WHEN Moyo Akande walks into the Bananamoon bar on Great Western Road it feels like the whole room does a collective swivel. That’s not because people recognise her from her recent heist movie, or 1745, her award-winning short film about runaway slaves in Scotland. It’s because, 6ft tall, wearing a luminous pink dress, a towering woman of Nigerian heritage, the actor stands out in what still feels like a mostly white community – even more so when she ditches baseball shoe flats for heels.

Akande is used to, as she puts it, “sticking out”. It’s a state she has known all her life. Throughout all her school years, growing up in Bearsden, she was the tallest in her class. “I was a big baby. Very big baby. So I’ve always stuck out in that sense. I’m used to it. I don’t know any different.” There’s a story she tells about how when she came back to Glasgow in 2008, after a stint in London at theatre school, she noticed quite how white the city was. “It kind of took me by surprise. I thought, ‘Ooh I kind of stick out here.’ Whereas in London it’s a melting pot. You go down to London and there's every single colour of the world in that spot.”

But that was ten years ago, she says, and things have changed. “Now, when I come to Glasgow, it’s like, ‘Wow, there are so many people now that look like me here.’ The city is becoming a melting pot in itself.”

The industry in which she works is also changing. Though still mostly run by white males and offering few roles for people of colour, it has seen a small but pronounced shift. The #OscarsSoWhite movement called out the profound lack of diversity. At this year’s Academy Awards Frances McDormand called on fellow stars to demand more roles for women and for actors of colour whenever they accept a lead role. Films like Hidden Figures and Black Panther are making waves at the box office.

Now, in this wake of #MeToo and #Timesup, Akande hopes that the momentum will only continue to build. “I’m such a big advocate for these movements. I think if we want to reflect our society on screen then we have got to try to have some sort of equality in our real lives, and in our industry. Otherwise we’re only going to see the world from a certain point of view. It’s been a long time coming and I’m just glad. It will open more doors, for everyone. Different minorities, women, different age groups.”

Akande herself is determined to give it an extra shove. The paucity of roles for women like herself is partly what drove her and her younger sister, Morayo, to make their short film, 1745, which was released last year to great acclaim, and set up their own production company, Lucid Dreamers, to create more such films. “We saw that there weren’t many challenging roles for women of colour in this industry," she says. "We put our heads together and thought if there aren’t those roles out there, we might as well create them for ourselves.”

1745, the tale of sisters on the run from their slave master in the Scottish Highlands, is just one such story. It’s based on fact - on an advertisement published in a Scottish newspaper in the 18th century looking to track down two female slaves, which Morayo came across in the Mitchell library. Almost 200 accounts of such runaways have been found by historians working at the University of Glasgow. “There are so many more stories we want to tell,” she says. “We want to tell all sorts of different stories – not just about people of colour. I can tell you that 1745 is getting developed in a feature film.”

Akande is one of four siblings born to Nigerian immigrants. Her father was a chemical engineer. Her mother, a social worker, she says, “is our biggest supporter and rock”. “She’s fantastic because she doesn’t think anything is not possible. That’s partly because of where she comes from. My mum came from Nigeria, from a small family, and she worked really hard and she moved over to the UK with my dad. They were childhood sweethearts and they moved over here and she worked morning till night to create a better future for us and she’s just fearless. I think that fearlessness has been instilled in us.”

Creativity, she says, runs in the family. Her mum was known in her school for being one of the best dancers around. "I think on my dad’s side there were singers as well. It’s skipped my mum an dad, but within our line there’s been something. There’s been creativity, singers or dancers, people who have had creative minds.

Currently Akande is back in Glasgow for a brief stint, before heading back down to London to start rehearsals for The Two Noble Kinsmen at Shakespeare's Globe. She has performed there before in Macbeth and The Lightning Child, and is excited to be back on a stage, where, she says, with the audience at your feet and above, you feel like “Beyonce at Glastonbury”. It’s not surprising, perhaps, that she’s playing a powerful woman in the play – Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons “Hippolyta also appears in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She’s the epitome of strength and power, and feminism. That’s what I love about the role and why I’m really excited to get my teeth into that. Because it’s how I think women should be – and women are. We all possess that power within us.”

She is also keen to talk about her film, The Hurricane Heist, an exhilarating mash-up of disaster-movie and heist thriller, made by Rob Cohen, director of The Fast And The Furious films. In it she plays an African-American “bad-ass thief”, as she puts it, called Jaqi. Recently it was released in America and is now on Sky Cinema, but not many people watching the film, she says, realise she’s a Glaswegian. “It was wonderful to play Jaqi. She’s a very strong woman. She’s strong, she’s tough, she takes no prisoners. And it was great to sink my teeth into a part like that. Because that’s not who I am as a person."

