Why actor Jade Anouka is one to watch in 2018

Sparring on stage as Henry IV’s Hotspur and playing political power games as Mark Antony in Julius Caesar has given actress Jade Anouka a taste for borrowing parts from the boys. 

The hot new stage star wowed critics in Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare trilogy at the Donmar Warehouse in 2016. And now she’s tried her hand at the Bard’s big roles, she’s gunning for 007. ‘I’d love to have a crack at James Bond,’ she laughs. ‘I love action, so yeah!’

Anouka, 28, was named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow last autumn, and is clearly on the brink of mainstream success. 

Anouka, 28, was named a Screen International Star of Tomorrow last autumn, and is clearly on the brink of mainstream success with new TV roles in Trauma and Clean Break

This year she’s starring in two eagerly awaited ITV dramas. In Mike Bartlett’s three-part thriller Trauma she appears alongside Adrian Lester as the daughter of a doctor who is held accountable for the death of a teenage boy in his care. 

Meanwhile, insider-trading series Clean Break sees her team up with Sheridan Smith.

Her crackling chemistry with Smith was one of the reasons Anouka thinks she landed the part. ‘I’m a bit silly and so is she, so we have a good time. My problem is once I start giggling I find it hard to stop, but she taught me that you have to be able to do your work once they call action.’

Swapping gags with an Olivier award-winner isn’t bad for someone who ‘never thought you could be an actor as a job’. She joined a performing arts Saturday school at the age of 11 to let off steam after giving up athletics. 

This led to the National Youth Theatre, a holiday programme at Greenwich Theatre in London and her first professional gig, where she realised acting could be a viable career. ‘I was like, what? You’re paying me to do something that I love doing!’

She trained at Guildford School of Acting before working with the RSC. Soon after came the Donmar Shakespeare trilogy, where she discovered the allure of tackling male roles. 

Gender-blind casting is useful when putting on theatre evergreens such as Shakespeare, she says, but equality between the sexes on stage also relies on new writing putting female characters in charge of the action. 

‘Plays being written now aren’t following the outline of men pushing the plot on while women are just the girlfriend or sorting out domestic stuff.’

The job she’s most proud of is Errol John’s post-war play Moon On A Rainbow Shawl at the National Theatre in 2012. 

After discovering it was set in Trinidad, where Anouka’s mother is from, she ‘wrote to anyone who would listen’, begging for an audition. ‘There aren’t many Trinidadian plays. My parents had put so much into helping me achieve, so it felt really special.’

In her spare time, Anouka makes films of the poetry she writes, enlisting help from theatre grandees such as Dame Judi Dench. 

Might she one day devise her own scripts? Ramping up the word count might be a problem, she says. ‘Even my poems are pretty short. I thought I’d written a whole play but I gave it to some friends to read and they said, “That is a great first act.”

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