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The Railway Children: meet the new kids on the block

Meet the stars of this summer's must-see family movie

railway children group
James King
Film Columnist
July 15, 2022
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The classic children’s story The Railway Children is a phenomenon. First published in 1905 it’s since been adapted for radio, television and film multiple times - most famously in 1970, in a much-loved big-screen version starring Call the Midwife’s Jenny Agutter when she was just 17 years old. Now the story is set to become popular all over again with a brilliant sequel - The Railway Children Return - released in cinemas just in time for the school holidays.

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Set once again in the Yorkshire village of Oakworth, The Railway Children Return takes up the story forty years later, towards the end of the Second World War, with Agutter’s Bobbie Waterbury now a grandmother. Along with her daughter Annie (Sheridan Smith), she takes in three evacuees from Manchester - Lily, Pattie and Ted - who, after befriending Annie’s son Thomas, find adventure at the local railway station in the form of runaway teenager Abe, an underage American GI hiding from the authorities.

WATCH: James King meets the new railway children!

New Yorker KJ Aikens plays Abe and the 18-year-old, who you might recognise from TV shows such as Pose and Blue Bloods, told HELLO! how much he relished swapping the Big Apple for Yorkshire Dales. “I was very happy to be there… seeing all the greenery. Where we were staying we were waking up and seeing sheep and little lambs and ducks by the pond. I was like ‘Woah, this is amazing!’ [But] the weather is very indecisive here!

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"I’d wake up and I’d never know if it was going to be hot, cold, rainy, hail! The weather was not cooperative at all but the people in production did a great job with their movie magic to make it look so sunny and bright and amazing”.

KJ’s co-stars, 11-year-old Eden Hamilton and 9-year-old Zac Cudby, are both making their film debuts in The Railway Children Return but Austin Haynes (who plays Thomas) and Beau Gadson (Lily) are industry veterans, despite only being 14 and 15-years-old respectively. Beau’s first film was the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One in 2016 and she’s since starred in The Crown, as a young Princess Margaret, and alongside Katherine Ryan in the hit sitcom The Duchess.

railway children

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Austin, meanwhile, will be familiar to fans of TV dramas All Creatures Great and Small and The A Word. In fact, he’s been acting so long that Austin says even his school friends are no longer impressed: “I’ve done it for years. I started when I was seven… When I moved into high school they sort of got used to it quickly, so when I’m away for months they’re just like ‘Ah, so you were filming again? Yeah yeah’. So you just get on with it”.

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It’s a lifestyle that means blending school work with shooting - something that’s not always easy admits Beau. “We’d do tutor zoom calls on set. The filming days were pretty packed. It would be one scene to the next. And then the next day waking up early. So it was a lot. And on my days off I’d definitely try to catch up and when I got back to school I did some extra lunchtimes. But it was good fun and it was definitely worth it”.

And with major roles in both the upcoming Netflix serial Treason and big-screen thriller The Critic (alongside Gemma Arterton), it looks as if Beau’s not going to be taking things easy for a while.

THE RAILWAY CHILDREN RETURN is only in cinemas from July 15

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