Meet Adelayo Adedayo, star of the BBC's brand new drama, 'The Responder'

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Photo credit: Michael Shelford
Photo credit: Michael Shelford

Adelayo Adedayo may not yet be a household name, but she is no stranger to our screens. You will have seen her as a plucky resistance fighter in the BBC’s juggernaut show The Capture, alongside Calum Turner, or in ITV’s Unsaid Stories in the summer of 2020 – a series of tales inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. She may have made you laugh out loud in the time-travelling comedy Timewasters or made you cry, whoop and chuckle as the beating heart of BBC Three’s witty – and criminally unsung – sitcom Some Girls. But it may well be her latest role, as rookie policewoman Rachel in BBC’s latest drama The Responder, that will put her on the map.

“I’m not naturally drawn to police dramas,” she admits, shrugging with a warm, infectious smile which is on display throughout our conversation. “But I fell in love with the way this was written. The script can go from dark to light, from really funny to really crazy, just in a single conversation. And I just really liked that. I feel like it is really human.”

The Responder – which co-stars an unrecognisable Martin Freeman as hardened officer Chris – may be awash with policing vernacular, "bent coppers" and a seedy, creeping underworld, but Line of Duty it is not. Though it is written, with unflinching detail, by British author and former police officer Tony Schumacher, it is more concerned with the psychological toll of the job; the humanity behind the force at its most mundane moments.

Photo credit: Rekha Garton
Photo credit: Rekha Garton

“It’s not about big murders to solve or heists, it’s about the day-to-day reality of policing, which is often just seeing the same local characters every night,” says Adedayo. “We have a complex relationship with the police sometimes, but the way this is written really digs into the people behind the uniform. The whole show is about who we are beyond the social perception of us, from the police to characters in the show who are addicts or homeless. It explores them as just a person.”

Adedayo says she was drawn to Rachel because of her bravery. “This is a woman not only putting her life on the line every night but also standing up to her superiors,” she explains. “I loved her layers. She has this desperate need to do everything the correct way, which comes into direct conflict with how Chris works. For Rachel, her journey is kind of like an awakening. She doesn't want to let go of what she knows. Because for her, if you let go of that, there's no control.”

In many ways, Rachel is a departure from Adedayo’s comedic TV roles, but not from the varied, often dark, parts she has explored on stage; with powerful turns in The Seagull at the Lyric Hammersmith and Is God Is at the Royal Court, among others. Of the latter – a riotous Afro Punk take on the spaghetti western – she expounds the joys of the production, and the chance to play one of “two women who are usually on the edges of society, brought to the forefront”.

Photo credit: ©Tristram Kenton
Photo credit: ©Tristram Kenton

“It was the maddest kind of story – energetic and erratic. But I really enjoyed that there were two badass women on stage just being at the centre of their lives, and really taking control,” she laughs, pondering the revenge storyline before adding: “I mean, you know, obviously the way they were doing things… I wouldn’t recommend.”

She credits much of her career with her training at London’s Identity drama school, which she remembers as “the best start possible in the industry”. Identity, famously the alma mater of fellow Brit superstars John Boyega and Letitia Wright, prides itself on championing actors of colour and, through its connected talent agency, on seeking out roles that go beyond the stereotypical parts too often doled out.

Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

“My casting experiences have bettered over the years. The things that I'm going in for now are different to what I was going in for before; there's a there's a bigger range that I'm being considered for, but still a lot of work to be done,” she says. “I’ve worked on things that are definitely putting people that aren't usually in the forefront in the forefront, so I do think we are moving in the right direction. But that might not be everyone’s experience.”

Her repertoire is, she says, gratifyingly varied. She enjoys her thus far diverse range of comic, tragic, stage and screen, but says she misses Viva, her character in Some Girls, grinning as she details how she still gets messages to this day from fans begging for the show to return. Meanwhile, she has another exciting project in the works – though she is tight-lipped about it – and says she longs to start writing her own material. “It’s something I’m working on,” she smiles.

Until then, she has but one request for her career. “I really want to work with Issa Rae,” she laughs. “Can you put that in big bold capitals? Please can I work with Issa Rae?” When asked then, if a move to Hollywood is on the cards, she merely grins and says: “My real goal in terms of what I do is to work on scripts where I think the writing is rare. If that happens to take me somewhere warm and sunny, all the better.”

Photo credit: Karwai Tang
Photo credit: Karwai Tang

The Responder is on BBC One and BBC iPlayer now. Some Girls is streaming on BBC iplayer.

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