A woman who likes her cars, as an actress, Laila Rouass has the drive and determination to succeed in the industry and already has a number of impressive credits to her name. But, she says, she also knows how to take a knockback.
Apart from her family and her friends, there are two loves in the life of Laila Rouass. Her brand new car and her collection of shoes.
The 29-year-old actress, who plays the outrageous Amber Gates in ITV1′s ratings-topping Footballers’ Wives confesses: “I honestly don’t know how many shoes I’ve bought over the years, I really don’t. If you looked inside my wardrobes, you’d be amazed at the collection I’ve amassed. But it is my only extravagance.”
Her car is “really a second home,” she explains. “It’s a comfort zone for me. It’s where I can chill out and listen to my music – everything from Tupac to Dolly Parton. My tastes are varied. And I spend so much of my time in it, driving from film sets to rehearsal rooms and back home again.”
Before she landed her role in Footballers’ Wives, Rouass played Dale Jackson in Channel 4′s Hollyoaks. It was while she was filming up in Liverpool for that series that she was cast as Amber Gates, a time when her car was indispensable as she spent a few months filming both shows. Her passion for cars also got her involved in a recent campaign for a major motor manufacturer. She says: “I’m a pretty strong and independent woman and I think that asking me to take part reflects that. Choosing a car is part of that independence and what you choose says a lot about you as a woman. It used to be all part of a bloke thing but not any more. I don’t want to be told what to drive.”
Brought up in London, Rouass decided on an acting career at the age of 18, when she was taken to an audition by an aunt who was a classically trained dancer.
“I was fascinated by it all,” she admits. “Although my aunt didn’t get the job, I was determined that that was what I was going to do. Up until then I’d started on a career in modelling, which was going very well, with shoots for Chanel and lots of videos. But I was already disillusioned, even at that age. There is a lot of backbiting in the fashion industry and I guess I had already figured out it was a business in which I didn’t want to stay too long.”
So she enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Acting School in Holborn, London, and went from being a well-paid model to a skint student overnight.
“But it was possibly the best thing I ever did,” she affirms. “It focused my mind, for a start, and one of the teachers there taught me a very valuable lesson. She told me to look on every experience, good or bad, as part of the learning curve. Never look at something as completely negative, always look for it to provide something that is positive. So when I’ve gone for an audition and not got it, instead of getting depressed – and a lot of actors do – I have turned it around and thought through why it was that I didn’t land the part.
“I take any criticism on board. There must be a reason why they don’t want me. I always listen to sound advice.”
Rouass also found time to complete a degree in business and finance before deciding she needed to see a bit more of the world – she got a job as a VJ on Channel V, a satellite music show in India.
“[It] took me to India for six years, as well as wonderful places like Hong Kong and Dubai. That is where my eclectic love of music comes from. I saw a lot of amazing places and I learned a lot, too. I developed my presentational skills and I made some very good friends. I wanted to see places around the world, not just learn about them from books.”
She landed a lead film role in an Indo-Italian co-production called Senso Unico in 1999, followed swiftly by an appearance in Dev Benegal’s award-winning and controversial film Split Wide Open. Not taking the typical Bollywood option, Rouass followed this up with a part in Bawander, another Indian production in the tradition of socio-political film-making. In 2001 the actress made her first appearance on British TV screens in Channel 5 soap Family affairs, while Indian director Shekhar Kapur’s remake of classic The Four Feathers, starring the likes of Heath Ledger, Kate Hudson and our own Tim Pigott-Smith, offered her her next film role, albeit a minor one. Another film appearance followed in 2003′s Two Minutes before Rouass was seen as DI Dale Jackson in Hollyoaks.
As well as appearing in the fourth series of Footballers’ Wives, Rouass has also finished filming the role of Tania in the forthcoming TV mini-series Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee. Actress, comedian and writer Meera Syal wrote the novel and has adapted it for the small screen along with Abi Morgan, who wrote the screenplay for acclaimed Channel 4 drama Sex Traffic last year.
So we can look forward to Rouass’ continued presence on our screens for the near future at least.
“Yes, I’ve been very blessed with my career so far – but then I have honestly worked very hard for it, too.”