Since training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Akuc Bol booked her first professional stage role as Kay Amin in The Last King of Scotland which ran at Sheffield Crucible from September to October last year. Akuc started her screen career in 2014 as Kazima Tako in popular CBBC series The Dumping Ground, before leaving the show in 2017, and has also filmed episodes of Doctors, Casualty and this year’s Netflix release of Messiah as Mademoiselle Sophie. Speaking with Akuc, we found out about playing Kay Amin in The Last King of Scotland, filming for the Netflix series Messiah and her time as Kazima in The Dumping Ground.
You played Kay Amin in The Last King of Scotland at Sheffield Crucible, can you tell us about your character and what the show was like to be part of?
I played the wife of Idi Amin Dada who was the President of Uganda during the 1970s and led a brutal regime. It was great to play Kay because she was a woman of great strength and endurance. She had lots of grace, charm and character, but given that she was in her thirties, it was a nice challenge for me to try and play older too.
Overall, it was amazing to be part of such a fun, stimulating and beautiful project. Yes, the subject was horrendous and emotional, but the cast was hilarious. Each day you come to rehearsals thinking “I’m having so much fun, I can’t believe I’m at work!”.
How was it having this as your first stage role since finishing training?
The timing was perfect. I had graduated early July and had booked the role about two to three weeks later. I was also running out of money, so that really helped!!!
It was an opportunity to really step up; this was my first chance to put my training to good use and present myself as the respectable professional I want to be known for. My main focus was on excellent professionalism.
What drew you to the script and how was it meeting the rest of the cast for the first time?
Firstly, I wanted to work with Gbolahan Obisesan for a while. I’d been a big fan of his work and his ability to tell stories that pertain to the African diaspora. I’m always here to support my people of colour!
The Last King of Scotland (the book and the movie) is well-known, so it just seemed like an exciting and ambitious project to take part in. I like how there was a blend of emotional stuff and light-heartedness in the script. Plenty of juice to play with as an actor.
From day one, we all got on really well. I have a lot of love for the cast. During our first script read, I was looking around the table, just watching and listening as the characters were brought to life and I was saying to myself “Wow, I can see exactly why everyone’s been cast in their role”. It was incredible. A year later and the group chat is still as active as it was when we first met. That says a lot!
How did you prepare for the role and what was the story like to tell?
I read a lot, watched documentaries, studied the accent and just delved into any relevant material that could help with understanding the context of the play i.e. the political situation in Uganda at the time, and help to develop a believable Kay Amin.
Can you tell us about filming for an episode of Messiah as Madamemoiselle Sophie?
Now, this was definitely one of the highlights of 2018. I got to travel to Jordon for this episode and it was my first time travelling to Asia. I loved working on a big, big project because you have that feeling of things being organised chaos. I love it! I spoke French for this role and literally felt so good about it because earlier that year I had spent about seven months in Paris doing my Erasmus exchange. By the end, I was speaking French really well, but I was still surprised that I managed to convince people that I can play a French teacher. Anyway, many more wonderful Netflix projects to come!
What was Hebe Adnán like to play in Casualty?
This was exciting. It is a fast-paced show, so you always come to set ready. I had worked with the director Mathew Evans before on The Dumping Ground, so crossing paths again was great. I loved working with my co-star Zac – we got on really well and I learned a lot from him about the craft and the hustle of being an actor.
How was it working on the series and being on set?
Short, but sweet!
Having filmed for an episode of Doctors, how was it playing Lyndia Mwangi?
It was some years ago, in 2016 I think, so I don’t quite remember that much. The team were friendly, but I remember not being so confident as an actor. Glad to say I don’t feel that way anymore.
In 2014, you joined the cast of The Dumping Ground, do you remember your first day on set?
Yes! I was nervous. And surprised that I had manifested a screen job within a few weeks of finishing my A-Levels. The cast was friendly and welcoming, and there was plenty of room to learn and make mistakes as a newbie.
What did you enjoy most about being in the cast and being part of a CBBC series?
It was a long project, about four to six months long each year, so we were like a family when we were filming together. The banter and the jokes are what I enjoyed the most. I learnt a lot about myself and about acting for screen. I ended up meeting and working with people of different ages which I believe is very important.
You played Kazima in the show until 2017, can you tell us about playing her?
It was a good challenge. Kazima had an accent so I’m happy that I mastered that and have that securely under my belt. She’s very funny, kind and had a good outlook on life. It was fun doing all the comedy scenes.
I remember in one episode Kazima had to roller skate, but she wasn’t very good at all. I am horrendous at roller skating. I put on the skates, stood up, moved a few steps and before I knew it I had lost my balance and was down on the ground doing the splits. The cast were crying!
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
Hell yes! I always knew I’d be an actor and got into it at school doing plays and then local youth theatre projects. I loved the rehearsals, creating characters, drama games, learning lines and the thrill of being in front of an audience.
What can you say about your training at Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and about some of the roles you played whilst there?
I learned a lot about professionalism and what that specifically means to me in terms of the actor I wanted/want to become. I made mistakes, tried new things and became a lot more confident in my work thanks to RCS. It’s an open-minded, friendly place where learning and growth are the priority. The tools I picked up there will stay with me for life.
I did Shakespeare (which is actually so much more exciting than it initially seems), Maxim Gorky, some comedy roles, American characters… Oh and accents. We did a ton of accents. Those were cool!
What do you enjoy doing away from acting and do you have any favourite TV shows, films or theatre shows to watch?
I like travelling. A lot. I try to go away at the end of every project. I’ve recently finished filming so I went to Greece as a treat. I enjoy simple things like working out, reading, going to the cinema. I love the challenge of languages so at the moment I am learning Arabic, Dinka and doing bits of Yoruba here and there.
At the moment, I am into Ratched on Netflix as I’m a big fan of Ryan Murphy’s work. I recently watched Les Misérables by Ladj Ly which was sensational.