EastEnders’ Natalie Cassidy is among stars paying tribute to drama school founder Anna Scher, who has died at 78, having taught names including Daniel Kaluuya, Kathy Burke and Gary Kemp.
Scher was widely known for championing young, working-class actors, and founded her school in London in 1968.
“She was amazing, I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for Anna,” Cassidy told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Pauline Quirke, Linda Robson and Patsy Palmer also attended Scher’s school.
It has also seen the likes of Naomi Harris, Adam Deacon and Joe Swash go through its doors.
Talent agency Nic Night Management confirmed Scher’s death, calling her “the best and kindest drama teacher in the UK for the last 50 years”, adding she was “joining her husband, Charles, in a better place to rest”.
“She will be missed but never forgotten.”
Cassidy, who was taught by Scher and has roles including Sonia Fowler in BBC One soap EastEnders, called it a “sad day”.
“I feel very, very proud to have been one of Anna’s people,” she said. “I started at the theatre. I went along with my best friend when I was nine, you wandered up the road. You paid £1.50 and got two hours of the best teaching you could ever have.
“And Anna’s was not just about the drama side of it. I learned more from Anna than any school teacher that I ever had.
“I learned about diversity, equality. I learned about words. I found my love for poetry, there was improvisation. It was about respect, and it was about being individual.”
Cassidy added that one of her favourite memories was “a wonderful saying Anna used to say to us, which was. ‘Keep your eye on the ball – I am the ball’.”
A host of stars said Scher had changed the course of their lives, and how much they valued her teaching and guidance.
Actor and director Burke, whose films include Tinker Tailor Solder Spy and Elizabeth, tweeted: “We thank you and love you.”