Irish-born actress Denise Gough says she is an example of how “immigrants give back” — and, even after 20 years in London, still thinks of herself as a newcomer.
The 36-year-old arrived here from County Clare aged 16, and has spoken of begging and struggling to get by before she won a scholarship at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth.
She told ES Magazine: “I am a white, English-speaking immigrant who has been allowed to use the NHS and Jobseeker’s Allowance, and who got a full scholarship to a drama school. I came here looking for a better life and England allowed me to do that. Now, it throws awards at me and puts me in magazines. I’m an example of how, if you support immigration, the immigrant gives back.”
Gough won Olivier and Critics’ Circle Awards and was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for her role in 2015’s People, Places And Things.
She is returning to the National Theatre to star in a revival of Tony Kushner’s Eighties Aids drama Angels In America with Andrew Garfield and Russell Tovey. She appears in BBC2 thriller Paula opposite Tom Hughes, and will be in the Sky Atlantic series Guerilla alongside Idris Elba and Freida Pinto.
Gough — an advocate of gender and racial equality in theatre who has called for more arts provision for working-class children — said her advice to young actors is “don’t be an a******” nor let fame go to your head: “My mother and father raised 11 children, there are people living in tents so get over yourself.”
The actress, who lives in Hackney, said of Angels: “With someone like Donald Trump in the White House, we need stories about the parts of society that are misrepresented or under-represented. Angels is a good place to start.”