Adil Ray’s royal roots
Ackley Bridge star Adil Ray on discovering he’s descended from ugandan kings
FACTUAL Who Do You
Think You Are? thu / bbc1 / 9.00Pm (WALES, 10.40Pm)
Like his alter ego, Mr Khan in the hit BBC sitcom Citizen Khan, actor Adil Ray grew up in a Pakistani community in Birmingham.
So it was a surprise, while delving into his ancestry for this week’s Who Do You Think You Are?, to discover that he’s not only part Ugandan, but a descendent of the East African country's ancient royal lineage.
Here, Adil, 43, last on our screens as rich businessman Sadiq in C4 school drama Ackley Bridge, tells TV Times more about his newfound regal status…
Why did you want to take part in Who Do You Think You Are?
My dad’s side of the family is from Pakistan, but my grandmother Aisha – mum’s mum – was African. She was the matriarch of our family and died when I was a child, so I had a real desire to find out more about her African background. There was also a rumour in my family that we were related to the Kabaka – they’re the wealthy rulers of Buganda, which is a small Ugandan kingdom – but nobody ever believed it!
You travelled to Kenya and Uganda exploring your grandmother’s background and met some Ugandan cousins. What was that like?
It was really special meeting Sarah and Yudaya. They told me a lot more about my grandmother – she was born in Uganda, then married my grandfather, who was Indian, when she was just 13. It was amazing being in their house because I could feel the same love from them that I’d had from my grandmother.
What else did you learn about her? It’s so sad. Her father, Moidin, was of Turkish and Indian descent and her mother, Razia, was Ugandan. But when her father died, the Asian side of the family took my grandmother away because they didn’t want her to be brought up as African. She still saw her mother, but they couldn't communicate because they spoke different languages, so they just used to touch each other and hold hands.
You also discovered that the rumours that you’re descended from African royalty were true. Did that surprise you?
Yes, the thing I never thought was going to be true is true! My great great-great grandfather, Kamanyiro Magimbi, was a chieftain and his sister was the mother of King Muteesa I of Buganda! Kamanyiro wasn’t just any chief, either. He was an amazing man who stood up to the English explorers. He didn’t succeed, but it’s an incredible story.
Will the fact that you have royal blood change you?
I don’t think so, although I still don’t know if it means we get a stake in Uganda! But it’s one thing to say you’ve got African blood and quite another to say you’re part of the Ugandan royal family. Do you feel proud now you’re aware of your African heritage? Absolutely. This whole experience has taught me that society puts us into boxes and says, ‘You’re Muslim, you’re Pakistani, you’re African’, but actually we’re all a bit of everything and none of us knows who we are until we look into our backgrounds.
None of us knows who we are until we look into our backgrounds
You’ve recently starred in Ackley Bridge, which is one of this year’s most talked about shows. Are you excited about the second series? Really excited! It’s been such a departure from doing something like Citizen Khan. It’s been a challenge, but refreshing too, and I’ve had to learn a lot from the other actors like Jo Joyner, Liz White and Paul Nicholls. I love that the show isn’t scared of taking on tough subjects, but that it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. There’s a real energy and rawness to it, which I think is what makes it so popular.
is previewed on pages 76-77
Clown prince: The comic actor unearths his African roots
family affair: Adil Ray (front centre) with grandmother Aisha and cousins
Adil in BBC’S