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From Holby City to the dark side

DARING: Rakie Ayola in No Offence

CARDIFF-BORN actress Rakie Ayola is taking no prisoners.

The former Holby City actress is stepping back from the quiet, caring, 'goody two shoes' roles of her past, and is stepping into 2017 playing the bad-ass, complex character of Nora Attah on the new season of the Channel 4 series, No Offence.

Playing the role of Nora is vastly different for the multi-talented actress, as she wonders towards the dark side in the dramedy series from Shameless creator Paul Abbott.

The female-led show is returning for a second season on January 4 and Life & Style spoke to the actress ahead of the show’s explosive season two premiere.

Life & Style:What attracted you to the role of Nora Attah on No Offence?

Rakie Ayola:She’s complicated, she’s complex, three dimensional and really interesting. It was a no brainer for me, she’s just the kind of character that actors love to get their teeth into.

L&S:Did the role of Nora differ drastically from characters you’ve played in the past?

RA:Yes, because I normally play the caring professional, and she’s definitely not that. So it was a real departure for me and now I know why people like to play the bad guy.

L&S:You previously starred on Holby City and dealt with some pretty traumatic issues on there. Did you find it important for your next role to differ from your last?

RA:I don’t think it’s important unless its important to you. However, I think it’s necessary if you’re going to stay interested in your career. To be honest, if I woke up and decided that I wasn’t going to play characters that swear, or break the law, or are complicated – then there would’t be anymore telly work!

L&S:I noticed that No Offence is led by a trio of female officers. How do you think this show positively contributes to the representation of female led shows?

RA:I think it contributes to this because No Offence is not afraid to show funny women. It’s not afraid to show that women can be funny even when they’re in positions of power. Paul Abbott [creator] created a show where women don’t have to subscribe to being the hard-ass law enforcer and only show one range of emotion or side of themselves. It rejects all those stereotypical notions of female bosses on TV.

L&S:On the show, Nora is perceived as quite a bad-ass character. Are there any hidden layers to her that even surprised you?

RA:Without giving too much away, there’s an episode in which her heart breaks, and I didn’t realise when I took the job that we’d ever see that side of her. When I read the script, I thought; what if we lose Nora by showing that side of her? But actually, it just made her even more complicated.

L&S:As an advocate for ethnic representation on TV, do you find that there has been a lot of progress there?

RA:I’d say there has been some progress, however, I do wonder if a character is non colour-specific, how many black actors would get that job? I’m not sure whether we’re there yet. It’s great that we’re writing more black characters, but unless somebody says ‘this character is black,’ black actors are still less likely to get the job, which is an issue.

L&S:So for the second season of No Offence you had three female directors at the helm for certain episodes. What was it like for you to work with female directors opposed to men?

RA:Well I was cast by Catherine Morshead, who was the first of the three female directors. I feel like she probably championed me as Nora which I’m incredibly grateful for. It was lovely to experience working with female directors because I hadn’t worked with many in the past. They just really understood me and how I wanted to portray Nora, and I really understood them.

L&S:For anyone tuning into No Offence for the first time, what would you like them to take away from the first episode of season two?

RA:I’d love for people to watch the season two premiere and think “Wow! What just happened?” The show is so brilliant, and the writing is so deadpan and witty that sometimes you have to watch it again to catch the humour. But in all honesty, I would love people to watch it and think that this show is kind of brilliant, a little bit crazy and wonder: what on earth is going to happen next week?

The new series of No Offence starts on Channel 4 on January 4, 2017 at 9pm.

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