The actor sat down with Ed Tweddle to talk about the fantastic new series of Top Boy, as well as discussing other projects he has in the pipeline.
It’s been six years since you shot the previous series of Top Boy. Do you think getting signed by Netflix has raised the new series to another level?
It’s obvious that Netflix being involved takes your production levels somewhere else. The way they treat shows that they believe in is massive. Their budget, their scope and the amount of people that they can reach, just took us to another level straight away. It was a big move for them as it wasn’t a show that they knew would achieve international success. It’s very London centric and specific to where we’re from. So I suppose they had reservations about it in the beginning. During the last 6 years production values have changed, cameras have evolved, there’s ways to achieve a certain look without having to spend as much money. Timing has been a big part of it. People have had to wait and anticipate, which has made the impact so strong.
Dushane is arguably the most iconic role that you have ever played. What do you love most about your character?
The most attractive thing about playing him is having the power, demanding that control and having less fears than I would have usually. But that’s what acting is all about, having the freedom to jump into someone else’s life. Live it to the fullest. Enjoy it and not care about things, because it’s not your world. It’s all about experiencing things you’d never experience in real life.
We fight for the truth on a daily basis, the truth to us and the truth to our individual characters.
How much did you and the cast help to achieve an authentic portrayal of London culture in the series?
All of us had a huge involvement. The whole point of this show is to accurately reflect the environment. We have actors that come from that world, mixed with experienced actors from elsewhere. I’m inspired by that mixture. The new actors are so raw and fearless because they’ve never done it before. We take a lot from that energy, and I suppose they take a lot from my experience and the technical side of things as well. So you get that nice blend with Top Boy. We fight for the truth on a daily basis, the truth to us and the truth to our individual characters.
There has been a lot of commentary around Top Boy appealing to negative black stereotypes. Do you think people are being oversensitive?
I think it’s a constant battle. A lot of the time if a show is deemed to be a ‘black show’, usually people are going to be looking for it to have some sort of moral standpoint, or for it to hold a positive message. First and foremost what we are trying to achieve is creating an entertaining series. We want to reflect people’s lives accurately, which I think we achieve, and because of that what happens is debate – people that wouldn’t have a chance to experience that lifestyle or see it for what it is have a chance to understand what motivates people. We never demonise the characters in the show. We show what got them somewhere and how it affects them afterwards and the people around them. But I think there are a lot of shows in that genre that maybe do appeal to stereotypes, because they don’t show every aspect. Top Boy talks about gentrification, immigration, Brexit, the things that affect us all as a community in this day and age, which I think is what made it relevant and what made it true. So to say that about this season especially, I disagree, but I understand that it happens.
What are you currently working on, is there another series of Top Boy in the works?
Well we’re planning to shoot next year, but we haven’t actually been given the green light by Netflix. We’re waiting and assuming that it’s going to happen because of the success of this season, just waiting for that call. Before that I’ll be flying out to the South Africa to start shooting season three of Bulletproof.
Congrats also on the new song ‘Top Boy’. Obviously you’ve got your history with So Solid Crew. Is music something that you would like to pursue more in future?
Yeah that’s the plan. I’m going to be putting out a few singles for the next few months and that will probably lead to a project of some sort. Whether its an album or an EP I’m not sure yet, but I’m definitely taking music seriously. I’m working with a really strong record label and management company called Catalyst who take care of a lot of great UK artists. So we’ve got a plan.
I’m in Top Boy, I know Drake and it’s still not good enough.
I hear you have eight kids. What do they think of Top Boy? Are you seen as the badass dad?
Listen. I’m telling you now, and this is the truth. Whatever you do, and however great you think you are, your kids will never think you’re cool. I’m in Top Boy, I know Drake and it’s still not good enough. I’m still just dad. They do appreciate Top Boy though, and it’s nice to have a project out there that my kids can watch and understand, as it’s part of their culture as well. I think they are quite chuffed that their dad is in the show, but they’ve never been overly hyped by what I do.
Is your eldest son keen on getting into acting, as I know he has followed you down the music path?
My eldest son, who’s turning 20, is more focused on music production and the engineering side. He’s the only one that is involved in the sort of work I do. Everyone else have gone down different paths.
I’ve never been through the process of having a suit tailored exactly to my needs and body.
Are you big on suits?
I’m not usually a suit kind of guy, but I have to wear one for certain events. I try my best not to if I’m honest with you. I’m that guy that usually breaks the rules, so when it’s Black Tie I’ll turn up in a tracksuit. But I’m getting older you know, my business is growing and I feel like it’s time for me to get some suits in my wardrobe. I’ve had people send me suits and stuff like that, but I’ve always rejected them. But when I got this offer I thought it’s time, it’s time. I’ve never been through the process of having a suit tailored exactly to my needs and body. Being someone that trains a lot my body is constantly changing, so it’s good to have that kind of attention to detail.
Lastly, Top Boy has been successfully resurrected from the dead. Is Grange Hill making a comeback too?
I mean I wouldn’t mind if it did, but I won’t be in it