Sunderland schoolgirl’s key role in ITV’s £17m blockbuster Beowulf

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A Sunderland schoolgirl has been helping to bring an epic mythical poem to life.

Isla McMonigle, nine, has been watched by millions in Beowulf: Return To The Shieldlands, a big budget adaptation of the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf.

She stars as Mortane, the street urchin daughter of a skin shifter, in the £17 million drama which was filmed in County Durham.

Isla, who is a pupil at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Penshaw, has appeared in the past three episodes of the show alongside Hartlepool’s Kieran Bew, who plays warrior hero Beowulf, Oscar-winner William Hurt, Wolf Hall’s Joanne Whalley and Ed Speleers, who is Jimmy the footman in Downton Abbey.

Mum Nicola, 41, said: “We are so very proud of her. We’ve had all her friends round on Sunday nights and had lots of sweets and nibbles to watch her. It was a brilliant experience for her and the cast and crew were lovely.”

Since Isla filmed the show last March, she’s been signed up with a London agent and is due to appear in ITV’s two-part drama, Dark Angel, opposite Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt.

She won the role of Mortane after casting directors came to her drama school, Activate, which runs sessions at Southmoor School.

And she’s not the only budding star in the family.

Isla’s siblings, Eva, 11, and Alexander, five, have also won roles in dramas, including Vera, through attending Activate.

“The casting directors had been to various schools,” explained Niki, who is married to Ross. “They came to Activate and picked Isla out.

“She then had another round of interviews where there was a substantial amount of children. Then she had to perform a piece to the director.”

Isla’s drama teacher, Lesley McDonough, said: “This is a great experience for Isla, especially as it’s filmed locally.”

Beowulf, often cited as one of the most important surviving works in Old English literature, was written anonymously between the 8th and 11th centuries – the period in which the Vikings were raiding Britain.

It tells the story of Beowulf, who comes to the aid of Hrothgar, king of the settlement of Herot, when his people are being terrorised by Grendl.

ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS '''BEOWULF:RETURN TO THE SHIELDLANDS''EPISODE 3''Pictured : LAURA DONNELY as Elvina andISLA MCMONIGLE as Mortane.'''Photographers: Laurence Cendrowicz, Aimee Spinks and Justin Slee''This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to BEOWULF any further usage could incur a fee.

ITV STUDIOS PRESENTS '''BEOWULF:RETURN TO THE SHIELDLANDS''EPISODE 3''Pictured : LAURA DONNELY as Elvina andISLA MCMONIGLE as Mortane.'''Photographers: Laurence Cendrowicz, Aimee Spinks and Justin Slee''This image is the copyright of ITV and must be credited. The images are for one use only and to be used in relation to BEOWULF any further usage could incur a fee.

• Beowulf is on ITV on Sunday at 7pm.