Over the past decade we have seen a number of talented Black-British actors and actresses grace our TV screens from Idris Elba and Thandie Newton, to more recently Naomi Harris, John Boyega, Malachi Kirby and many talented others. On 31st October 2011, 1.1 Million viewers were introduced to a young man called Malcolm Kamulete who played the role of Ra’nell in the East London-based trilling drama, Top Boy. Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Malcolm, for an interview about his journey as a young actor in hopes of providing an insight into the industry for aspiring black actors.
09/10/16- The Interview.
The first thing I notice about Malcolm is his great energy and at this point, I’m reassured that I am sitting down with the right person for the interview. Aside from being a positive, down to earth individual, Malcolm is a young man clearly dedicated to his career with promising plans to work overseas in the near future. Curious to know where all this energy is coming from, I get stuck in with questions and Malcolm eventually explains that the positive energy comes from “the positive out-comings of other people” – an unexpected but equally pleasing answer as it relates to the main purpose of this interview…
“I’ve been a conflicted person for a while and I think they liked it”
So, who was Malcolm at the time? Well, I’d done some research and wanted to know how someone who had no prior knowledge of acting became one of the leading characters of a BAFTA award-winning TV series. Was it simply luck or technique? Well, to my surprise, Malcolm tells me that during the Top Boy auditions he “wasn’t really bothered…” his laid back and somewhat nonchalant attitude at the time is actually what landed him the role. He adds ” I’ve been a conflicted person [like Ra’nell] for a while and I think they liked it”. So to answer the question, I’d say there were multiple parallels between Ra’nell and himself at the time from aspirations to be a semi-pro footballer, to the family dynamic, making him perfect for the role.
“I just want to open up opportunities for the rest of us”
What gems can Malcolm share with us? Plenty! There is no one message that can be taken from the entertaining and emotionally gripping series as real life scenarios are explored from a multitude of perspectives, adding to the show’s realness. Speaking about the message of the show makes me curious to know what message the young actor is eager to share with not only his peers, but eventually the world. Malcolm confidently explains “I have a very clear message, I just want to open up opportunities for the rest of us, I’m coloured and I want opportunities for the rest of us.” and I truly believe he is serious. With the limited opportunities in the UK acting scene, Malcolm sees the importance of branching out and really honing in on your craft while you’re young and able to put in the levels of commitment. He adds “my most important message is not about race, it’s about showcasing talent” which he clearly possesses, and as we delve deeper into the topic we’re both laughing as we realise like Top Boy, Malcolm also has more than one message, finally adding “I just want people to smile at my performances and feel genuinely proud [of what they see]”.
“You’re a fucking good actor, never stop”
Throughout the interview I am becoming more intrigued to know how (besides motivating himself) he continues to push himself along the difficult journey. He makes it clear that rejection is something young actors will become familiar with, but must never let it define or discourage their entire journey. Without discrediting his achievements, Malcolm explains “I’ve been on auditions for Hollyoaks, Tarzan… and you’ve only seen me on this [Top Boy]”. For most, the list of auditions isn’t always going to be directionally proportional to the number of successful projects (a similarity that can be drawn with anything in the creative field) so auditions should be used as a source of motivation and an opportunity to gain experience. There isn’t always an easy way to break through, especially if you’re starting from the ground up so “you have to persevere” says Malcolm. On the same topic, I want to know if the show’s great reception also motivated Malcolm to pursue acting and he confirms that it did -a memorable moment for him was when the late actor and director Alan Rickman (who most of you may know as Professor Snape) told him “you’re a fucking good actor, never stop”- A huge compliment!
Keeping in line with the purpose of my Black History Month posts, I ask Malcolm what he thinks a good approach young people should take in terms of acting and channeling their energy into positive activities and his advice is “we [as a community] need to be more directly enthusiastic about what we want to do.” I agree, he goes on to say “find what you want to do and get straight into it. Acting classes, offering yourself out for casting ‘extra’ roles, get into university projects – university media students create opportunities” but ultimately, “it’s about perseverance and drive” In terms of becoming a successful actor, Malcolm says “300% dedication” is needed. ” The minute you get the script you need to be bombing it down [ which basically means constantly going over it, researching characters etc]”.
With that being said, I hope all of my readers continue to work hard, stay dedicated, and most importantly, stay inspired.