way'. So I started posting monologues on YouTube.

"One of my parents' friends sent the monologues to Leoni, who then reached out to me and wanted to have a meeting.

"She then signed me pretty much straight away, which was a bit out of nowhere."

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close.

St Albans' Rachel Andrews plays Bea in Stay Close. - Credit: Supplied by TTA

That was in September 2020 and after eight weeks of auditioning for various commercials and TV shows, she got a casting call for Stay Close last November.

"About a week later I had a Zoom call with the director and casting directors, and an executive producer. 

"And then I did another tape,” said Rachel, “but obviously you can't get your hopes up as it's really competitive and it's such a big project.

"I was like, 'there's no way they are going to want me. I've got no experience'. I had no acting credits."

Of her new profession, Rachel added: "I think if you come into the environment with a good, healthy sense of curiosity then it doesn't feel like work at all."

Eddie Izzard as Harry Sutton and Cush Jumbo as Megan Pierce in Netflix series Stay Close.

Eddie Izzard as Harry Sutton and Cush Jumbo as Megan Pierce in new Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc


What is Stay Close about?

Stay Close is the latest Netflix project for author Harlan Coben, as part of his current five-year deal with the streamer to develop his titles into film and TV dramas.

The adaptation of his New York Times bestselling novel comes from the same team behind The Stranger, which also starred Richard Armitage, who is perhaps best known as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit fantasy adventure trilogy.

Megan, played by Cush Jumbo, in Stay Close.

Megan, played by Cush Jumbo, in Stay Close. - Credit: VishaL Sharma ©2021 Netflix, Inc.

In keeping with previous adaptations, Stay Close relocates Coben's story from the US to UK shores, with the action filmed in and around Manchester, Morecambe Bay and Blackpool.

With trademark thrills, gripping suspense, a crime to solve and with secrets of past crimes beginning to unravel, Stay Close questions how much you really know someone.

Stay Close is a RED Production Company (a StudioCanal company) drama commissioned for streaming service Netflix.

The Manchester-based indie has previously produced Sally Wainwright’s Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax, Finding Alice starring Keeley Hawes, and It’s A Sin by Russell T Davies for Channel 4. 

Cush Jumbo in Stay Close.

Cush Jumbo in Stay Close. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc

The story centres around Megan (Cush Jumbo), a charity worker and mother of three, once-promising documentary photographer Ray (Armitage), who is now stuck in a dead-end job pandering to celebrity-obsessed rich kids, and Michael Broome (Nesbitt), a detective unable to let go of a missing person’s cold case.

Lorraine (Parish), an old friend from Megan's past, delivers some shocking news which will impact on all three characters.

The main characters' respective storylines get very intertwined and tangled as the series progresses.

Sarah Parish as Lorraine in Stay Close.

Sarah Parish as Lorraine in Stay Close. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc

As the past comes back to haunt them, threatening to ruin their lives and the lives of those around them, what will be their next move?


Who are Bea and Kayleigh in Stay Close?

Bea – Rachel Andrews' character – is Kayleigh Shaw’s best friend and confidante. She is a protective friend and she’ll do anything she can to help Kayleigh. 

They are each other’s greatest ally, co-conspirator and support mechanism.

"Kayleigh and my character get up to all sorts of trouble," teased Rachel ahead of Stay Close debuting on New Year's Eve.

Before the start of the series, Kayleigh, 16, has grown up living a very comfortable suburban life with her two parents (Megan and Dave) and two younger siblings, Laura and Jordan.

Recently Megan and Dave have announced they’re getting married after being together for 17 years. Kayleigh’s happy for them, but soon after their announcement Kayleigh notices a change in her mother’s behaviour.

Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close.

Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc

Kayleigh makes it her mission to find out what her mother is up to. Throughout the series Kayleigh’s curiosity about her mother will get Kayleigh into more and more trouble.

Rachel's co-star and now close friend, Bethany Antonia, said: "Kayleigh’s not really in the book. They’ve added an entire storyline and a whole separate subplot for her.

"In the book she is just Megan’s daughter and that’s it. A lot of the scenes where Kayleigh and her best friend Bea are together Charlotte Coben [Harlan's daughter] wrote, a lot of the teenage/young girl dialogue."


So where do we first meet Kayleigh and Bea?

Cush Jumbo as Megan and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close.

Cush Jumbo as Megan and Bethany Antonia as Kayleigh Shaw in Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc

"Kayleigh has just started following her mum," reveals Antonia. "She’s realised that her mum is hiding something because she has seen Megan taking one of her dresses.

"Kayleigh has rung Bea and kind of gone into panic mode. ‘We need to find out what is happening. My perfect life isn’t as perfect as I thought. Quick, come help me!’

"So they’ve run to the car and followed Megan. They’ve seen her going into this club, Vipers, and then seen this poster on the wall about a carnival that is happening a week later.

Richard Armitage as Ray Levine outside Vipers in Stay Close. 

Richard Armitage as Ray Levine outside Vipers in Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix, Inc

"Kayleigh thinks it is the perfect idea to go there underage, sneak in and do loads of naughty things."

The carnival in question was filmed in Blackpool in atrocious weather conditions. Nevertheless, it proved to be Antonia's favourite day of shooting.

"We were on Blackpool pier. It was the coldest day of 2021. It was March. There was a hurricane.

"We were supposed to do this really cool crane shot and it was so windy they couldn’t even get the crane down. That’s how bad the weather was.

"Yet despite that there was something about being on Blackpool pier with a llama and a whole carnival procession that you just couldn’t have a bad day there.

"Me and Rachel [Andrews], who plays Bea, looked at each other and were like, ‘This is what we get to do as a job.’"

Jo Joyner as Detective Erin Cartwright and James Nesbitt as Michael Broome in Stay Close.

Jo Joyner as Detective Erin Cartwright and James Nesbitt as Michael Broome in Stay Close. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc

One scene inside Vipers at the start of episode two sees Bea test Kayleigh's drink to see whether it has been spiked by Carlton Flynn, who later goes missing.

So did Bethany Antonia know about the nail polish test for spiked drinks that is used in the show?

"No, I didn’t, which is such a life hack!

"When we were shooting that we did a practice run on a real drug test and it did work. It was great. Before that, I used to just carry those little drug tests around but this is way handier."


Stay Close starring Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage and Sarah Parish is now streaming on Netflix.

Stay Close starring Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage and Sarah Parish is now streaming on Netflix. - Credit: Netflix



When can you watch Stay Close on Netflix?

Stay Close will be available to stream worldwide on Netflix from Friday, December 31.

Does knowing that this is going out in 190 countries simultaneously affect your storytelling in any way?

"It doesn’t but it’s really cool. At midnight California Pacific Time someone in LA presses a button and all eight episodes go out to 190 countries and over 200 million subscribers and there is this immediate worldwide reaction," said author and creator Harlan Coben. 

"Sometimes I’ll wake up the next morning and people have already watched the entire show.

"It’s really cool to have that many people all over the world, that many countries, that many languages, that like your story. That is very exciting."

Eddie Izzard in Harlan Coben's Stay Close, which can be seen on Netflix.

Eddie Izzard in Harlan Coben's Stay Close, which can be seen on Netflix. - Credit: Vishal Sharma. 2021 Netflix, Inc


Is Netflix's Stay Close worth watching?

On why viewers should get on board with Stay Close when it arrives on Netflix on New Year's Eve, comedian Eddie Izzard said: "I think it’s a great thrill-ride with some very unusual characters in it and a distinct amount of trauma.

"So if you like complicated urban thrillers this is one."

Eddie Izzard in Netflix series Stay Close.

Eddie Izzard in Netflix series Stay Close. - Credit: James Stack. 2021 Netflix.

Sarah Parish, who plays Lorraine Griggs, added: "This isn’t your usual thriller.

"This is Harlan Coben at his biggest and his most theatrical, at his craziest and at his best. That’s why you should watch it. People break into song and dance. All sorts of things happen. It’s so colourful.

"For me to do thrillers they have got to have something a little bit special about them and this did."