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Actor Iwan Rheon reflects on working in Wales and in Welsh

05 Jun 2022 4 minute read
Iwan Rheon in Y Golau, image by S4C

His work as an actor had taken Iwan Rheon all over the world – but his present role as unassuming gardener Joe Pritchard in the exciting new drama Y Golau on S4C has brought him home to Wales.

Y Golau/The Light in The Hall is described as a gripping and decidedly dark six-part drama centring around murdered teenager Ela Roberts.

The sinister Game of Thrones tyrant Iwan Reon plays the convicted murderer on the verge of parole, while the drama reunites Alexandra with her No Offence co-star Joanna Scanlan.

With the drama unfolding every Sunday night, Iwan, who also starred in Skins, has been reflecting on his role in the drama.

“At the beginning of the programme, Joe is released from jail and he goes back to Llanemlyn, where everything happened,” he said.

“But he has dis-sociative amnesia – he doesn’t remember exactly what happened because of the trauma in his life before this. His brain has more or less shut down, so he doesn’t remember anything that happened.

“He’s obviously had a very tough life and I think he is a very fragile person – he’s had a hard life. But I think the mystery behind the whole drama is – did he do it?

“He thinks he did. So this has a big impact on him – because he thinks he’s killed somebody.”

Bilingual filming

The filming took place in and around Ammanford, following in the footsteps of dual language filming of Y Gwyll/Hinterland and Un Bore Mercher/Keeping Faith, and his co-stars have both spoken of their different challenges about working in Welsh.

Joanna Scanlon had to learn from scratch as despite growing up in Wales, she was not brought up a Welsh speaker, while Alexandra Roach had not used the language for some time.

Iwan said: “It has been quite a while since I worked in Welsh and I really enjoyed it. I had been looking for something in Welsh and when Y Golau came along.

“I thought the script was strong and it was something I really wanted to do. But it was quite tricky going back and forth between the two languages. Luckily for me Joe is a very quiet character – especially in the first episode!”

Filming around Carmarthenshire meant Alexandra Roach was close to her family home, and she said she enjoyed having that connection while on location.

Iwan Rheon said he similarly enjoyed the return: “It was great to be back in Wales. I spent a lot of time filming in the Llandeilo area. It was really nice to be able to speak Welsh on set.

“My family is from North Wales but I was born in Carmarthen. But my parents moved to Cardiff when I was five, so I grew up there. I am quite familiar with the area and I do recall little bits about Carmarthen.”

Joanna Scanlon, Iwan Rheon & Alexandra Roach star in Y Golau, image by S4C


Comparing the experience to working on Game of Thrones, in which he plaid the wicked and cruel Ramsey Bolton, he said: “The thing with Game of Thrones was that you spent a lot less time on set because there were so many different characters.

“With Y Golau, Joe’s character is so intense and in so much pain – nothing good happens to him! I had to work out in every scene what he was feeling and what had happened to him.

“In a way, because Game of Thrones was a fantasy, it didn’t feel so ‘real’. Y Golau is quite naturalistic and it feels quite heavy to play a character like that for a long time.”

Y Golau is available to watch now on S4C Clic and BBC iPlayer.

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1 year ago

Welsh noir in both languages has proved a winning formula, beginning with ‘A Mind to Kill’, starring Philip Madoc, in the nineties and naughties.

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