Adjoa Andoh says she cleaned toilets before other actresses helped her career

·2-min read

Adjoa Andoh has said she cleaned toilets and modelled for life drawing classes before other black actresses offered their “generous” help by telling her about where to go for auditions.

The 59-year-old actress, who plays Lady Danbury in Bridgerton and is known for her stage roles in various Shakespeare productions, said she has tried to “open the door wider for others” since her success.

Andoh told magazine Red how she moved at 21 to a squat in Brixton, London, and did not act in her first year.

She said: “I learned to lay concrete floors and hang ceilings… I cleaned toilets and modelled for life drawing classes.

“But slowly, I bumped into other Black, female actors, who told me about auditions.

“Those acts of generosity – while putting me directly in competition with them – have stayed with me.

“When you get into a position, you open the door wider for others – you don’t pull up the ladder. That’s what I hope I’ve continued to do throughout my career.”

Andoh is starring in an upcoming adaptation of Julia Donaldson children’s book The Smeds And The Smoos as well as directing Richard III on stage and playing the king next year.

She was also recently announced as a judge for next year’s Booker Prize along with comedian Robert Webb and chair Canadian novelist Esi Edugyan.

Earlier this year, she voiced a powerful campaign video called Change Is Here for the UK’s first national and independent civil rights group the Black Equity Organisation (BEO).

Andoh also said during the interview: “I’m forever interested in amplifying the voices of people who don’t get heard.

“The point is, when you do the thing you love, it shouldn’t feel like work. I get to play for a living – what a treat.”

She also spoke about being a grandmother and raising a transgender child.

Andoh said: “My feeling is hold your peace until you know of what you speak.

“Why on earth are we creating a society that means people feel so reviled and un-allowable that they would rather end their lives?

“For me, your gig as a parent is to raise your child up, keep them from falling under a bus and teach them to do unto others. I’m a mother and I want all my children to thrive; it’s a no-brainer.”

She added: “I was never the sort of person who felt like my children had to give me grandchildren, but I was absolutely taken aback by just how much I love him.”

The full interview with Adjoa Andoh is available in the January issue of Red, now on sale.