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Entertainment The Welsh actress who splits her time between TV shows like Emmerdale and being a local councillor

07:55  06 june  2020
07:55  06 june  2020 Source:   walesonline.co.uk

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Milland was born Alfred Reginald Jones in the Welsh town of Neath, Glamorgan, to Elizabeth Annie Born in Swansea, South Wales he began singing as a child in local church choirs. His first job was as a The Tynte is a few miles in between Aberdare and Pontypridd about twenty miles north of Cardiff.

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Clare Harvey in a white shirt: Shelley Rees-Owen has been a fixture of the small screen for three decades © Garry Lake Shelley Rees-Owen has been a fixture of the small screen for three decades

When you look up Rhondda actress Shelley Rees-Owen on the Internet Movie Database they list her trademark as 'cackling laugh'.

But while she's got a great roaring chuckle that trait belies some of the more serious roles she's taken on for British TV over the past three decades.

Shelley – who has no idea who wrote that so-called 'trademark' – is probably best known for her role as Stacey Jones in Pobol y Cwm, which she snagged aged 19, but she's appeared in Keeping Faith, Hinterland, Casualty, and S4C hits like Gwaith/Cartef and 35 Diwrnod.

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She's often seen on stage and theatre has taken her on tours around Wales and to Australia.

Her most recent small screen outing was as flamboyant Mindy on Emmerdale which resulted in her being chanted at by bin men in her Ton Pentre street.

On the flip side the of the 46-year-old can often be found tweeting about mountain fires, community spirit and her Rhondda hometown. That's because she's been a local Plaid Cymru councillor for eight years – and she loves it.

Shelley lives in the Rhondda with husband Jon and daughter Lowri and hasn't moved closer to work during her time in Cwmderi, Pobol y Cwm's fictional village.

"I’ve aways lived here," says Shelley, who first appeared on the Welsh soap in 1993 as schoolgirl Stacey who, with her instantly recognisable family of Kath (Siw Hughes), Mark (Arwyn Hughes), and Dyff (Dewi Rhys) became firm viewer favourites for their dodgy exploits, fiery rows, and rough-around-the-edges charm. "When I was much younger and single I moved to Cardiff and I lasted 10 days," she adds.

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a group of people sitting in a room: Shelley with her on-screen family © BBC Shelley with her on-screen family

While Shelley enjoyed valley life on and off-screen it was strong familial ties that kept her grounded in Ton Pentre and explains why she's committed to being councillor for the Pentre ward while balancing her acting jobs and hosting a Radio Cymru show at the weekend.

"I love it here. I love being around my family, knowing who I live next door to," she says. "Jon and I spoke about moving but only for travelling to work reasons. However if I had done that I would have lost my childcare. I’ve always felt safe.

"I’ve got such a sense of belonging here, such a strong sense of community that I don’t feel I need to be anywhere else. What I like is being next door but one to my sister so our daughters can see one another. Mam is just around the corner and at the moment I miss her terribly because I can’t go in her house.

"I think this period has highlighted how rubbish I would be without them I just don’t think I’d last very long anywhere else."

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She has been modelling since she was 17 for local Welsh brands and also made it into the top five at the Miss Wales contest last year. Georgia credits her time at Youth Theatre for bringing her out of her shell and giving her the confidence to take part in Britain’s Next Top Model.

a man and a woman looking at the camera: Shelley Rees-Owen as Stacey Jones in Pobol y Cwm with Andrew Teilo as Hywel Llewellyn © S4C Shelley Rees-Owen as Stacey Jones in Pobol y Cwm with Andrew Teilo as Hywel Llewellyn a close up of a person: Shelley during a later appearance on Pobol © S4C Shelley during a later appearance on Pobol

Ironically her on-screen persona Stacey left Cwmderi to go to university – but not before having an affair with and marrying her teacher Hywel Llewellyn (Andrew Teilo), which Shelley received angry letters from teachers about.

Shelley left the soap in 2007 but she has popped back a few times, most recently in 2017. She looks back fondly at her time with the Joneses.

"Everyone says they are like the Dingles or the Battersbys but I always remind people the Joneses were first. We were given great scenes – some good comedy but also some great juicy storylines.

