When thinking about the best of Welsh acting talent, Rakie Ayola is sure to spring to mind.
Rakie is an actress, appearing in theatre, tv, film and radio and is the co-founder of Shanty
Productions. We were lucky enough to catch up with Rakie ahead of her acceptance of the
prestigious Siân Phillips Award. One of BAFTA Cymru’s highest honours, this award is
presented to a Welsh individual who has made significant contributions to television. Since
we met, Rakie was also awarded ‘Best Actress’ at BAFTA Cymru 2023.
Image credit: Getty Images.
Rakie, it’s an absolute pleasure to meet you! Let’s start from the beginning. Your
childhood and how you got into acting, can you tell us more?
“Hey guys, absolutely! I was watching Barbara Streisand in ‘Hello Dolly’ one Christmas and
from then on, I just knew I wanted to be on television. I saw this extraordinary woman with
big hats, singing in the street and I thought, I want to be able to sing in the street; for people
to not care, and for everyone to join in! I would also watch the BAFTAs where people would
win these ‘shiny things’ and I thought, I’d quite like to have some shiny things of my own.
I would take part in things such as the Christmas play and Eisteddfod when I was at Windsor
Clive Primary School, and then went onto Glan Ely High where the drama teacher told my
Mum “an hour of drama a week isn’t enough for her”. From then on, every Saturday morning
you’d find me at the Orbit Theatre, Mill Lane. This introduced me to the world of amaetur
I knew from young that my dream was to pay my bills through acting, but you’re meant to
love the art and not expect to earn a living from it. I wanted to do both. I wanted to live a life
where coffee tables didn’t get smashed and ashtrays didn’t fly across the room. I recognised
the situation at home wasn’t working for me, so I changed it. Just like when school wasn’t
working out for me, so I managed to secure myself a spot at the Royal Welsh College of
Music and Drama, fully funded. It actually took a few months for my Dad to notice that I
wasn’t going to school anymore!”
The Pact, Doctor Who, Grace… those are just a few shows to name! Do you have any
“The Pact was huge for me because I was leading the show and I was an executive
producer on it, so I’m closer to it than any job I’ve ever done. I’m really proud that the family
were at the centre of a drama set in Wales. Grace, what a lovely team of people. Everyone
I’ve worked with has been so lovely. There’s also a show I’ve been working on called ‘Chaos’
which will be available to stream on Netflix next year. I hope people love watching it as much
as we did making it!”
Your daughter is following in your footsteps, studying drama. Do you think getting
into the arts from a young age is beneficial?
“In short, absolutely. We all have to act every day of our lives. For example, if you’re having
a bad day, it’s polite to act like you’re not. In a professional capacity, doctors need to learn
how to communicate with patients in a way that doesn’t leave them confused, and lawyers
are acting all the time on behalf of their clients. It’s that communication piece and I think it’s a
shame that drama still carries that stigma in education of “oh, it’s a waste of time”.
What advice would you give aspiring actors who may not have many opportunities
available to them?
“Find out about any low cost theatre schemes that you can sign up to. Watch stuff. I talk to a
lot of young actors and they don’t watch stuff. How do you learn if you don’t observe? Watch
people older than you and younger than you. Particularly older than you, because if things
go the way you want them to, you’ll be acting throughout your adult life. Also, understand
what people from other walks of life are doing so you can widen your points of reference.
You will only be this age and look this way for a certain amount of time.”
Lastly, what’s your proudest achievement to date?
“I mean, the Siân Phillips Award, what an honour. It never occurred to me that my name
would be in the mix for that. I used to watch ‘I, Claudius’ (when I should have been in bed),
so this feels like a real full circle moment for me.”
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for Rakie in Netflix’s ‘Chaos’, available to stream in 2024!
Image Credit: Ejatu Shore
To find out more about the incredible accolades of Rakie Ayola, visit: