The actress cast as Cilla Black in a new musical about her life has revealed she was offered words of wisdom from the late star as a youngster.
Newcomer Kara Lily Hayworth landed the coveted role over thousands of other hopefuls after entering open auditions.
The Watford-born actress, who recently performed in Secret Cinema’s Moulin Rouge and was trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama, met the Blind Date presenter as a schoolgirl and was told to “work hard and go for it” if she wanted to become an actress.
She said: “When I was 11 I was shopping with my mum and bumped into Cilla and asked her for an autograph.
“I told her I wanted to be an actress – she laughed and said ‘It’s a tough industry, but if you really work hard and go for it, you’ll be just fine.'”
Hayworth added: “She was a huge inspiration to me as a child; I grew up watching her on Blind Date every Saturday night with my nan.
“To be chosen to play her is such an honour and I’m so excited to take on the role.”
Cilla – The Musical is produced by the Anyone Who Had A Heart singer’s son, Robert Willis, who said his mother would have been delighted with the choice.
“We wanted somebody who wasn’t going to impersonate my mum but someone who could capture her spirit,” he said.
“Kara came in with her huge personality and amazing voice – when I saw the response of the audience at the Cavern, I knew she was the one my mum would have wanted.”
The show, which will debut at the Liverpool Empire in September before moving around the country, is based on Jeff Pope’s ITV mini-series retelling her early life and the story of her rocky rise to stardom.
Black’s career in the limelight spanned six decades before her sudden death, aged 72, after a fall at her villa in Spain in August 2015.
:: Cilla – The Musical opens at the Liverpool Empire on September 7.