Only three years out of drama school and already 26 year old actor Ashley Zhangazha has won first prize at this year’s Ian Charleson Awards, for his performance as Ross in Macbeth at the Crucible, Sheffield. Zhangazha has performed in numerous plays for Royal Court, been on an international tour with the Donmar and will soon be rubbing shoulders with the legends of the British African Caribbean acting world when he stars opposite Lenny Henry in the August Wilson play, Fences, coming to the West End later this month.

The British Blacklist caught up with Ashley to talk about his upcoming role…

Tell us more about Corey, your character in Fences…

Well it’s an amazing play about an African American family set in the 1950s which follows a guy called Troy (Lenny Henry) who’s a garbage collector and all the trials and tribulations he goes through with his family. Troy grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and almost, well actually went to jail. He had the chance of becoming a big baseball player, but because of the colour barriers at the time he wasn’t able to do that so he had to play in the Negro leagues rather than the major leagues. My character Corey (Troy’s son) has dreams of becoming a football player but because of the problems Troy faced when he was younger he denies his son the chance of the dream.

Can you tell us more about Corey’s journey, growing up in this oppressed time, trying to realise his dreams but having his father block his path…

Corey’s journey is fascinating, and probably the best character I’ve ever played. He starts off as a, some would say quite naive 17-year-old boy. But even me in 2013 can appreciate what he’s going through as a young man who has dreams of succeeding. In the play we’re at a time in America on the cusp of civil rights and a generation of young black people who are beginning to believe there are no barriers to achieving their goals. Corey wants to be an American football player, but once that dream’s scuppered we see a lot of angry confrontations between Corey and Troy. All Corey wants is to achieve his dreams, Troy because of his history, opposes that. Without revealing too much, Corey’s journey takes a different route than he was expecting.

Which relates to 2013, we could look at the London Riots, the miscommunication between youth and adults…

Yeah I think it does. Everyone can kind of understand how the play relates to now. Where we all have those issues with our parents where we want something and they want something else for us. I think young people coming to see the play today will definitely appreciate it.

You’re working with some legends fashley_zhangazha_lennyrom the British African Caribbean industry Lenny

Henry, Tanya Moodie…What did you learn from them?

It was fantastic working with Lenny. Everybody knows him, he’s a household name. What’s fantastic about him is that he works unbelievable hard, and he’s really dedicated. He’s been in this business for over 30 years and he’s been able to transfer his skills in comedy into the straight acting world quite seamlessly. He’s very easy to work with. Likewise working with Tanya Moodie who’s been in the industry over 20years worked with the RSC, the National, and Colin McFarlane who was in the Batman franchise, it really is a fantastic cast, for me who’s only 3 years out of drama school, it’s been great working with people I respect and admire.

You got quite a big role for someone fresh out of drama school…

I’ve been incredibly lucky, I went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, I graduated in 2010. I did King Lear at the Donmar which went over to New York; I was lucky enough to do a few plays for the Royal Court, I did a play called Belong last year by Bola Agbaje. I did a play for Debbie Tucker Green. So I really can’t complain. As the years go on I’d like to do a bit of screen work to add to that. I’m just really grateful. I’m 26…

So still a baby! What have you got lined up after Fences?

I don’t know. We have the three month run of Fences at the West End which will take us to September and after that I’m hoping to continue to play good roles on stage and then the screen… Just to add the British Blacklist website is fantastic and really needed!

Thank you!


Fences opens at the London’s Duchess Theatre beginning June 19 – September 14 2013, with an official opening night on June 26. Book tickets here