Ayda was making the comedy-drama series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip when she met Robbie in 2006 in LA. He was one of the UK’s most successful solo performers but was not well known in the US ‚Äď and was also still in the grip of various addictions.
After his clean-up and their 2010 marriage ‚Äď which we’ll come to shortly ‚Äď she very much became “Mrs Robbie”, effectively in his shadow, especially after the birth of their daughter, Theodora (Teddy), in 2012.
The first hint that she might be as lively a personality as Robbie came when they live-tweeted the birth of their son, Charlton (Charlie), in 2014.
“It was totally my idea!” says Ayda.
“Well, it was a collaboration. I’d been there for hours as they had to induce me and we were so bored.”
It was her thought to wear Swarovski-encrusted red Louboutin heels in the stirrups, to look stoical while Robbie moaned, and to ask him to stop singing Let It Go from the film Frozen as she went into labour.
“I am proud I delivered the line while actually crowning,” she says. “We constantly take the mick out of each other and come up with mad ideas. It means our son was born to pure joy and laughter instead of pain and anxiety. Because a 17-hour induced labour is painful.”
Days later, she watched Robbie tell television host Graham Norton that the birth was like watching his favourite pub burn down. “Yeah, not the most beautiful description of my vagina,” she mock-grimaces.
After supporting roles in the UK TV series Fresh Meat, Power Monkeys and Paranoid (all 2016), Ayda really came into her own as a guest, then as a presenter, on ITV’s chat show Loose Women. She has shared photos of her husband naked, admitted to faking orgasms with him and revealed that he had never visited a supermarket or peeled a potato before she met him.
She got Robbie on as her wingman when she interviewed Simon Cowell for Loose Women. Ayda had known Simon’s partner, Lauren Silverman, and their four-year-old son, Eric, since meeting them at a Mommy and Me class two years ago in LA.
“We clicked because we have similar circumstances, we’re always moving between here [London] and there,” she says. “Our husbands have very similar personalities and our kids are really good friends.”
“Robbie and I have always wanted to work together because we are blissfully codependent: he is Batman to my Robin and vice versa, he leans on me and I lean on him,” Ayda says.
She was born Ayda Sabahat Evecan in LA to American film producer Gwen Field and Turkish advertising exec Haldun Evecan, who left the family when she was three, and died in 2014 when she was eight months pregnant with Charlie. “We had started to reconnect and he met Robbie,” she says. “The last conversation I had with him, I told him he was getting a grandson, because he only had girls.”
Ayda grew up with her half-brother, Dylan, from her mother’s second marriage, and she has two half-sisters from a later relationship of her father’s.
“I kind of owe my mum everything; she’s the one who was there,” says Ayda. “I never felt any judgment or anger growing up.”
She was a straight-A student and a track athlete, and never planned to go into the entertainment industry. “Because it’s the biggest clich√© in LA, and I had seen my mother and my stepfather, who is a gaffer [a head electrician on a film set], struggle,” she explains. She went to Paris to study law and improve her French, but one summer she attended an audition on a whim, and ended up cast in the American soap Days of Our Lives.
Ayda describes herself as “quite square, a good girl” who has never done drugs and barely drinks, so when she met Robbie on a blind date in 2006 they didn’t immediately click. She’d already been at a party when friends dropped her at his bachelor pad in Los Angeles.
“The house was dark, he was weird, he had all these tattoos,” she says. He drove her back to the party ‚Äď “I’m sure it was in his mind to dump me there” ‚Äď but they got talking and “it was the first time I had ever felt understood by another human”. Robbie later stated independently that he’d felt the same thing. They also, at some point, got into a hot tub, where Robbie noticed her “killer body” and she noticed that the French tattoo on his chest, which was meant to read √† chacun son go√Ľt or “to each his own”, was misspelt.
Robbie had quit alcohol in his early 20s, but that night his drug problems became clear. “I’d never been with anyone with addiction issues before and it was like being on a very fast ferris wheel all of a sudden,” says Ayda. “It became apparent he was not in a good place.”
A few weeks after they started dating, he dumped her to undergo his second, and ultimately successful, stint in rehab. They got back together, but twice more “he got cold feet and unceremoniously dumped me again.¬†What a cad!”
Finally, one of Robbie’s exes, Cameron Diaz, suggested he give the relationship another go. Ayda was already in love, and gave him another chance.
She is unfazed by Robbie’s long list of conquests, which allegedly includes Nicole Kidman, Rachel Hunter and two Spice Girls, as well as Diaz.
“Whenever we turn on the TV, particularly in England, we’ll see somebody Rob has slept with,” she says. “It even happened in a Mommy and Me class: he dragged me into the ball pit going, ‘Psst, I slept with that mum but I don’t remember her name.’ I was like, ‘Ugh, you dick.’
“Rob’s slept with lots of people, but it doesn’t bother me because what happens before you meet someone is part of their journey. And if I were Robbie Williams before I met me, I would be shagging everything.”
Undoubtedly, their shared experience of therapy helps make their relationship work. Though they disagree plenty, they never shout or go to bed angry with each other.
Robbie has had plenty of analysis to deal with his issues, while Ayda has been going for years. “Listen, my dad left me, my mom is crazy, I’m from LA, a pop star dumped me three times and I’m an actress who gets rejected constantly,'” she says, laughing.
The received wisdom is that she saved Robbie. “Listen, at the end of the day Robbie saved himself,” she says. “No one can make you get clean.” But she will take credit for helping him keep to a healthier lifestyle. Their diet is “mostly plant-based but the odd cheeseburger does happen”, and they are both gym bunnies.
He is a natural dad, “really hands-on, playful, funny. He tosses the kids around and they love it. He’s there for bath times and tuck-in and stories and snuggles, he does the school run when he can. He is very good with a nappy. Which will be good for him when he is older: I won’t have to change him, he can do his own.” (Robbie is five years older than her.)
A third child is “definitely, potentially, absolutely 100 per cent” in the offing. They will join 10 dogs, two cats and a tortoise, divided between their vast homes in LA and London. “We like to stay together and go where the work is, but at some point I think the kids will go, ‘This sucks,’ and dictate where we end up.”
This article originally appeared in The Telegraph (UK).
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale October 28.