Joanna Scanlan reveals struggles of becoming a Welsh speaker for new Channel 4 drama

Joanna Scanlan filmed The Light in the Hall in Welsh and English. (Channel 4)
Joanna Scanlan filmed The Light in the Hall in Welsh and English. (Channel 4)

Joanna Scanlan has opened up on challenging herself by filming her new Channel 4 drama in both Welsh and English – despite only having started learning the Welsh language last year.

The Larkins star has a lead role in The Light in the Hall, a Welsh-set series where she plays a grieving mother whose daughter's killer is about to be released from prison on parole.

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But despite having grown up in Wales and having Welsh family, Scanlan explained that she had only started learning the language last year when she took part in the learner’s programme Iaith Ar Daith.

Scanlan admitted she couldn't believe she had now landed a Welsh-speaking role, as the drama filmed two versions – one in Welsh and one in English.

Joanna Scanlan plays a grieving mother. (Channel 4)
Joanna Scanlan plays a grieving mother. (Channel 4)

She said: "I can’t believe firstly that they thought of me and secondly that they thought I could do it! The only way I can rationalise it is - well, if they’re crazy enough to think I could do a Welsh language drama, then I’ve got to be crazy enough to try! And I have loved every second of it even though it is massively challenging.

"And it is hard, there is no doubt, but you get so much reward for that work that it is quite compelling. You just want to go back and do it again.

"It’s been absolutely wonderful and I can’t thank them enough for taking a punt on me. I’m staggered and I am a better person for doing this, no doubt about it in my mind!"

The drama is set in Wales. (Channel 4)
The drama is set in Wales. (Channel 4)

The actor admitted she had felt out of her depth at times in getting to grips with the language differences.

She said: "I feel like I’m swimming in the sea in the dark in the middle of the night sometimes just hoping that I’m going to reach the shore."

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But she said that her niece had helped her out a lot with her lines.

"When you get to my age – most of the things that you do in your life you’re pretty competent at," she said. "When you go into the kitchen you can cook your dinner. It’s really a horrible feeling of almost vulnerable humiliation when you’re really bad at something. Nobody’s actually judging you but you judge yourself.

"And so it’s really nice having a family member because you feel less vulnerable making mistakes in front of them. She is 100% supportive and sends me lovely texts all the time."

Scanlan also added that her Welsh family felt very proud: "They are really excited about it. My mum is especially excited about it because she’s long been a supporter of the Welsh language and has had a lot of friends who have been involved in the development of the Welsh language.

"She’s always been very proud of being Welsh herself and living in Wales. She does speak a bit of Welsh so she’s been really thrilled."

The Light in the Hall begins tonight at 9pm on Channel 4.