Actor Rakie Ayola, from Harry Potter and Cursed Child

· Actor Rakie Ayola, has received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Warwick

· Ayola has played Hermione in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the London West End, a saviour in Doctor Who with David Tennant and Kyla Tyson in Holby City

· Her advice to students is to re-evaluate the things you hate, as they may actually be the things you love, as her experience was with Shakespeare

Rakie Ayola has received an honorary degree from the University of Warwick for her work in theatre and as a TV actor as well as her production company which aims to increase ethnic representation in the entertainment industry.

Rakie Ayola’s CV spans from acting in Shakespeare plays to films, West End productions and TV. However never did she think she would be awarded an Honorary Degree from the University of Warwick for her work as an actor and her production company.

Upon receiving her Doctorate of Letters on the 22nd July 2019 Ayola said:

“I feel like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz! I feel like someone has said yeah you do have a brain and here’s a certificate to prove it…

“I’ll be facing hundreds of students who have been worked really hard and I’ll just turn up and walk off with my certificate, I’m so happy this is quite surreal.”

Rakie grew up in a council estate in Cardiff, and left school before finishing her a-levels in French and Music after being offered a place to do a diploma in acting at the Royal Welsh college of Music and Drama, with a full grant.

As the acting diploma that wasn’t dependent on her A-levels, she decided that Christmas not to go back to school, and worked at a Littlewoods store full-time until instead of doing her A-Levels.

Once at the College for her Diploma Ayola felt like the person that knew nothing, as she had no proof of an education by certificates compared to others talking about what A-levels they got, however her drive to make a living by acting got her through it.

She then went on to work in youth theatres, where she went on to musicals and plays, but ended up working on a lot of Shakespeare shows which she never liked or engaged with, however in drama school she ended up in a Midsummer Night’s Dream and MacBeth playing leading roles which were out of her comfort zone, but conquered.

Then onto The Merchant of Venice, in which she played Portia with a very diverse cast in Cardiff in 1992, which is when she decided she actually loved Shakespeare, she loved the vocabulary and the freedom on the turn of phrase they have.

One role she never thought she’d play is Hermione in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, when being cast Rakie said she was shocked,

“If you said write down 100 parts you think you would play, Hermione Grainger would not have been one of them…

“My husband said I think you’ll play Hermione and even then I said no and then I took over from her [Noma Dumezweni], but it was not on my radar at all.”

As well as her career on stage Rakie has been in many TV programmes, including her role as nurse Kyla Tyson in Holby City and starring in an episode of Doctor Who in which she saved the day, in the episode ‘Midnight’ with David Tennant.

Whilst working with him she said:

“You never wanted to be the person that messed up, while he had spent hours not messing up for anybody else whenever it was his shot you didn’t want your one word to be the one you got wrong.”

“I spent the whole scene thinking my line, my line, and I think you can see the fear in my eyes! But it was great fun because she [the character] wasn’t very likeable and I like those characters, either you find out why they’re not likeable or they do something wonderful.”

Rakie’s advice for students and those pursuing a career in acting is to re-examine all the things you don’t like, loathe and say you hate, as those things or one of them as one of them may be the thing that propels you forward, she says:

“Don’t dismiss anything, you might be right to hate it but keep reassessing it and allow yourself to change your mind.”

As that’s what she did with Shakespeare plays which got her here today.

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