Rising star Ruth set for BBC drama

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

ETHIOPIAN-born actress Ruth Negga, who grew up in Limerick, has been cast in an iconic role as the lead in new BBC drama ‘Shirley Bassey: A Very British Diva’.

ETHIOPIAN-born actress Ruth Negga, who grew up in Limerick, has been cast in an iconic role as the lead in new BBC drama ‘Shirley Bassey: A Very British Diva’.

The rising star, who recently appeared in RTE’s Love/Hate and previously had roles in BBC’s Criminal Justice and E4’s Misfits, will play Bassey in the film, which is set “against the backdrop of mixed-race Britain from the Thirties to the Sixties” and charts the singer’s journey from poverty to global stardom. It will air in the autumn.

Negga said she was “thrilled” with the casting, saying it was “an absolute honour to be playing her in such an intimate story of her life”.

The striking actress, seen as a serious star in the making in Irish film circles, has also appeared in Neil Jordan’s Breakfast On Pluto and Ciaran O’Connor’s Trafficked.

Born in 1982 in her father’s native Ethiopia, Negga lived there until she was four, before moving to Limerick, from where her mother’s family hail. Ruth’s father died in a car accident when she was just seven.

Negga went to school in Limerick - attending primary in Scoil An Spioraid Naomh in Roxborough, Ballysheedy and the Mount for a time - later moving to London with her mum when she was 18, where she is currently based.

Speaking in an interview last year, Negga said that, although she missed out on a relationship with her father, she felt part of a large, loving group while living in Limerick, where she “had a very, very close-knit family”.

“My mum has a lot of brothers. My family is quite boy-heavy actually, so I had a lot of male input in my life,” she explained.

She added that she didn’t experience any racism while growing up in Limerick, “probably because black and brown people were an unknown quantity then. My auntie used to take me down to the Crescent shopping centre and people used to stare. I was definitely a sort of fascination.”