Rose Ayling-Ellis: ‘I’ve Always Had To Fight Harder To Get Opportunities’

Rose Ayling-Ellis talks BAFTA Breakthrough and the importance of accurate representation of the deaf community.

rose ayling ellis

by Aaliyah Harry |
Published on

Rose Ayling-Ellis wants you to know that the deaf community have stories to tell on screen that are not just centred around their disability. ‘Yes, we have to push through certain barriers because we are deaf - but we also just experience life,’ she explains. ‘We go through daily challenges like everyone else – we just happen to be deaf too.’

Through her inclusion in the annual BAFTA Breakthrough talent initiative - she hopes to one day be at the forefront of that change and hold open the door for the next generation of deaf actors. She explains, 'I feel responsible because I’ve got this profile and I want to carry on doing the work to keep breaking the barriers for deaf actors. It's hard to be an actor and break through in this industry - it’s even harder when you're deaf.'

BAFTA Breakthrough is the arts charity’s flagship talent initiative that nurtures the next generation of creative talent. Breakthrough participants receive unique professional development support from BAFTA – from coaching and mentoring to networking opportunities. Rose is now sitting comfortably in line with a host of successful BAFTA breakthrough alumni like Florence Pughand Daisy May Cooper. ‘How mad is that? I love their work; especially Daisy May Cooper’s Am I Being Unreasonable? That is such a good programme and I literally binge watched the whole thing.’


She adds, ‘I feel very excited and quite ambitious about this. I feel like I want to grab every opportunity and make the most of it. It honestly doesn’t feel real yet – I think everything I've done in the last few years doesn’t feel real yet.’ Anyone would understand why; Rose has had many milestone moments in the past couple of years, and her feet have barely touched the ground.

I’ve always been a big believer of putting yourself into uncomfortable zones because that’s how you grow.

We were first introduced to Rose in 2020 playing Frankie Carter on long-running soap Eastenders. She says, 'With EastEnders I was the first deaf regular actor on the show - which was amazing. What I loved about playing Frankie was that her whole storyline wasn’t just about being deaf.' She adds, 'I really did like working at EastEnders, but I was ready for a new challenge.'

And while she was still featuring on the soap, a new challenge did arise. When she stepped on the dance floor with Giovanni Pernice in Strictly Come Dancing last year – a whole new audience fell in love with her and the way she represented her community. The battle for the glitter ball trophy was fierce, but she came out on top after a BAFTA award-winning must-see momentfeaturing a spine-tingling silent dance. She explains that viewers still tell her how much that dance means to them almost a year later.

Rose says, 'I still don’t think it’s sunk in just how much that dance means to people. During Strictly, I was just so busy doing the dance. Then to win a BAFTA I thought wow, this really did impact so many people. We inspired so many people though movement and reminded people about the power of dance.'

Rose Ayling-Ellis, Performer and BAFTA Breakthrough UK for 2022/23. CREDIT: <strong><em>BAFTA/</em><a href=";;sdata=cbIi%2Bayj0w4pSCkxQuRyf7KJ7sNBqpyg8MLTJzr4FV8%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener"><em>Sophia Spring</em></a></strong>

She explains that through the representation on screen, it translated in greater understanding of the deaf community. Rose says, ‘It moved people so much that they became quite keen and wanted to learn more about us. I've had a lot of deaf people coming up to me and saying that attitudes have slightly changed. Not completely, it’s not perfect and there are still a lot of political issues. However, people are not so frightened of interacting with us now. She adds, I’ve now heard people saying “Oh, I want to learn sign language. It's fun. It's so cool.” I never expected to hear that in a million years.'

But what roles would she like to take on next? She explains, 'I want to do film, TV series, and I want to create stories that feature multiple deaf actors and perform with them. I don't want our disability to be the sole focus of the role. I want to play a layered character like a superhero or even a villain.' For many, seeing Rose as a villain would be an adjustment. ‘That’s why I want to do it – I would love to play an evil character,’ she says candidly. 'Everyone sees me as being quite sweet - playing an evil character is the opposite of who I am. It would be a great challenge.’

While we know Rose for making waves in front of the camera, she expresses that she would also like to push for change from behind the scenes in the future. Rose explains, 'I would really like to have a production company and create an accessible acting programme. I’m such a big believer in if you’re talking about the need for diversity - you have to bring in a team or teachers that have truly had those life experiences. I feel like that still doesn’t happen enough. She adds, 'I keep talking about the dire need for it but why can’t I just do it myself? That's my dream.'

The Full BAFTA Breakthrough 2022 List

UK Breakthroughs

    US Breakthroughs

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