BAFTA winner Rakie Ayola: 'Doors need to be opened for working class people to get into acting'

  • Rakie Ayola spoke candidly with ITV Wales' Nest Jenkins.

Award winning Welsh actor Rakie Ayola says "lots of doors need to be opened" for people from working class backgrounds to get into the performing arts industry.

In a candid interview with Nest Jenkins on ITV Wales' Backstage, 'The Pact' actor said a lot has changed since she first started acting.

When asked if enough is being done to encourage people from working class backgrounds, she said "lots of doors need to be opened."

She added: "We're making it really difficult for people who don't have money. I know that I went to Welsh College of Music and Drama before it was Royal and I went there on a full grant from the education authority that paid my rent and my fee.

A star of both stage and onscreen, multi award winning actor Rakie Ayola had her big break on the hit ITV show 'Soldier Soldier' in 1993. Credit: ITV Wales

"I did National New Theatre of Wales with Michael Sheen and Ruth Jones and my four weeks residential course was paid for because my dad didn't have any money.

"I don't think those streams of grants now exist coming to performing arts."

A star of both stage and screen, multi-award winning actor Rakie Ayola had her big break on the hit ITV show Soldier Soldier in 1993.

Born in the Ely area of Cardiff, her career spans over three decades.

She has featured in Black Mirror, Doctor Who and played the role of Hermione in the Harry Potter stage play.

More recently, she has been working behind the scenes as a producer for the short film, Hedgehog.

Ayola said it is important to celebrate other women in the industry. She said "if one person moves forward, then we all move forward.

"Most of the women that are in my typical casting bracket, are in my phonebook. They are my friends. I celebrate their successes and they celebrate mine."

In 2023, Rakie Ayola was the 18th recipient of the prestigious BAFTA Cymru Siân Phillips Award.

Ayola said it is important to amplify voices from marginalised communities.

She said: "There are a lot of stories to tell. Of course, we shouldn't stop telling the stories that we've traditionally told.

"But let's open the doors to telling new stories and telling old stories in different ways. It's about just keeping theatre alive really and keeping it relevant.

"And don't be afraid of a history that you didn't know and a history that might not be positive.

"Let's investigate it and let's look at it from different angles. Let's understand how we got to where we are and try to do it better moving forward."

In a candid interview with Nest Jenkins on ITV Wales' Backstage, the actor opened up about celebrating women. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Ayola said the industry is "getting better" but things "need to keep changing".

She said: "It's absolutely getting better. The fact that I'm still doing it, the fact that I'm sat here and I'm still doing new things.

"After all these decades and I'm still able to do new things. So, yes there's change but we need to keep changing. But don't be afraid to share and let's make the table bigger and let's add more chairs to the table.

"I'm here because Cardiff has a very rich West African tradition. Let's not be afraid of that and let's celebrate it."

  • Watch Nest Jenkins' interview with Rakie Ayola on Backstage this Sunday at 7pm on ITV Cymru Wales and later online.

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