‘We Hardly Ever See Older Black British Female Characters Like This’: Sarah Niles On Playing Claudia In Riches – Interview

Riches airs weekly on ITV1 from Friday 30 June at 9pm

Succession shaped hole in your heart? If you haven’t tuned in to Riches on ITVX yet, now is your chance to catch it: the six-part drama is now airing weekly on Friday nights on ITV1 at 9pm, starting tonight (30 June). The show follows an uber rich family, the Richards, whose patriarch, Stephen (Hugh Quarshie), owns Flair & Glory, a Black hair and beauty empire. Fiery family matriarch, Claudia, is played by Sarah Niles, who you might recognise from Ted Lasso, and who we sat down with to talk all things Riches, being cast into the limelight, and life off-screen.

Interview: Sarah Niles On ITV’s Riches

Sarah Niles as Claudia in Riches


Hi Sarah, how’s life going at the moment?  

It’s busy!! Booked and busy as they say!

You star in ITV’s Riches – can you give any readers unfamiliar with the show a quickfire pitch?

A drama about a rich family vying for control of the most successful family branded hair business. It’s a rich BRITISH Black family with ties to Nigeria, the Caribbean and America, making it all the more culturally rich!

What can we expect from the series?

A funeral, family infighting, secrets, deception, Black hair politics and good Dynasty-esque fun!

You play Claudia – how would you describe her? 

She’s a determined woman, put it that way! She’ll burn any bridge that no longer serves her! She’s sexy, manipulative, cunning, but ultimately a real survivor. A lovable villain. She’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants – also for her kids, but mostly for herself!

What was it like playing her? 

Fun! She’s sexy and messy. I loved that. We hardly ever see women of that age seen that way on screen, especially older Black British female characters! She’s also formidable. I was keen to bring in more that reflected the complexity of these types of women – how they’ve had to rise up and cling on to what they have. One minute you hate her, and love her the next!

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

I always thought about her armour – how she wanted to be seen. I also worked out that that goes hand in hand with what this woman wants. In every situation, what does she want to get in every scene? That’s Claudia. She’s always looking to survive and if she doesn’t sit on top, well, to her, it means death.

Any standout moments from rehearsals or filming?

The way we all seemed like a family. We just slotted into our roles very early on.

What is the cast dynamic? Who was your fave person to work with?

The cast bonded so much so quickly. I clicked pretty quickly with Deborah Ayorinde (Nina); we’d laugh so much in between takes and genuinely had mutual respect and love for each other. But, when the camera rolled, we’d be at each other’s throats!

Our readers might also recognise you from the likes of I May Destroy You and Ted Lasso. What has been your favourite project to date? 

All of them for many different reasons. I filmed Sandman while doing Ted Lasso, and the characters were like chalk and cheese. I love the chance to play. I feel, though, Dr Sharon has had such an impact on my career (it got me Emmy nominated) and on people. Playing her propelled me into a level of limelight where I’m recognised everywhere I go. It’s mad!

Brett Goldstein and Sarah Niles in "Ted Lasso,"

Brett Goldstein and Sarah Niles in “Ted Lasso,” now streaming on Apple TV+.

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)  

I’m always excited about who I’ll be working with next! So I have two films working with a great cast – that’s all I can say!

Which character that you have played in the past do you relate to the most in your own life? 

I try to relate to all of them, because I try to bring a level of care and love to them. I am always interested in the duality of a character. People are never really one thing.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

That’s hard. I’ve worked with some talented and kind people. Kindness is key to that – and the ability to make me belly laugh! Which isn’t hard at all!

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

I learn different things from different people. I always stay open to that.

What’s your dream role? 

For a long time it was Winnie Mandela… But I’m not sure – it’s always changing.

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of? 

Sci Fi, horror, fantasy. Ah, I know I gave you three. Too many to choose from.

Do you get to spend much time at home? 

I try to when I can. I love gardening.

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer? 

I live in town, tucked away though so it’s quiet. I do dream about living in the country now and again.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

My family and friends. Music. Singing and dancing around the house! Gardening!

What did you want to be when you were growing up? 

What I’m doing now.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be? 

Be patient and also grab adventure when and where you can. Please be patient with yourself, too – it will turn out OK.

How can we all live a little bit better?

Finding opportunities to be more kind to each other. Talking to neighbours. Staying off our phones a bit more!

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally? 


Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… Afua Hirsch’s Africa Rising, Silo, The Bear, Beef 

What I’m reading… The How by Ysra Daley-Ward and Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

The last thing I watched was… Succession’s final season

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, Killers of the Flower Moon, Fremont Cassandra 

Favourite film of all time… Imitation of Life, Crooklyn, The Producers and Blazing Saddles fight it out for first place when the mood takes me!

Band/singer I always have on repeat… It’s Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, Sons of Kemet, Roots Manuva

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Anything at Autograph gallery, Now Gallery, the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery – all of which I’m long overdue a visit.

Cultural guilty pleasure… Rotis, fish cakes, rum punch! Nothing to feel guilty about! It’s pure pleasure!

What’s next for me is… Finding ways to enjoy the present and opportunities to spread my wings!

Riches airs weekly on ITV1 from Friday 30 June at 9pm.