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Rebecca Grant Chats BBC’s Showtrial, Working With Line of Duty Producers and Growing Up in Nottingham

5 January 22 interview: Yasmin Turner
photos: Steve Ullathorne

Actress, singer, dancer and artist – Rebecca Grant has done a lot since growing up in Nottingham and beginning her career in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical Bombay Dreams, aged just nineteen. We chat to the talented all-rounder about her time in Notts, passion projects and her most recent appearance in BBC’s Showtrial

How was your experience of growing up in Nottingham?
It’s a fun-loving and hardworking, but at the same time relaxed and positive, type of town. Even though my mum is from the Philippines, growing up around it all - going to Nora Morrison’s School of Dance and Good Shepherd School - I was ingrained in that community and nurturing of talent, the hardworking ethos and culture. The best two years of my life were in Nottingham at Clarendon College, with the most talented, beautifully diverse and hilarious actors. I loved it!

Did Nottingham have an impact on your early career and your decision to go into the field of arts?
Yeah, for sure. I never went to The Television Workshop [a globally renowned BAFTA-winning charity delivering actor training in Nottingham], but I had friends who went there and set the bar high at an early age. I used to go to the dance competitions in Nottingham that Sheridan Smith went to; she raised the bar more. So I grew up in a culture of talent, especially at my dance school where we had people going to the Royal Ballet.

It did affect my career because I started working hard from the age of four. But it wasn’t just about working, it was about trying to be the best you can be - and the ethos in Nottingham, at my dance school and in drama class, was that as long as you strive for this, that’s all you can do. The community-based network of support towards the arts in children really affected my career, and it gave me discipline. It decided my natural progression into the entertainment industry.

Nottingham’s network of support towards the arts really affected my career, and it gave me discipline

Your most recent work as an actress includes the BBC mini-series Showtrial, where you play barrister Nisha Baria. What was your experience like on this?
Oh, fantastic! It was filmed in the middle of the pandemic, so we were being tested every day and we had to wear masks but, despite all of that, I was really grateful for the opportunity, and impressed with the strength of these production companies. It was a privilege working with incredible actors and I was worried about being able to really raise the bar - but hopefully I have. Zara Hayes, the female director - well I shouldn’t say female director, she’s a director. I say female because there needs to be more female directors! But she really was a fantastic individual to work with, she brought out all the little nuances of each character that contributed to the bigger picture and impact of Showtrial. It was also such an honour to work with the producers who created Line of Duty.

You also starred in BBC’s Holby City. Do you embrace your multicultural background when taking on roles or working with different directors, such as legendary Spanish playwright Federico Garcia Lorca in Yerma?
The Indian community holds the largest population working for the NHS, but Filipinos are actually second and severely underrepresented in these hospital dramas. I was honoured to play that role and represent the community. My background is also Spanish, my great-grandmother was Spanish because of movement in the Spanish Revolution, and when I am cast in a role where their nationality is ambiguous, wherever I get a chance to mention it, I will.

It was such an honour to work with the producers who created Line of Duty

As well as working for large companies, you’ve been a part of smaller projects such as the short film Safe Space, based on the survivors of human trafficking. How does it feel to support films with such important messages attached to them?
Human trafficking is such a vast criminal activity. People should be aware of what it is, the buying and selling of humans, and be able to spot the signs. Safe Space is a gentle gradient to start helping everyone to understand that people are fleeing their countries, sometimes from traffickers or the government, or some kind of domination, for a safer life. Waking up the population through the arts is my duty, I feel.

What’s next for your career?
I’m focusing more on television, but I am producing my own play on Frida Kahlo, which we’re starting to develop in February. I was always fascinated with her growing up. I was in and out of Queen’s Medical Centre with asthma and eczema and, although I suffered silently with it, you would say it was a disability. I was a woman of colour and didn’t have issues surrounding my identity, but I never quite had a role model. I discovered I could look up to Frida Kahlo because she was disabled, she had pain, she was a creator and a woman of colour. I would like to delve into her more to see why she is so relatable and why people like to engage with her work.

Will you be returning to Nottingham any time soon?
Yes, I really want to. I think I’ll probably come back for my fortieth this year. I’ll also meet my fellow artist friend, Pete Stowage, who is becoming a national treasure in Nottingham. When I was sixteen, I remember going to his art studio with my GCSE work and going, “Can I paint here with you?”. He was surprised by my forwardness, but was like, “Sure, come in,” and a few times a week I would go there and we would paint together, playing Latin American and world music. I loved it and that’s where I started selling my artwork, at Byard Lane.

Showtrial is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

@RebeccaGrant4

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