When she first saw the breakdown for the role, she recalls, she thought it was “pretty perfect to my look”. “They were looking for a tough African-American woman who looks like she could be a Muay Thai fighter. I’m quite an active individual myself. I do Muay Thai anyway. So, I just went along thinking, give it my best shot and I’ll see what happens. Never in my wildest dreams though that I’d be the one to get the role.”

Filming it, in studios in Bulgaria in the summer of 2016, involved working on sets with multiple 160 mph wind machines, blowing at full hurricane force, and giant rain machines that would shower on command. “So we were battling with the rain, battling with the wind machines, battling with the darkness and the smoke and the mist the effects.” There was also a lot of physical exertion. “There was days on set where we just had to sprint in 30 degrees, back and forth, 200 metre sprints, and cut and action and cut, just going back and forth carrying these massive P90 guns and running at full speed.”

Akande believes there has already been a shift in Hollywood and that more people of colour are being cast. “I think there is a lot more potential now. It’s so exciting to be a woman right now, to be a woman of colour within this industry. It’s improving slowly, but it’s getting there.” The United States, she observes, is far more advanced on this than the UK. “There are actors of colour right now who are going over to America and getting a lot of work over there. There are opportunities. I'm aware that they’re quite a few years on.”

She credits that change to “all the amazing actors and actresses, politicians and civil rights activists, that came and shaped the future for me”. She in turn hopes that she can “shape the future again for the generation to come”. Akande doesn’t just want to act – she wants to create stories that will change the way we see the world, and understand our own history.

1745 has already had that kind of impact. “We are just shining a light," she says. "There is a shift going on in Scotland at the moment for acknowledging what happened back then and remembering all those people of colour who were oppressed. But I didn’t know anything about this until my sister stumbled on of these slave advertisements and started talking about it. We weren’t taught this at school and it wasn’t in the school curriculum.”

Perhaps the most moving section of the film is a memory flashback to the childhood of the slaves in Africa. “It makes you think about where the two sisters actually came from. Because a lot of people might have thought that they came over form Virginia or America somewhere, but actually they did come from Nigeria - and they were taken from their homes and brought to Scotland.”

Last autumn the Akande sisters took 1745 to the Africa International Film Festival in Nigeria, where it won the best short international film award. “I hadn’t been to Nigeria for 14 years so it was just this full circle of having your work take you far and wide, and, in the process, getting to reconnect with your heritage.” What thrilled her most was the openness of the people. “We did a talk at one of the studios there . You see the passion they have to make things. And the fact that they have less resources out there. They’re creating more work on a daily basis and getting out there with a camera and shooting and writing scripts and experimenting.”

Akande seems, also, to be at ease with the hustle and self-promotion it takes to get on in her industry. This seems all the more remarkable given she was, she has revealed extraordinarily shy as a young child. “You wouldn’t believe that now," she says. "But my mum just remembers dropping me off at nursery in Glasgow and she just saw that I wasn’t playing with other kids. I wasn’t communicating with them. I just kept myself to myself. I wasn’t talking. At one point she thought I was semi-mute.”

Why that was, she is uncertain. “I think I was just shy. But maybe one factor was just being a bit different. Because when you’ve grown up in your family house that certain face and those certain people and put into a different environment and see people who look different to you.”

In Scotland, she observes, she is one of relatively few black actors working in the industry – and that can work to her advantage. “I know there are a lot more now training and the new generation coming out - but currently there aren’t many. So it does help that if they are looking for that then I’m there. But then again it’s not just that. I have to be right for the role. I have to suit the role. I want to be good enough for the role too. Not to be cast in something just because I tick that box.”

She and her sister, she says, are “best friends”, and both live in London. 1745 was the first thing they collaborated on. Recently, she recalls, they said to each other, “Why did it take us this long to work together?”

Her sister, she says, wants to direct. Meanwhile, her goal is to produce. “But I would never say no to directing. I’ve been learning a lot with 1745, And I’ve got a creative mind. We could be like a little Coen brothers duo, my sister and I.”

The Akande sisters. Now that sounds like a movie brand for the future. What are her hopes for 1745, their first big feature film?

“We just want the sisters to come across as real people, real women,” she says, simply. “I find that sometimes films that are about slavery in particular don’t really show the personality of the characters. I just want people to really get to know who they are. You don’t get many great stories about just women being the protagonists, let alone two sisters, and two women of colour as well.”