Ionica Adriana On Yorkshire, Acting And Finding Her Birth Mother


Yorkshire actor Ionica Adriana is becoming a regular on our screens – and her journey to reach this point is quite the story in itself, discovers Bethan Andrews

If there’s one thing that Thirsk-based actor Ionica Adriana definitely is, it’s that she’s a hard worker. She’s also incredibly down to earth, infectiously passionate, talented and humble. Despite the last few years of her career having seen her appear in the hit ITV series Syndicate by the late Kay Mellor, as well as positions at BBC York doing the arts and culture show, starring in All Together Now alongside Rob Beckett, presenting at Countryfile LIVE, and leading roles in pantomimes across the country, Ionica remains modest and, dare I say it, refreshingly normal.

Could this be a result of her start in life? Born in Romania in the 80s, Ionica was adopted from an orphanage at two and a half years of age by her English parents and brought back to Yorkshire for a life in the fields here. “My adoption has never been a secret, my parents have always been very transparent about it,” Ionica smiles wide. “They gave me everything, and it made me realise that you have to work hard in life. It’s also taught me to do what’s good for your soul.”

Ionica Adriana

Ionica has a real grit and determination when she speaks, and she credits this to her being around such a strong presence and work ethic from her parents as soon as she arrived in Yorkshire. She tells me how she was putting the feelers out for work and contacting agencies relentlessly long before she had even graduated from drama school. Ionica very much stresses her work is like any other, you have to work your way up, learn your craft, understand how the industry works and build your skill set, just like you would if you were a mechanic or a chef. “I took a lot of music videos, low-paid work, and bits-and-bobs jobs in order to make connections before taking on my first bigger contracts,” she says. “I’m a feet-first kind of person and I don’t take anything for granted. When I’m not in acting work, I’ll do lots of other work, waitressing, photography, teaching etc – I’ll always work, no matter what job. Every job has value.”

Clearly, Ionica’s humble origins are important to her, and remaining grateful is something that comes naturally to the successful actor. In fact, her commitment to being honest and truthful to her roots led her to front a documentary with Radio 4 called Ceausescu’s Children, which aired earlier this month. “It’s probably one of the most important jobs that I will ever do in my life,” she insists. “I got to go back to Romania, and I visited the orphanage that I was in. I feel really lucky to have been able to do that as there are a lot of people who would kill for that opportunity. It might not be the happiest thing, but it was incredible.”

Having worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today, I wonder if Ionica feels that Yorkshire is a place that supports the arts. Of course, like with a lot of higher training, she went to London for drama school and to hone her craft. Nonetheless, she speaks highly of there being a lot going on in Yorkshire for those interested in the arts, but she stresses that she goes where the work is. It just so happens, though, that Ionica’s first big job was at the Grand Opera House in York. “It was a big deal because I wasn’t a celebrity and I got the principal role,” she says. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if there is someone that is going to champion you, you’ll do what you want to do.”

She loves promoting Yorkshire’s finest sights

Today, you’ll find Ionica doing all sorts of acting, singing and presenting gigs. She was awarded Best Emerging Actress at 2018’s International Achievement Recognition Awards (IARA) and was nominated for Best Female Solo Artist and the NEA Choice Award at the National Entertainment Awards, too. But, despite all this success, she loves retreating back home to Yorkshire and loves working with BBC Radio York, Look North and Yorkshire Cast. So, what does she love most about coming home? “You never really appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone and it was only after moving back from London that I realised how lucky I was to have such open spaces and beautiful surroundings,” she says. “I love coming home and that you’re not a stranger. Everyone knows who you are, and even if they don’t, in Yorkshire they make you feel like they do!”

She’s also proud to be able to call herself a Yorkshire-based actor now. “I love representing the north in the acting industry,” she says. “And then when you get northern work like with The Syndicate, it’s so brilliant. BBC Radio York allowed me to champion Yorkshire and the North every week and that’s food for the soul. I’ve always been very proud to be from Yorkshire, but sometimes work just has to be where work is. If I had the opportunity, I would love to have the same work that I have in the city in the Yorkshire countryside.”

Ionica’s loyalty, warmth and love doesn’t stop with her career or her love for Yorkshire. With more still to give, 2020 saw Ionica (with the full backing from her parents) reconnect with her birth mother. “When I was 20, in between drama schools, I went to LA and met one of my sisters who had found me when I was 11,” Ionica begins to explain. “Then, during lockdown, my mum sent out messages to help me try and find my birth mum, and through some Facebook messages, we ended up finding her. Mum came running up the stairs with her phone in her hand, she’s crying, there’s a woman crying on the other end and I just wave like an idiot!”

Despite her birth mum not speaking a word of English, they spent the next year building their relationship through Google Translate. In spring this year, for her birth mum’s 50th birthday, Ionica decided to surprise her in Sicily, where she now lives. “I surprised her on her birthday with my sister who had also never met her,” she tells me. “Having that in-person instantaneous reaction meant that it was so much easier to be able to say that I don’t hate her, that it’s incredible what she did and that I only have gratitude for the life that I’ve got now. The reason that she gave me up is the reason I have the life I have today. It didn’t get lost in translation in-person, and I could promise her that there is no resentment. I just wanted to say thank you for giving me up so that I could have a better life.”

Ionica’s grit and passion for living really comes through again as she talks to me about her life and some of that she attributes to the pandemic. “I really didn’t do well with lockdown,” she tells me. “I felt like time was being wasted and that life was just passing me by, so it gave me the momentum to meet my mum. With everything that is going on in the world, it just shows that nothing is ever promised.”

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