This Newport actor’s career has taken on a whole new dimension with ITV crime drama, The Pembrokeshire Murders, co-starring Luke Evans and Keith Allen, and the BBC’s In My Skin. (Image credit: Alexandria Riley/Twitter)
Proud Newport actor Alexandria Riley’s so far short career is undoubtedly impressive. Whether you’ve listened to her roles in the Doctor Who and Torchwood radio plays, watched her character Natalie in BBC Wales’ The Tuckers, or her portrayal of Leigh in season two of Channel 4 and Netflix’s dark teen comedy, The End of the F***ing World, her diverse talent is a powerful force to be reckoned with.
Acting has always been a passion from a very young age, as she details a vivid childhood memory of playing a dancer in a school production of Bugsy Malone. However, when speaking about her time at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama where she graduated in 2016 with a master’s, Alexandria, 36, opened up about the struggles of being a single parent, separating from her husband and committing to the course. “I remember Dave Bond, who is a legend at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama,” says Alexandria. “I rang him and said, ‘I can’t come, this has happened’ and he just said, ‘turn up for day one and we’ll sort it from there. I went in and he did! He pulled every scholarship, every bursary, anything he could help with, he helped. He supported me every step of the way.”
Now with her daughter following in her mother’s footsteps with a role in The Tuckers, Alexandria admits the balance of parenting and acting her own scenes is challenging. “I’m on set still trying to be a mum,” says Alexandria. “A lot of the time the director was like, ‘Alex, just leave the room!’ She’s getting notes then I’m reiterating the notes; it really put me on edge! I’d be in scenes thinking more about what she was doing then what I was doing, so it was difficult.”
Last year, Alexandria was the subject of a short film called Mixed, created for the New Voices for Wales series and broadcast on BBC Two Wales. She discussed her personal journey being from a mixed-heritage background in her community with South Wales Argus, as her father is Caribbean and mother, Welsh. “What difference does this actually make to how Welsh I am or how Caribbean I am, or where my heritage is?”, says Alexandria, who received lots of praise from other mixed-heritage people for speaking out. “I’ve never been taught my own history, never thought to research it myself and, with the majority of my social circle being white, I never really felt I had the opportunity to have that conversation.”
Alexandria’s highly anticipated TV drama, The Pembrokeshire Murders, is a three-part series called based on the 1985 murders of siblings Helen and Richard Thomas and is to be aired on ITV. The true crime book, The Pembrokeshire Murders: Catching the Bullseye Killer, written by ITV news journalist Jonathan Hill and senior investigating officer, Steve Wilkins, is also an inspiration behind the drama, with production being supported by Welsh Government. “There’s definitely a sense of strong responsibility on everyone that we portray the story as sensitively, honestly and genuinely as possible,” says Alexandria, who will be playing D.I. Ella Richards in the series. “What we’re trying to do is highlight the amazing work that the Dyfed-Powys Police did, how tragic it was, and make people more aware of what happened in that small town.”
Streaming service Britbox is also behind the crime drama which co-stars fellow Welsh actors Luke Evans and Keith Allen. “They’re superb people,” says Alexandria. “I was working very closely with Luke and he’s such a generous person, in terms of his time and how much he gives you as a performer. It was nice to have everyone in one room that all had such strong roots and connections to Wales, and you saw everyone really enjoyed being home.”
Alexandria will also be playing Mrs Morgan in the new BBC comedy drama, In My Skin, following the double life of 16-year-old Bethan Gwyndaf. Created and written by Kayleigh Llewellyn, the series details Bethan’s troubled home life dealing with her mother’s bipolar disorder, alcoholic father, meanwhile playing the part of a self-confident teen. “It’s basically based on Kayleigh’s life,” says Alexandria. “For Kayleigh, if she couldn’t pull something to just lighten the load a little bit, there’s no way she would have got through that. I think to have the feeling that you can get through it and you can smile through it, even at rock bottom, I think that’s quite therapeutic for some people.”
The Pembrokeshire Murders aired in January 2021 on ITV and is now available on the ITV Hub.