Men Ask

DYFAN REES

For our Welsh friends, Dyfan Rees will probably be a household name, for the rest of us, Dyfan is an actor and one of the stars of the BBCs longest-running soap opera....no, not EastEnders, but the Welsh-language series Pobol y Cwm.

Not only that, Dyfan and the team behind the show were lucky enough to win the Mind Media Award in 2015 for Dyfan's portrayal of OCD, through his character Iolo White.  Here we talk about that and how he prepared for the challenge and many other topics. It's a brilliant interview (but then we would say that!) so find out for yourself below!


First of all, let us be one of the last people to congratulate you on your Mind Media Award in 2015. How does it feel to win an award like that?

Image courtesy of Pobol y Cwm's Twitter feed at @BBCPobolyCwm

Image courtesy of Pobol y Cwm's Twitter feed at @BBCPobolyCwm

Thank you! It's a great feeling. Mind is such a great charity and it was a pleasure to be a part of it.  Celebrating positive portrayal in a main stream award ceremony like this is so important to change people's perceptions of mental illnesses.

Whilst the show’s name is on the trophy, it was your performance that won. Have you had to fight the rest of cast to keep the award?

Not at all. It's our trophy and is in the Production office. Where it belongs! Everyone worked so hard and it's great we can all share that.

For those who don’t know, Pobol y Cwm (which means People of the Valley) is actually the BBCs longest-running television soap opera and the most watched programme on welsh channel S4C. How did it feel, as an actor, to join such a prestigious show?

It's an absolute honour to be a part of such a show; the cast, crew and the producers are fantastic and work so hard. I have to admit It's always a surreal moment when on the street of Pobol y Cwm and remembering that I work there! But I think it's more of a shock for my grandparents, who love the show! 

Pobol y Cwm hasn’t shyed away from covering mental illness. They also won the Mind Media Award in 2009 for the portrayal of post-natal depression. How did you feel when you first heard that Iolo’s storyline would be covering OCD?

I was excited by the challenge. As an actor all you want to do is try and do the story justice.  It was a challenge, but I'm proud that a charity like Mind have given us their seal of approval in a way and feel that we have helped in some way by telling this story.

What was your understanding of OCD at that time?

I didn't know much about it, but once I read into it and researched myself, I saw how serious it was.
Pobol y Cwm's researchers helped me meet someone who was recovering from the illness and that really helped me a lot. After that, it gave me even more of a drive to do well in this storyline. I wanted to give this person a voice and show everyone who weren't aware of this realise how severe it is. You always want to do your best for everyone involved.

Iolo is a very likeable character. Where you worried that the stigma mental illness sometimes endures would affect how viewers perceived him once the storyline developed?

Not at all - OCD and other mental illnesses are complex and so often misunderstood.  This was an opportunity for the audience to understand Iolo better.

What kind of research did you do to ensure you could deliver a realistic portrayal? Where did you (and the writers) even start?

Every medical story on Pobol y Cwm is thoroughly researched and discussions are had with many experts and patients during the storylining and filming process.  I met with a few people who live with OCD from day-to-day and learnt a lot from them. 

I also spoke to support group leaders in order to understand both sides of the condition and the affect it can have on them, as well as friends and family.

How did your research alter your perception of OCD? Was there anything you were determined to tackle to help in people’s perception?

I didn't expect the effect if has on individuals from day to day to be so serious. I had to portray the guts and determination it takes to deal with rituals before even being able to leave the house in the morning.

What kind of reaction have you had from people with OCD since the show has aired?

It's been positive and that's what makes me really like what I do. All I want is to do justice to the story and people who are dealing with this. Give them a voice. Positive portrayal of mental health is something I really care about and feel that everyone should be made aware of it to break the taboos attached to it.

What kind of things do you do to relax, away from the show?

Golf, snooker, any sport really. And going out and spending time with my girlfriend Sara and my family. They're always there supporting me and I see myself very lucky to have them in my life.

You recently took part in a tree-planting project to create Wales’ First World War Centenary Wood at Coed Ffos Las. Why was that important to you?

It's somewhere that is by the village I grew up and I would always try and be there or support anything that I can in my area. I feel you should always remember where you are from and do your best to represent them.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Are you going to be ‘Ken Barlow’ or ‘Ian Beale’ of Pobol y Cwm?

They are two great actors and I respect them very much! I always loved Pobol y Cwm, it was my grandfather's favourite show and therefore I will always have a soft spot for it. Always hoping that he's looking down proud of me.
If I continue to have strong stories that challenge me and the show wants me, I would be more than happy to still be here in 10 years!

One day, do you think you’ll be following Ioan Gruffudd away from Cwmderi and onto Hollywood? 

Never say never!

When you’re feeling low, which of these would you always turn to make you feel better…

Movie....

The Wrestler.

Song...

They're two; either 'Holocene' by Bon Iver or 'Hoppípolla' by Sigur Rós.

Album....

Bon Iver - For Emma Forever Ago

TV Show…

The Office

Place….

Crwbin

Book…

Any autobiographies

For a show, like Pobol y Cwm, that has such a intense working schedule, how do you make sure you’re on top form to deliver the quality of work you do?

I think it's muscle / mind memory! You do something so many times you just get used to it! I started the show when I was 19 and found it difficult at the start, but I luckily had friends in the show that I looked up to and I learnt from them.
I observed how they would prepare for scenes and work. Then tried to do that myself. I'm very lucky because I do get to learn off the best here! I never forget that, I'm so grateful to all of the cast for always being there when you need them! It's really like a family.

This next question is going to require a brutally honest answer from you. Be truthful. Can you correctly pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch?

Easy! Can do it over and over.. Maybe even better than my Twitter friend Liam Dutton! .. Who did say it on Channel 4 weather

‘Only’ around 20% of Welsh people actually speak Welsh. How do you feel about that as a proud Welshman?

I wish that would be higher. But I do feel that this is growing every year and it's getting stronger. I have great pride in the Welsh language. I feel that it really does make us unique as a nation that we have that. 

As part of our ‘chain reaction’ feature, one guests asks a question of the next, our last guest, David Kingsbury, he wanted to know….What would be your advice for someone looking to follow their dream job that is lacking the confidence to do so?

Always do something that scares you. It'll make you stronger, always have character and believe in yourself because, as Paul Newman said; "A man with no enemies has no character. Always back yourself, because trust me you will surprise yourself."

As a self-proclaimed retired Chewbacca impersonator, has the success of the latest Star Wars film made you reconsider your position?

I never left! Ha-ha

Finally, complete this sentence. It’s important to talk about male mental health because…….

You're not alone.

A brilliant interview given by a genuinely wonderful guy. We wanted to say a huge thank you to Dyfan for finding time in his busy schedule to talk to us. Do you live with OCD? Did you see Dyfan's performance? Did it help you to understand the condition more? Let us know in the comments below.

You can watch Dyfan and his cast mates on S4C every day on Pobol y Cwm, via Sky (Channel 134) or Freesat (Channel 120). You can also keep up-to-date with Dyfan on Twitter, where he's @DyfanRees