Tell us about your character Alesha
Alesha is the firstborn daughter to Claudia and Stephen Richards. She is a beauty blogger. She’s a really interesting character because we find Alesha in a really interesting place at the start of the series. She goes on this really incredible journey. Almost like a new woman. But she’s quite guarded in herself and quite separate from the family to begin with. But then events and situations happen in her life that makes her open up a little bit and become a little bit involved. Nina is also a sort of catalyst for that as well. She really encourages her and really sees something in her, which makes her open up and start to understand herself more and know where her place is and her worth, which is really nice to see over the series.
What do you want audience members to know about your character?
I think viewers should be patient with her. She goes on a very interesting journey and she is really influenced a lot by the situations that happen. I think sometimes you can question her choices and motives and I think people should just be really patient with her, because she’s also trying to work herself out, work out what’s happening and developing. I felt like I’ve had to be patient with her trying to understand why she makes these choices, what she’s doing. I’m hoping that audiences can do the same.
How did you react when you first found out you were cast?
I found out about Riches when I was coming out of a hot yoga class, actually. I finished a class and I had six missed calls – I thought this is either really good news or bad news. My agent said, ‘You’ve been cast as Alesha in Riches!’ I absolutely broke down in tears in my car. I was so happy and so grateful. It’s been absolutely amazing on set.We’ve just bonded so much as a family. It literally feels like we’re brothers and sisters. It’s just been such a lovely experience.
What drew you to Abby’s scripts?
This will sound so simple, but it was such a great story. Every page I was like, ‘This is so interesting, so detailed, so dramatic and bold.’ Also the characters are such an interesting collective of characters that you root for them at different points. I find that so amazing. For me personally when I watch TV, I’m always rooting for one particular person, whereas with Riches I was like I’m rooting for this person at this moment, now I’m rooting for no-one, now I’m rooting for two people… It was such a refreshing read.
Do you share characteristics with your character?
I would say me and Alesha share some characteristics. I’m definitely not a beauty blogger. I’ve only just learned how to do eyeshadow properly. The one thing we share in common is that we’re quite guarded. We’re very protective of our space and our aura and energy. This is why she goes on such an interesting journey over the show.
Tell us about Flair & Glory and Alesha’s role within that
The Flair & Glory empire, a machine of a company, is a really successful beauty company, which has come from Alesha’s dad. The company is the top selling Black company. Stephen would be in the top 10 most influential Black businessmen. Alesha has seen her dad, and her mum, build this from the bottom up. She would overhear conversations between her mum and dad in the kitchen, meetings.. seeing it grow and grow and grow over the years. As she got older she sort of realised that she didn’t want to necessarily have anything handed to her on a plate. So when we find her at the start of the show she’s not part of the empire, she’s built her own mini empire from beauty blogging and her business.
Over the course of the show she is pulled in unexpectedly and she’s given this responsibility unexpectedly. Even though it’s her area and her expertise, she’s pulled into the empire and finds herself trying to figure out her place, know her worth, push herself out of comfort zone, and that’s an interesting journey for me and an interesting journey I’ve been on with her.
How would you describe the dynamics of the family?
It’s chaotic I would say. They are thrown into new information where they’re like, ‘Oh wow, I have a half-brother and a half-sister that I’ve never met and have no idea about.’ And how they react to that? She reacts differently to her brother and sister. She’s more open to them.
Have you formed great relationships with your on-screen family?
We had the best time. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to take me through this show. From the first time we met we just bonded so well. You watch the show and it’s really dramatic and there’s lots of drama but in between takes we’re taking the mick, we’re laughing with each other, dancing. We’re just so close and so bonded, it makes this experience feel so special. It’s like I’m acting with my family in a family drama, it’s just wonderful.
Are there any characters or real people you used as inspiration for the character of Alesha?
While I was researching Alesha I came across a wealth of beauty bloggers, in particular who stood out for me, was Jennie Jenkins. She is an OG. She is brilliant. On her Instagram you have to scroll down and see the absolute colour of looks she creates on herself with her wigs and all her make-up, so I really took a lot of inspiration from her. There are a lot of Black women on Instagram, who aren’t necessarily beauty bloggers, who know how to do beauty really well, so I just followed them. I checked out their style, their different types of wig and everything. I spoke to my make-up designer and we had good communication and we came to this middle ground where we used a little bit of eyeshadow from this picture and lipstick from this picture, hair style from this picture and put it together.
How have you seen Black beauty evolve on screen?
My earliest memory of seeing Black women on TV is quite sad to say that I don’t really have any, because they weren’t on TV as much. I think over the years that has changed slowly. Especially in the last 5- 10 years. But I do think we have a very long way to go with how we represent Black women on TV. I know in my really short time of being an actress on set sometimes it’s quite frustrating when you’re put in a situation where you have to really fight for how you want to look on TV and how you want to be seen or perceived. I’ve gone to set where I’ve had to bring my own make-up because it hasn’t been provided or I’ve had to really sit down and say, ‘This is my skin tone, it’s very difficult to match, can we have a conversation?’ Which is fine but it feels I’m constantly having to do that. But I do think that’s changing. I do think we have a very long way to go but it’s something we do need to talk about and push for.
What difference does it make to have Black creators/ showrunners?
It’s so amazing to have Abby as the writer and showrunner and as the director. What is so great about why this show has been cast is that five/ six of us are Nigerian, which is deliberate in relation to the story and Abby is also Nigerian. These little nuances that come from the Nigerian culture, we’ve been able to implement that in some of the scenes. It makes it that extra bit special. We all have this shared understanding of the culture, to be able to bring that to a script and to a scene and have the writer /director really understand that has been absolutely wonderful and great and has made this project really special.
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