Actress Alexandra Roach reveals how she was told to be ‘less Welsh’
Actress Alexandra Roach has revealed how she spent the early part of her career being told to be “less Welsh”.
She also told how she failed an audition when she spoke in her natural accent.
The irony is that she’s now starring in bilingual drama The Light in the Hall / Y Golaua – a drama set in Carmarthenshire, filmed both in English and her native Welsh tongue.
“In that audition, as soon as I spoke, he was like, ‘No’ and I was ushered out,” she recalls in an interview with the Radio Times. “Thinking of little me in that moment, whose chin was wobbling, I wish I could say, ‘Just you wait, you’ll be the lead in a big new drama, using your voice and even speaking Welsh. I’d love to wrap my arms around her and tell her that.”
Starring in six-part psychological thriller The Light in the Hall/Y Golau is a poignant moment not lost on the 34-year-old, who trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).
Directed by Andy Newbery (of Keeping Faith) and Chris Forster (of Hidden), Alexandra plays Cat Donato, a journalist who moves back to her home village.
The actress is best known for the TV series Utopia and No Offence, as well as playing the young Margaret Thatcher in the 2011 film The Iron Lady (with Meryl Streep in the older role). She also recently starred in Killing Eve.
Y Golau/The Light in The Hall is described as a gripping and decidedly dark six-part drama centring around murdered teenager Ela Roberts.
Filmed in and around Ammanford, the drama reunites Alexandra with her No Offence co-star Joanna Scanlan, while the sinister Game of Thrones tyrant Iwan Reon plays the convicted murderer on the verge of parole.
The female co-stars had different starting points when it came to the Welsh language, and admit they both found filming bilingually challenging initially.
Alexandra said: “It’s my first job in Welsh since leaving Pobol Y Cwm when I was 15 or 16. I haven’t lived in Wales since I was 17 so I was feeling really anxious about turning up on that first day and doing the English version and then ‘reit – nawr mewn i’r Gymraeg’. I was like ‘o my gosh am I going to be able to do this’.
“And that first couple of weeks doing back-to-back [English and Welsh] – you have to almost make new neurological pathways in your brain! That’s what it felt like especially after having had a baby just seven weeks before. By the end of week two you think ‘ah ok, I get this’ – and it becomes a very rewarding experience.”
Joanna described the project as one of her career highlights, but also one of the hardest things she has done, as, despite growing up in Wales, she was not a Welsh speaker at school.
She said: “Pleasure and pain mixed up together. Wales is a wonderful place to work. I’ve worked there a lot anyway, in the English language, but Welsh language TV is quite special.
“When I was asked to do this, I initially thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is an incredible honour to be asked to act in Welsh!’ – a kind of dream I’ve had since I was a child.
“I did lots of drama at school in a Welsh language environment, but I was never a Welsh speaker. However, when we actually got going, I was useless at it. Completely hopeless and pathetic.
“My niece came down to stay with me and she just drilled me. She’s North Walian, and that’s where my character’s from.”
Y Golau is on S4C with English subtitles available. It will be available on demand via S4C Clic, iPlayer and other platforms and the English version will air on Channel 4 and All4.
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