HE’S JUST 28 years old, but it’s fair to say that Ammanford’s Gareth Jewell has seen and done quite a bit in that time.
Actor, shop assistant, student, boy-band member – there’s not much he hasn’t done for a day job.
Luckily, for TV fans, Gareth has now settled on acting as his job of choice and if his recent performance in BBC One Wales drama Baker Boys is any indication, he’s made the right one.
In the three short weeks Baker Boys was shown, Gareth, who played lead role Owen, showed an impressive talent, winning plaudits for his performance.
‘I was originally up for a smaller role,’ says Gareth, who currently lives on Anglesey with long-term girlfriend, Nia.
‘I was working in a rugby shop in Cardiff so threw a sickie and went to audition. While there they asked if I had time to read the Owen part.
‘Of course I said yes. I remember waiting to do it, sitting in a room with Eve Myles and Matthew Gravelle and thinking, I don’t mind if I don’t get the role, I’m just pleased they think I’m in the same class as these guys!’ But he got the role and relished every second of playing the wide-boy bakery worker.
‘It was an incredible experience,’ he says. ‘It sounds a cliché, but I knew when I first read the script it was going to be special.
‘The calibre of everyone working on it was so high, from cast and crew and productions. I watched the first one worried that everyone would wonder why I was there,’ he laughs.
He needn’t have worried; Gareth is set to reprise his role after a second series of Baker Boys was commissioned. Filming starts in August and there are rumours that this time it may be rolled out nationally. ‘I think it deserves to be picked up,’ says Gareth. ‘At first it may seem a niche Welsh drama but I think the characters would be recognisable to everyone in Britain.
‘And I think Britain is ready for a completely Welsh drama. I don’t really like the phrase but maybe ‘Cool Cymru’ is returning.’ ‘There is so much Welsh talent out there now. We have actors like Eve and presenters like Alex Jones so things are looking up.’ Amongst the new wave of Welsh talent is a strong showing from Ammanford itself. Alex Jones is, of course, from Tycroes and alongside Gareth there are two other locals making a name for themselves, Alex Roach and Sarah Lloyd-Gregory.
In fact on one Sunday night in February, all three actors were to be found on air at the same time. Gareth in the Baker Boys, Sarah in S4C’s Alys and Alex in the acclaimed BBC 3 drama Being Human.
‘Yes, that was a good night for Ammanford,’ says Gareth. ‘There does seem to be this pool of talent coming through from the town.
‘I know Alex and Sarah and it’s great to see them doing well and I think Ammanford people feel the same.
‘It’s giving the town something to be proud of. And there is a lot of support too. It’s something I’ve felt when I get back for visits.’ Gareth, like the girls, is graduate of the Mark Jermin stage school and has been acting since 15 when he had a role in S4C drama Pam fi Duw.
‘When that finished I applied to go to RADA. I didn’t get in because they said I was too immature to live in London.
‘So I went to university in Aberystwyth instead, but dropped out after I spent too much time studying the pub.’ Then along came boy band Max N and the Gareth found himself touring the UK with them instead.
‘It was a bit of a dream,’ he laughs ‘Four young lads, playing gigs, touring the country, there were some good times.
‘We even supported Girls Aloud and Blue but after a while things started fizzling out. I found myself back home working any old jobs to make ends meet.’ Three years ago Gareth decided to get his acting career back on track. He got himself an agent and began winning small roles on TV and film, eventually landing the Baker Boys audition.
His star may be on the rise but it definitely hasn’t gone to his head, not that any of his friends from home would allow that.
‘I come back to see my family and catch up with the Ammanford rugby boys and they definately don’t give me an easy time about it all, ‘ he says ‘There’s always cracks and lots of banter. They’re not going to let it go to my head.’ Not that fame is what Gareth is after.
‘I don’t want to be famous, just to be a professional actor,’ he says. ‘It’s never been about being a star. I just want to be good at it and make a good living.
‘I suppose if it all goes wrong, well, there’s always music.
‘I still play guitar and I sing in my bedroom. I’m too old for boy bands but there’s always Britain’s Got Talent.’ Not that Gareth will need Simon Cowell anytime soon, especially if Baker Boys goes national.
‘That’s the really the big hope at the moment,’ he adds. ‘To be a part of a Welsh drama being seen across the UK will be a huge moment for me.
‘I used to dream of earning a Welsh cap. It’s never going to happen but if the show is picked up, it’s going to feel like I got one anyway.’