TBB Talks To…Tracy Ifeachor Star of BBC1’s Showtrial

Tracy Ifeachor has had an extensive career in both theatre and TV, she is best known for playing the role of Aya Al-Rashid in The CW vampire series The Originals, Lydia Hall in ABC thriller series Quantico and Kuasa Jiwe in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Her latest role is that of Cleo Roberts in the highly anticipated Showtrial a five-part drama that explores how prejudice, politics and the media distort the legal process. Cleo Roberts, the duty solicitor on the night of Talitha’s arrest. Refusing her father’s help, Talitha wants Cleo to lead her defence against a prosecution that is weaponising Talitha’s gender and social privilege against her.

Tracy shares with us what drew her to play her character, the importance of her taking on the lead role of a solicitor in a courtroom drama where diversity is non-prevalent and who she hopes to inspire while doing so.

Please introduce yourself…

Afu m Tracy Ifeachor, Enzinolum bu Igbo, I’m Tracy Ifeachor I celebrate my Igbo heritage and I am an international actor and currently the lead of Showtrial for BBC1’s new crime drama. The latest from World Productions who make Vigil and Line of Duty.

Please share a word or sentence that describes your life right now.

A Jesus-centred nomadic life.

Showtrial is from the creators of one of the most-watched TV dramas Line of Duty. Is there any pressure to get even a smidgen of the success?

That just makes me more excited! It leaves me feeling like I’m in a safe, collaborative pair of hands! All we can ever do is our best. We have a great show with authentic lived-in characters and I’m really proud of it. I learnt so much from this process

Photo credit: Joss Barrett

Your character Cleo Roberts seems very self-assured, not very easily intimated by money or power, but we also see that she is hiding a more vulnerable side and maybe even a secret that she is keeping will we see more of what burdens her as the story progresses?

Cleo cares a lot about justice and protecting the justice system. Justice comes at a price and she is well aware of what that is. If we deny it to the guilty, we deny it to the innocent people who can’t afford to pay the price of it – in legal fees. She fights for that. We absolutely will see her go on a journey and be challenged and learn things that surprise her. I love that we get to know her slowly, like a fine wine of a character.

What was it about Cleo that drew you to her, did you add anything to the character that was not originally scripted? Were there any scenes that you felt were more challenging than others?

At the time, I was offered a series regular on an American project and this role. It was a tough decision but ultimately, I had never before seen, what I felt, was my voice on UK television screens before. I love black stories and stories with black people in them but…. an educated dark-skinned black woman saving the day and fighting for justice in a lead role? No, I hadn’t seen that before. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong! Other than I May Destroy You, a co-production with HBO and the BBC, I cannot think of a dark-skinned black female lead before. We cannot be what we cannot see so if in any way I could help light a path for those coming after me, that those kids would be proud when they see a Nigerian name appearing on screen and that in some way they might then be encouraged and inspired, then to me that is worth 1000 roles.

The show explores the way in which money, influence, public opinion and media attention can navigate a murder trial and the consequences of it. For me, the most obvious trial murder trial that comes to mind is that of O.J Simpson. Did you research any true crime docs to get a feel for the part? And what is your take on the subject matter?

There are trials that are MUCH closer to home but while this piece is not based on one specific case, it does draw parallels to the real-world justice system in this country. That’s why I asked to go to court for a day and experience cases being prosecuted. It was mind-blowing. I even got to sit in while two opposing counsels side-bar and tried to negotiate a deal out of court. It was riveting. As well as the experiential process, I always do a deep dive emotionally into each person I play so it’s a multi-pronged approach. I also really liked 24 Hours In Police Custody. Together with my visit to court and speaking to solicitor advocate Cecilia Goodwin (Defending Digga D), I can see how a fact can be changed depending on who is looking at it. We are all looking through different lenses based on our own experiences, no matter how objective we try to be. It’s just a matter of being aware of that and realizing that we are all human!

Showtrial has been a work in progress from the initial script written in 2015 with several drafts over 4 years, then after being greenlit, it took a hiatus during the pandemic and shooting started in March. At what point in the timeline did you join and were any significant changes made due to the pandemic and covid restrictions?

I did a self-tape with a friend over zoom while I was locked down in New York last Christmas and then the first day the office opened again in January I met on zoom with the creative team to talk about the role and a few days later, I had a decision to make. I chose Showtrial. The writing is really good I think Ben Richards and Simon Heath have created something really special. It’s a great cast and the crew were amazing.

The series features a great cast including Sharon D. Clarke will we be seeing any interactions between your characters?  

Sharon is great, isn’t she?! What a force. I’ve followed her work for years, she’s always been so kind to me whenever we’ve met and we have a lot of the same friends, but this is the first time we’ve worked together I believe. That. Is all I can say!

Celine Buckens and Tracy Ifeachor in ‘Showtrial’. (Image credit: BBC)

Do have any projects on the horizon that you are working on?

Yes, I’ve just been offered an amazing movie with a fantastic cast. I’ve actually just been covid tested and can’t wait to begin. It’s top-secret on my end but my involvement will be announced in due course and I cannot wait to share it with you at that point!

GETTING TO KNOW YOU…

A book you have to have in your collection.  Oh, that’s a tough one. Can I have 3? I cannot live without The Word. I really like the NIV version of the bible. The verses are so encouraging and just bring peace to me. It’s my foundation now, I start every day with it. Then Things Fall Apart but that’s a given right? Boundaries by Henry Cloud and Jon Townsend. A must-read.

A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?  That’s a tough one. Probably, There’s Hope and I Am Not My Hair and Wings Of Forgiveness and The Heart Of The Matter (Testimony: Vol. 1 Life & Relationship) by India Arie, in fact, the whole album and anything by John Legend!

A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?  Notting Hill and Pride & Prejudice the BBC version. I am such a hopeful romantic!

The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? It was Things Fall Apart at the Plymouth Theatre Royal. Sand covered the entire floor, and the lighting and performances were electric. I knew at that moment I had the acting bug.

What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Hmmm. What made me sad this week, not getting a role I’d set my heart on after a long saga to get there and multiple rounds. I know, champagne problems and I’m an actor so it is bound to happen, but it doesn’t make it easier. I hold on to the fact that God knows what is best.

What made me mad? Multiple people who cough or sneeze without considerately covering their mouth or even wearing a mask whilst sitting right next to you! Why…?

What made me glad? Speaking to my Goddaughters in LA. They are hilarious and I love the way they see the world. I also loved that I got to have dinner and catch up with friends now that I’m back in England


Showtrial premiered Sunday 31st October on BBC One with episodes airing every Sunday. Full series available on BBC iPlayer

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