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16 October 2014
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Rakie Ayola

Actress, Presenter

I studied A levels at Glan Ely High School but didn’t actually sit my exams. I wish I had done my A levels, as I felt I had put myself at a disadvantage by not completing. I then went to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and gained a diploma in acting. 6 weeks before leaving, I was offered a job with the 'Made in Wales' theatre company and that enabled me to get my union card which was very important then. I remember my first pay cheque - being paid to do what I loved to do! I’ve worked in the theatre and television, acting in ‘Soldier, Soldier’ with Robson Green and Jerome Flynn, ‘Shades of Fear’ with Jonathan Pryce, ‘Maisie Raine’ with Pauline Quirke, ‘Nightshift’ with Rhys Ifans and 'Eastenders'. I’m also part of the BBC Wales ‘Double Yellow’ team.

Getting started:
I managed to get a great London agent. This is really important. If your agent isn’t good, you don’t get the jobs! It is so important to choose your agent wisely. The Head of Acting at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama wanted to help me and wrote to 10 agents he considered good. Only one of the ten wrote back! He is also Rhys Ifans’s agent.

The job:
I’ve always wanted to act. I decided at 16 I wanted to make my living acting, but even if I couldn’t, I’d be in an amateur theatre company. At school, careers information didn’t really know how to help so I did the work myself. I wrote off for forms, filled them in and went to auditions alone. I wanted to act and I was determined to succeed. It never seemed impossible to me. You choose what you want, and rather than moaning, try to find a way to do something about it. I’m learning presenting on the job. I’m learning to listen and concentrate, the secrets of being a good presenter.

Big break:
I don’t like the phrase ‘big break’ as it negates everything you’ve done before. I’ve had some great jobs, like working on ‘Soldier, Soldier’ at its peak. I’ve done jobs that have brought me to the attention of the national press but, most times, playing to a few hundred people in a theatre gives far more of a thrill.

Working with Jonathan Pryce and John Hurt was very special. Just watching them, I learnt so much. Also, working with Robson Green and Jerome Flynn because it was such a laugh! I loved working on the sequel to ‘Gone with the Wind’ because I got to wear wonderful frocks and film in South Carolina. I love acting in any of the Shakespeare plays because of the words the characters are given. One special highlight was acting in ‘Hamlet’ in front of 900 GCSE students when there was total silence until the lights went up!

Falling asleep in my dressing room in the middle of ‘Twelfth Night’ and one of the actors had to wake me up. I had to run on stage and afterwards bought the entire company a drink to apologise!

Worst job:
Selling jeans on a market stall in winter. It was freezing erecting the stall. Also, I worked as a chambermaid whilst at drama school and the smell of disinfectant stays with me!

Tips from the top:
There’s a lot more to acting than appearing on television - go to the theatre to know more. Don’t do the job to be famous. You don’t need talent to be famous. Remember when you go to an audition, you don’t have to go in fear. You have a choice as well. If you don’t get the job, it’s not the end of the world, the part wasn’t for you. Finally, you can be good, but if you don’t take advice, you’ll never be great.

Cymraeg (Welsh)

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Cerys Matthews
David Emanuel

Derek Brockway

Huw Edwards

Josie D'Arby & Lisa Rogers
Kelly Jones

Rakie Ayola
Shan Cothi
Shenkin the Goat
Sian Lloyd
Sooty the Guinea Pig
Stifyn Parri
Tim Vincent


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