ITV’s Riches: Deborah Ayorinde Interview

ITV's Riches Deborah Ayorinde Interview

ITV’s Riches: Deborah Ayorinde Interview

ITV drama series Riches centres on the Richards family, led by London tycoon Stephen Richards (Hugh Quarshie).

After his untimely death, his estranged American daughter Nina (Deborah Ayorinde of “Them,” “Harriet,” and “Luke Cage”) and son Simon (Emmanuel Imani) return home, causing no small amount of upheaval in the family dynamic.

Here Deborah tells us what attracted her to the role and the scenes she enjoyed the most.

What drew you to Riches?
The similarities between Nina’s story and my personal story. When I first met Abby I read the script and then I met her via Zoom and I said, ‘Have you been reading my diary?’ because literally this is a lot of elements here are my story, my actual story. It’s just beautiful to see someone who gets it. I’m also very protective over how Black women are portrayed on screen. In reading the script it just felt like it came from another Black woman and also another Black woman who gets it. A person who gets it. That was the biggest thing that drew me to playing Nina.

What do you like/ dislike about Nina?
What I like the most about Nina is she is a powerful woman, she is strong and smart and all of those things and sexy and she’s feminine.

I think a lot of times from my vantage point, when powerful women are often portrayed on screen, they’re often portrayed as being masculine or mothers.

Even those things maybe are representations of powerful women, those are not the only representations of powerful women. So I love the fact that she represents a powerful woman who’s still very in touch and in tune with her femininity. Being a woman is great. Being a woman is very powerful. Walking into a room and being able to own that I think is just beautiful. What I dislike about Nina is she’s not very vulnerable. She’s only truly vulnerable with one person so far and that’s her brother Simon. But she’s working on being more vulnerable. She’s taken out of her comfort zone, so that forces her to explore who she is and navigate things she didn’t know about herself.

Tell us about Flair & Glory and the empire that Stephen’s built
Flair & Glory is a successful beauty brand that has products in the beauty market, the hair market, the skin care market, the make-up market, they really have done well. The conception is that Stephen started it, but really Stephen’s first wife, Nina’s mother started it. And Nina was there during the inception of this business. Flair & Glory is in the Black community, hair and beauty is how we express ourselves, it’s how we introduce ourselves before we even say our name. I think that Flair & Glory is an example of taking that business back into their own hands of the family and navigating that. It’s very cool.

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What would you say are the main themes?
A theme that first comes to mind for me is powerful women who really love men, but don’t necessarily need them. They’re very self-sufficient. The men in this are kind of following their lead. I think the theme of family is definitely prominent in this but it shows that everybody, every family has their stuff, no matter whether you’re rich or poor. We’re all human. We have family drama, we have people don’t get along with, all the messiness. When I first read the script I was like oh my gosh I can relate to a lot of it.

Talk to us about Nina taking over the family business
Picking up where her father left off in the business was almost like her setting the record straight. Her mother started the business and he took it to another level and included Claudia in this, created this thing where it looks like it’s his and Claudia’s, but after a while it becomes not about that, it becomes about something deeper for Nina. Almost wondering and figuring out if this is where she actually belongs. I think for Nina that’s a huge thing of longing for belonging. I think that this business is that for her. And London is that for her as well, finding her place in life, her calling if you will. So I think that’s a really beautiful journey. With ups and downs and craziness and messiness, but it’s really beautiful. I hope that many people can relate to that.

What scenes did you enjoy most?
I think that people will firstly enjoy Nina’s hookups! You know, I haven’t seen them yet but I think they’re kind of hot. People will enjoy scenes with the whole family. We just love each other so much that that shows through on screen. I think they’re really going to enjoy that. Also, any scenes that kind of put our culture, Nigerian culture, front and centre. Unapologetically. I think people are going to enjoy seeing that a lot. You don’t see that often on screen.

And you know, hearing the Yoruba on screen I think will be really, really special.
I’m not fluent in Yoruba. Of all of us, the family, all of us except for Sarah are all Nigerian. Manne and Ola are fluent in Yoruba. So they’ll try and teach us. Sarah will say it back. Let me tell you, it sounds beautiful coming out of her mouth. I’m learning, but they go back and forth, back and forth. To have that on screen is special.

What do you think viewers will take from it?
This portrayal of Black people out of London is not shown often, if at all, from my vantage point. I really hope that viewers can really appreciate the fact that we as Black people, sometimes we’re rich, sometimes we’re this, sometimes we’re that. Seeing a different portrayal on screen, I really hope that people can appreciate that and can see that and appreciate how special that is. And that it can inspire more projects that tell the truth of that we’re not just one thing, we’re not just a few things, don’t put us in a box. I really hope that people take that and in taking that appreciate the nuances of who we are, Nigerians and Caribbean. Also that this is a very human story that happens to centre around Black people at the end of the day. We honour and try to portray our nuances that make us but with respect and love and truth. But we also honour the truth that at the end of the day we’re humans. And this is a story that can stand on its own.

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Describe the importance of hair and beauty in the Black community
I can only speak from my experience, Black hair and beauty is so incredibly important in the Black community and that’s why it has to be right. No matter how rich or poor you are, I don’t know many Black people who don’t put effort and time into their hair and into their beauty. It’s how we express ourselves without words.

With all that we’ve been through throughout history, all the things that were unavailable to us, to be able to express our beauty properly, we’ve still always found a way to make it work, even when there weren’t many beauty brands that fit people with skin like mine. We still found a way to make it work. It’s an honour to have a story like this on screen to say, we put effort into this, we put love into this, to show this is what this means to us.

Who did you use as inspiration?
My main inspiration for Nina was myself. To be honest, I feel like this is the first role that I’ve played that I’ve been able to infuse so much of myself and my story.With Nina, one thing that I appreciate about her is that I get her. I’ve had some experiences like she’s had. And so I was able to pull from a very real place.

How have you seen Black beauty evolve on television?
I think that as far as Black beauty on screen, we’ve come a long way. Being younger I didn’t see many people, any people that looked like me on screen and that was tough. I resolved early on in my mind as a kid I would try and be that for someone else, that representation that I didn’t necessarily have. I think we have a long way to go.

Riches is currently airing Friday’s at 9.00pm on ITV 1 and the whole first season is available on ITVX.

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.