‘Black British actresses are getting less out of the conversation when it comes on to race and success’.
This is one of the first things Cherrelle Skeete says to me about her experience of being a Black actress. As somber as that reality is, Cherrelle continuously mentions hope, a hope for those that come after her, and the hope that those who came before her, gave her. This is what keeps Cherrelle acting and led her to create Blacktress, a support group for Black actresses in the UK.
Cherrelle is set to play Tonya, in King Hedley II, an August Wilson play showing at Theatre Royal Stratford East. She tells me that playing Tonya is a dream come true and doing an August Wilson play is a dream come true. Cherrelle also says the same for her role as Rose in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and all the roles she has had in her career. Let’s be honest, an August Wilson play is no small feat, we have seen the likes of Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, Danai Gurira, and Phylicia Rashad tackle these complex characters and excel. Cherrelle Skeete will be no different.
BB: Cherrelle, than-
At this point, the phone cuts off, and we have to get reconnected.
BB: Sorry, I don’t know what happened there!
CS: MI5! They don’t want us to have this conversation, they don’t want it to be happening!
We both take a moment to calm ourselves from laughing too much.
BB: So Cherrelle, how did you get into acting?
CS: I actually thought I was going to go into dance! [laughs]. The dream was to dance behind Janet Jackson and Missy Elliot. I started off with my own street dance, youth dance company in Birmingham (which is where I’m from), called CRC, and I started that with a few of my friends when I was at college. At the same time, I was also doing drama, and someone told me that the stuff I was doing was called physical theatre, and from there my teacher told me to audition to some drama schools. Thankfully, at the time there were lots of grants that I could use to come to London and I auditioned for a few schools, the main two were RADA and Central [School of Speech and Drama]. I didn’t know how to audition, it was very very very bad [laughs], but that’s another story! The following year, I auditioned again and I got into Central, and that was when I really took acting seriously. I moved to London in 2008, graduated and my first role was in a play called ‘And I and Silence’ by a woman called Naomi Wallace and I’ve been going from there.