"But because I was constantly been given these amazing storylines I started to get a bit protective of the character – if you run out of great storylines the only option is to kill Stacey off! Apart from the fact I felt I needed to have some time off, Stacey was involved in some big dramatic storylines – she married a drug dealer, there was a fake pregnancy, a car accident – and she needed a break too."

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So being on TV and a local councillor must mean that the quiet life isn't all that forthcoming for Shelley?

Not quite, she explains. "It's not that they don’t take notice that I’m on TV – people have got used to it, there’s no special treatment at all. Not when you’re a councillor either.

"I do get attention for things like the Emmerdale thing and people are nice about it. There was a refuse collector who shouted from his window as he collected recycling from my street: 'EM-MER-DALE, EM-MER-DALE!'

"Living here keeps my feet on the ground."

a couple of people posing for the camera: Shelley Rees-Owen on the set of Emmerdale with co-star James Groom, who plays Saxon © Shelley Rees-Owen Shelley Rees-Owen on the set of Emmerdale with co-star James Groom, who plays Saxon

The valleys are a hotbed of great characters and talent, which may well be a source of inspiration in some roles. Shelley says: "Valleys people are salt of the earth and you have extremes of people – we’re a special breed and I love that.

"I’ve used a lot of those traits from people in characters, especially for redeeming features from bad characters – people have always got good in them.

"I did pinch from a few people I knew quite well in Gwaith Cartef. Donna Isaacs is probably my favourite character I’ve ever played because she was just so bubbly so I did worry then. There’s a lot of inspiration I could draw from around here.

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"The one I did struggle with was the bad copper I played in the first series of Keeping Faith. She had no redeeming features whatsoever – there was nothing I could draw from.

"Oh, and if I had a pound for every time someone asked me where Evan was I’d never have to work again – I could have made T-shirts!"

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So it seems the gut feeling Shelley has about her valley is reflected in her decision to become a local councillor. She proudly chairs the Rhondda Cynon Taf committee for young people and is also honest about what a local councillor can achieve, especially in opposition.

The actress knows the needs, wants, and heartaches of her local ward of Pentre and beyond. In 2015 she stood as Plaid Cymru's candidate in the general election – coming in second to current MP Chris Bryant – but she explains her politics as starting with a small 'p'.

"It’s very rewarding," adds Shelley. "There are days when you feel like you are banging your head against a brick wall. The whole period of austerity was very tough and when you are watching your local  schools being shut that angers me beyond.

Leanne Wood standing in front of a building: Shelley and her trademark 'cackling laugh' (probably) on polling day 2015 © Media Wales Shelley and her trademark 'cackling laugh' (probably) on polling day 2015 a woman standing in front of a brick building: Shelley and Leanne Wood AM on the campaign trail in the Rhondda © Leanne Wood Shelley and Leanne Wood AM on the campaign trail in the Rhondda

"Because I live here closing a school isn’t just the school – there are massive repercussions that will be felt for many years to come. Recently we've had to deal with the floods. That was just heartache and I’m just glad they didn’t happen in this lockdown period – I’m not sure how people would have coped. But it’s very rewarding and people turn to their local councillor when they have run out of options.

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"You have to manage people’s expectations that’s the first thing – we’re in opposition so we’re not in charge of the purse strings.

"But when you can resolve something for someone when there’s been no other option that’s when I say: 'That’s why I do it.' It’s important that you just recognise if you do something like this to feed your own ego it won’t last very long."

The balancing act of being both an actress and a local politician is one that Shelley has perfected over the years and she credits her start on Pobol y Cwm as giving her the good grounding for her life's duality.

"There’s not many meetings I miss due to work. I try to work the two to do it all," she says.

"You have to be very careful, particularly if you’re under contract with the BBC and now everyone records everything you say. But I've never had that problem–  I’ve had with me since 19 that if you are in the public eye and you have to watch what you say.

"Don’t get me wrong, I’m no angel. But I’ve got a responsibility to be very careful in public office – it’s what you signed up for.

"I did think when I signed up for Keeping Faith and my character had to use bad language, it did cross my mind: 'Oh my God, what will Mrs Jones in Ton Pentre think of that?'”

You can catch up with Shelley's episode of Emmerdale on ITV Player and 35 Diwrnod series five is available on S4C Clic. Shelley's also co-host of the Radio Cymru Saturday lunchtime show, which starts at 12pm every week.

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