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Actress Alexandra Roach reveals how she was told to be ‘less Welsh’

23 May 2022 4 minute read
Alexandra Roach (Credit: S4C)

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.

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

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 Scanlan (Credit: S4C)

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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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 year ago

Again more Cymrophobia towards Wales and the Welsh. Can you imagine someone saying similar to actress Maureen Lipman or countdown presenter Rachel Riley to be less Jewish. You’d have wall to wall BBC, SKY, CH4, ITV coverage with the British Board of Jews demanding an apology for the hurt caused. But we are told , “get a sense of humour Taffy” , “it’s only banter” often said by the English media who use regular Anti-Welsh tropes. We don’t have that protection as native people. I can recall similar said when BBC announced the return of Doctor Who in 2005 and… Read more »

arthur owen
1 year ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Maureen Lipman was very Jewish,to the point of caricature,in the BT ad she is not at all Jewish in Coronation Street,that is called acting.I’m sure Alexandra Roach can do the same sort ot thing.

1 year ago

Should have decked the c@nt

1 year ago

Yet another waste of money filming bilingually! Why can’t the Sais watch it with sub-titles as they do many other drama series? That’s what happens in our house!

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
1 year ago
Reply to  Ann

The Scandinavians watch lots of English language programming. Hinterland was bought before filming started by Danmarks radio then sold to at least 12 countries, 30 territories and to Netflix in the US and Canada. If they can sell it to Scandinavia it seems to open up more markets.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kerry Davies
1 year ago

In the first ‘Suspicions of Mr. Witcher’ story, she plays the murdereress Constance Kent in a middle class English accent, but in one short incident when she gets accused of murder, Constance gets scared and angry, and her Welsh accent comes through. Great scene.
Actores wych, yn fy marn i.

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