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Michael Sheen’s ‘The Way’ is a Welsh triumph amidst Port Talbots steelworker challenges

WHILE filming clashes between steelworkers and riot police in his hometown of Port Talbot, Michael Sheen could not have anticipated that 2,000 jobs at its steelworks would be at risk by the time his creation, The Way, premiered. Despite the unfortunate turn of events, Sheen remains optimistic about the three-part BBC drama, originally conceived in 2016, emphasising that it is a fictional story and not specifically about the Tata steelworks.

Reflecting on the town’s deep connection to the steelworks, which he describes as the “spiritual centre of the town” and “part of our DNA,” Sheen expressed his sadness at the news of job losses, acknowledging the devastating impact on the community. The Way, directed and starred in by Sheen, is set against the backdrop of growing concern over the future of the steelworks, leading to protests and later evolving into riots.

The cast includes talented Welsh actors, such as Steffan Rhodri, Mali Harries, Sophie Melville, Callum Scott Howells, and Mark Lewis Jones, bringing the story to life with their performances. The premiere at Port Talbot’s Reel Cinema was a significant event, showcasing the town’s resilience and creativity.

Sheen, who hails from Port Talbot, has a personal connection to the town and its people. His decision to make The Way a political story is rooted in the town’s history, acknowledging the insecurities and anxieties surrounding employment that have persisted throughout his lifetime. He believes that the portrayal of discontent and frustration in the drama reflects the reality of people feeling unheard and undervalued.

Having turned himself into a “not-for-profit” actor in 2021, using his earnings to fund projects, Sheen is known for being vocal on various issues, including children in care and Welsh independence. His commitment to making a positive impact extends to The Way, where he explores the importance of people having their voices heard.

Returning to Port Talbot for his TV directorial debut, Sheen described the experience as “very personal,” feeling connected to the town and its ongoing challenges. Currently residing near Port Talbot with his partner Anna Lundberg and their two children, Sheen finds endless inspiration in the town, considering it the source of all his imaginative explorations.

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As ‘The Way’ premiered on BBC Iplayer today, Sheen dedicated the screening to Godfrey Evans, a drama teacher who played a crucial role in shaping generations of actors through the West Glamorgan Youth Theatre, and to Port Talbot’s steelworkers. Expressing his hopes for those fearing job losses, Sheen emphasised the importance of support, communication, and connection during times of anxiety about the future.

Michael Sheen’s perspective on The Way is one of understanding, empathy, and a deep appreciation for the town of Port Talbot and its resilient community. Despite the challenges depicted in the drama, the negative reviews from the English media, he remains positive, hoping for support and connection for those facing uncertainties in their lives..

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