Since winning Love Island with Kem Cetinay in 2017, Amber Davies has carved the sort of acting career most budding performers can only dream of.
The 24-year-old from North Wales, who played the role of Judy Bernly in the West End version of 9 To 5 in 2019, still can’t get over meeting her idol, Dolly Parton, who she worked with during the production of the musical and their subsequent ITV documentary Amber & Dolly: 9 To 5.
“My life peaked at that moment,” she jokes. “I don’t think it’s going up from that, to be honest.”
But we have a feeling the best is yet to come!
Next up, Amber is appearing in CBBC show Almost Never alongside the likes of Aston Merrygold and Kimberly Wyatt. She’s also preparing to tour the country in the musical adaptation of hit film Bring It On.
Although she’s had many successful acting roles since, Amber still thanks the hit ITV2 show where she found fame for the “best summer” she’s ever had.
“Some of the life experiences I’ve had from Love Island, I’ll be forever grateful for,” she says.
Here, Amber opens up on the highs and lows of life in the public eye, proving the doubters wrong and finding a sister in her 9 To 5 co-star Louise Redknapp …
Your route after Love Island has been very different from any other Islander. Have you turned down a lot of job offers over the years?
Yeah. I haven’t been on screen since Love Island, other than my documentary with Dolly. And when I was turning down jobs, I did think, “Is this the right thing to do? Am I going to become irrelevant and everyone’s going to forget about me?” But I trusted myself so much and told myself, “I am going to make it in the performing industry.” I think what’s meant for you will not pass you by.
And it’s paid off! You starred in the musical 9 To 5 in the West End, which was amazing. How did you find that experience?
When I first got the job I had an influx of people saying, “Oh, she’s just been cast because she was on Love Island.” I remember thinking, “Right, I’m going to prove everyone wrong and I bet their opinion will change once they’ve seen the show.” Love Island doesn’t define me as a person. It was a choice I made when I was younger, and oh my gosh it changed my life completely. I’m so grateful for it. But I don’t think I got one negative comment from an audience member. For me, that was a proud moment. I think I shocked a lot of people. Just because I was on Love Island it doesn’t mean I’m not talented.
Meeting Dolly Parton must have been a dream come true…
Well, it’s just a bit unfortunate, because my life peaked at that moment. I don’t think it’s going up from that, to be honest. She knows my name – she actually knows my name! It’s nuts. She was so kind, so humble. I was so excited to meet her. My expectations were so high and she did not disappoint at all. It was like she really cared how I felt. After our press night she sent me a letter saying congratulations and how much she loved my performance. I was speechless!
Have you kept in contact since?
I got a lovely gift at Christmas from her PR team and a Christmas jumper that said, “Have a Dolly Christmas.” In some ways, yes, but we aren’t on WhatsApp terms yet! [Laughs]
You worked with Louise Redknapp on 9 To 5. Did you get on well?
Me and Louise bonded straight away. She was like an older sister. I never thought I would meet someone so late in my life who would become such a good friend. She’s absolutely normal, so down-to-earth, and there’s no bulls**t with her. I know we’ll be friends forever.
She’s been through a hard time in her personal life after her split from husband Jamie Redknapp. Was it nice to be there for her throughout that?
We were there to work and that job was perfect for us. It was so lovely just to see her shine and we had so much fun. She had a smile on her face from start to finish. As a friend that was the most important thing for me.
Love Island is back on our screens again. How do you look back on your experience?
I pinch myself about that as well and go, “I bloody won Love Island. Can you believe it?” It was the best summer of my life to this day and forever will be.
What do you make of Laura Whitmore as a presenter?
I think she’s doing a fabulous job. I love her, I love Iain Stirling and I love their relationship. Love Island is such an amazing gig to have, she’s doing so well and her outfits are always on point.
What have been the highs and lows for you since winning the show?
When I came out of the villa I was a young, naive 20-year-old. And I was doing what any normal 20-year-old would do – partying and dating. I would forget I was in the public eye and people would know my business and then I would be down. I learnt a lot of lessons about life really early on. I’m so happy all of that happened because it made me learn so quickly that you have to be private. The highs would be people just being interested in what I’m doing. That’s mental.
You’re joining the cast of CBBC show Almost Never. Tell us about it…
I’ve wanted to do on-screen acting since I was young and that’s always been my number one passion. It was so lovely to film, because I haven’t been around anybody [during the pandemic], so being around a cast was a breath of fresh air. Working with Aston Merrygold and Kimberly Wyatt was amazing. I went to watch both of them in concert when I was little. During filming was thinking, “I was watching Aston at Wembley and now I’m working with him!” I learnt so much.
What would be your dream role?
The fact my first TV job was a series was a big thing for me. I love the homeliness of being in a running cast. My brother-in-law Luke Newton is in Bridgerton. He plays Colin. So, something along those lines. I’d really enjoy something like a period drama.
And you’ve landed the lead role in the UK tour of musical Bring It On…
I have! It’s a little bit different from when I played Judy in 9 To 5, because my character, Campbell, is a lot closer to me as a person as she’s young, sporty, loves the boys and male attention. I’m so excited. For me personally, Bring It On has been like a pot of gold through the pandemic. I feel like mentally I’d be in a different place if I didn’t have that waiting for me.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully engaged! [Laughs] And with some more leading lady roles under my belt. With luck I will have made the cross from West End to Broadway!