Tracy Beaker’s Dani Harmer: ‘My daughter can’t understand why I’m in the TV’

The CBBC star discusses her childhood love of US teen sitcoms – and dosing up on nostalgia on the streaming services

I was born in the 80s, but very much raised in the 90s. That was the best era for US teen sitcoms – I absolutely loved Saved By the Bell and Sister Sister. When we got a cable box, it was the most exciting thing, because then we had more than just the four channels. I would get home from school and rush to get changed quickly, grab a snack and then put on Trouble, which was my favourite channel, or I’d switch over to Nickelodeon.

It was always nice to see other kids on television. I think that’s what made me want to go into acting, since it always looked so fun, with their characters constantly finding themselves in unusual situations. I thought I could do that, too.

It’s so exciting that shows such as Sister Sister are back on streaming services now that we’re in lockdown and have nothing else to do. It’s always fun to take a trip down memory lane – I completely understand why people say to me that I’m their childhood, because those shows provide such nostalgia. It’s a really lovely feeling to be curled up in bed and watching all these programmes that remind you of being a kid again.

AC Slater (Mario Lopez), Mr Belding (Dennis Haskins), Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond) in Saved By the Bell
School’s out ... AC Slater (Mario Lopez), Mr Belding (Dennis Haskins), Lisa Turtle (Lark Voorhies), Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley), Zach Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Screech Powers (Dustin Diamond) in Saved By the Bell. Photograph: NBC/NBCUniversal/Getty Images

Disney+ has loads of the old cartoons that I used to love, such as Recess. I’ve been showing it to my four-year-old daughter and now she is obsessed. Recess is on from the minute she wakes up until she goes to bed. I almost regret showing it to her, but it’s nice to have us both sitting down and watching something that used to bring me so much joy.

My mum used to watch it with me, too. I had wondered why, but now I completely get it, because there is adult humour in there. It’s more of a family show, which they seemed to do so well in the 90s. It’s hard tearing my daughter away from it to get her to do her home schooling, though, so I may have mistimed that introduction.

I haven’t shown her any Tracy Beaker yet, because I don’t want to freak her out. It’s so difficult to explain to a child why you’re inside a TV – to them, it’s like you’ve been trapped there and can’t get out.

I had to do some voiceovers for My Mum Tracy Beaker recently and she came with me, because of the schools being closed. She managed to watch some clips. She was giggling away and when I asked her why she said: “That girl keeps calling you ‘Mum’, but you’re my mummy, not that girl’s.” She found it hilarious and completely confusing. Maybe I’ll show her more when she’s a bit older.

My Mum Tracy Beaker, The Story of Tracy Beaker and Tracy Beaker Returns are on BBC iPlayer


As told to Ammar Kalia

The GuardianTramp

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