Actor Sara Lloyd-Gregory has, in the last couple of years, experiences and extremely significant period of her career. Earlier this year she won Best Actress BAFTA Cymru award for her leading role in the television drama Alys, and she has just followed that up with a starring role in the first storyline of S4C’s new ‘Nordic noir’ thriller Y Gwyll/Hinterland. Gary Raymond caught up with her just after the first story aired to rave reviews.
Gary Raymond: For such a young actress you have had a varied and distinguished career, already punctuated by the award of a BAFTA Cymru for your lead role in Alys – (and against some pretty formidable opposition, not least Mali Harries, who ended up co-starring with you in Y Gwyll recently). How did the role of Alys come about and how did that role grow into the success it has been?
Sara Lloyd-Gregory: I was filming in Llandudno, North Wales when my agent phoned and said that Cwmni Apollo had called asking if I’d be interested in playing the title role in a new series called Alys. It was never mentioned that it was written with me in mind, which was a very good thing, as I still had to audition for it and would’ve probably felt more pressure. As soon as I read the first episode I was utterly hooked by the world Siwan had captured and the characters she had created.
Can you explain something of the relationship between you and Siwan Jones – it’s a remarkable thing for a writer when they find that actor who they want to write for; is that what you and Siwan have now?
I first met Siwan in 2009. Siwan wrote Con Passionate, a fantastic, award-winning drama that I was very excited to join in its third and final series. My character was quite feisty and cunning so I think the cogs may have started turning then. I am in awe of her talent and love to read her work; you forget that it’s a script and get completely immersed in her stories. I haven’t asked Siwan ‘why me?’, you’d have to ask her, but I have loved every minute of being Alys, a character that just completely fell into place from the start, and will always be a part of me. As far as being involved in all of Siwan’s projects, how utterly amazing it would be to be a writer’s muse!! Especially a writer with such a diverse imagination.
What does the future hold for Alys, now that it has a BAFTA attached to it?
At the moment, there isn’t talk of another series of Alys. We had the best time with both series and the BAFTA is definitely the icing on the cake for me, to finish with such a high level of recognition is more than enough. Never say never, though. It would be nice to release the Alys part of me again, who knows!
Are there differences, apart from the obvious one, between the nature of Welsh language drama on television and English language drama? Are there different pressures? Different requirements? Are there differences in the stories being told, and most importantly, are they being told differently?
I strongly believe that language isn’t and shouldn’t be a barrier in film and television, and I think that Y Gwyll/Hinterland shows this perfectly. There was a high number of English speakers watching Y Gwyll with subtitles and loved it. I feel very lucky to be able to speak both languages and to be able to create drama bilingually which means that we can reach out to all kinds of audiences. I definitely think that BBC4 has opened the door with The Killing and The Bridge etc. Now it’s Wales’ turn and it’s been done brilliantly. The beauty of Y Gwyll/Hinterland is that you, as the audience, can watch both and make up your own mind if there are any differences in the way the stories are being told.
You had a starring role in the first story of S4C’s Y Gwyll which recently aired. That was shot in both English and Welsh – how did that process affect your interpretation of the character?
Before starting, the process seemed a little nerve-racking as I hadn’t shot anything bilingually before. I was involved in the first story, so the entire cast and crew were all getting to grips with the ‘language swapping process’ for the first time, which eased my nerves a bit as we were all in it together! I don’t feel like my interpretation of the character changed with the language. I don’t think that my physical and mental interpretation of Catrin (my character) would change depending on the language I speak. There isn’t a Welsh Catrin and an English Catrin… saying that, you might watch both versions and see differences in performance because every ‘camera take’ is different.
With Y Gwyll, Welsh language drama has a bit of attention from outside its usual audience at the moment. Is that a fair reflection on how strong it is at the moment?
The calibre of the series is very strong and can stand shoulder to shoulder with other series of its genre, in my opinion. What’s wonderful, I think, is that it has given Welsh drama a higher platform. It’s exciting to see what the future holds.
You come from a background in theatre, is that right? What do you think of the opinion at the moment that Welsh theatre has the potential to be on the verge of entering a golden age?
I absolutely agree. A lot of theatre companies are continually working hard to bring diverse theatre to venues all across Wales. There is so much happening which is a joy to see and inspiring to be a part of. I feel privileged to have had a wonderful balance of television and theatre in my career so far, and I feel that there is a want and a hard working ethic at the moment, in Wales, to stand with the best.
Do you see yourself returning to theatre at any point?
Earlier this year I performed in Love and Money with Waking Exploits Theatre Company, a brilliant young company who bring new writing and modern theatre to Wales, and share plays that you might only see in London. And I took part in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time, this summer. I love acting, whether it’s stage or screen.
You seem to have made an effort to concentrate your career in Wales, in both languages. Would that be the right impression? And do you have ambitions to break out?
I think it’s just fallen that way. As I said earlier, I feel very lucky to be a bilingual actor and therefore tend to work in both languages here in Wales. I would love to spread my wings in the future, we’ll see what happens.
So with two hit shows, and a BAFTA Cymru award under your belt, what is on the horizon for you?
A holiday! I’m going to New York for a break and can’t wait. And, I have a film called Get Up and Go coming out in the next few months which was filmed over in Ireland so watch out for that.