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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Maynard


Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Jacket by Bode. Shirt by Mr P at MR. PORTER. Cuff and rings by Matilde

5ELEVEN even speaks to actor Malcolm Kamulete about his journey to date and the roles that helped inform his latest character Bosco in the recently released BBC series Champion, which sends a powerful message about family, ambition, and mental health.

(This interview was conducted before the Screen Actors Guild strike.)

Words by Leigh Maynard.

Malcolm Kamulete was photographed by Pip Bourdillon.

Styled by Sarah-Rose Harrison. Grooming by Lauraine Bailey.

Watching British Actor Malcolm Kamulete's stunningly powerful performance in BBC's new series 'Champion', it's hard to imagine that this hasn't always been his calling. But growing up, there was another pursuit that was favoured by his peers, and that was football. "In my area growing up, the only example to go by was football, and everyone was good at that and pursuing that, so that seemed to be the direction I was going in," Malcolm admits on reflection that acting was destined to find him, and it did eventually, with a little push from his teacher. "I really loved drama as a lesson and always had a passion for it. Initially, it was my teacher pushing me towards it and acting found me in such a way that I can only say it just had to be my calling. It was something that I would have been drawn to over time." One person who would wholeheartedly agree on Malcolm's innate talent is his mother, "My Mum told me 'as a kid you don't have an understanding of how dramatic you were’ I don't even remember this, but she said ‘you'd be five minutes late for school, but you said you had this stomach ache, and I could see right through it, and I knew you were acting’, so things like these were already instilled in my character."

Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Knitted vest by Our Legacy. Necklace by Matilde. Trousers by Carhartt. Trainers by Nike

Knitted vest by Our Legacy. Necklace by Matilde. Trousers by Carharrt. Trainers by Nike

Malcolm's relaxed demeanour is underpinned by a strong passion for his craft as he animatedly cites a list of action-adventure films and characters hugely influential to him from a young age. "I watched many films as a kid, like The Mask of Zorro with Antonio Banderas. Jim Carrey used to do a lot of films that I liked, Liar Liar and The Mask. Martin Lawrence and Dave Chappelle in Blue Streak, certain characters used to stick with me as a kid, the personalities. I always used to be attracted to those things when watching films."

As Malcolm begins to enjoy some successes in the footsteps of those he admires, with roles in award-winning features like 'Things I Never Told My Father’ and 'Champion', he is acutely aware of the challenges of such a competitive industry, one that still has significant room for improvement in its representation of young black talent. He explains that acting can appear more glamorous and attainable from the outside, and the key to great work is making your intentions apparent. "It takes a lot of courage to be in this field because it is oversaturated already. So many people want to do it, and it doesn't have the success rate people expect. I always like to use the analogy of people seeing the project but not understanding that it took fifty nos before the one yes. People see you up there and think he's working so much. In your mind, you think, you don't even know how hard it was to get this. It takes having a strong personality and thick skin." Malcolm ensures that he imparts this reality to anyone who approaches him for advice, "I always try to be as truthful as possible. I let them know that if they really want to do this, they have to love it because there will be a lot of times when they will be questioning their faith in it. I ask them if they are ready for that and how they are with rejection because that is a major part of acting. I give them the rundown first before selling the dream."

Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Jacket by Bode. Shirt by Mr P at MR. PORTER. Trousers by Harago. Trainers by New Balance. Cuff and rings by Matilde

The best advice conveyed to Malcolm himself wasn't evident to him initially. Still, he came to understand the significance of it over time, "I was told the most important thing you can do is start, and that's with anything, starting a project, writing some lyrics, building a character, you have to be able to block out the outside noise and not let anything outside of what you believe in enter that because it's easy for your beliefs to wane after people have put their two pence in. Keep your ears open because it's better to be a listener than not but keep a strong level of discernment so that you can say, I've heard your point, but I still feel this way." It's advice that helped propel him into roles like Elisha in the lauded 'Things I Never Told My Father'. He explains that Elisha resonated because of his relationship with his father. "Leticia Wright made that film, and when she brought that project to me, it felt like such a beautiful read. I felt like I knew this character so well; that stuck with me because it was so close to my actual life, not really having the greatest relationship with my father and being unable to say so many things. It's just a great storyline of unspoken conversations you wish you'd had." Malcolm feels that Elisha allowed him to explore new depths of emotion, which gave him grounding for his latest part. 'Things I Never Told My Father' was based on a true story, which was very gripping for me, just trying to pay respect to somebody who went through this situation. It was an amazing project, and it definitely opened up the doors of vulnerability and made me think it's ok to be emotional and sad. You don't always have to look like the hard guy on screen, so yes, it was easier for me to be vulnerable in ‘Champion’ as a result of that film. All dominos fall in place for the right reasons!"

Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Shirt by Commas. Vest by All Saints. Trousers by Carhartt. Cuff by Matilde

Champion is a compelling musical drama by Candice-Carty-Williams, (author of the renowned book 'Queenie'). It tells the story of British-Caribbean siblings Bosco (Kamulete) and Vita (Déja J Bowens), who, though close, risk their relationship through their musical ambitions. It's a story about family, honour and ambition, with Bosco back to reprise his status as a revered rap star upon release from prison. It's an intensely charged portrayal from Malcolm, who says the part not only remained with him afterwards but also offered him the chance to explore other facets of his talent. "It has stayed with me and has taught me so much about myself and having to go to all the places I had to go to for him, just emotionally and in terms of vulnerability, that I never had to go to before as a man, so I appreciate vulnerability and emotions a lot more and I appreciate what it means to have anxiety and PTSD a lot more. I also appreciate what it is not to have it as someone who doesn't. It is apparent that his time working on 'Champion' was a professional privilege and something Malcolm prized because of the family atmosphere on set." Being on set with the lovely people in the cast and crew, it was next to no other feeling I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Vintage Leather jacket. Shirt by Fiorucci

Malcolm agrees that, as Champion's protagonist, Bosco is complex, at once tough but vulnerable, questioning himself and his parent's expectations and challenging his sister's eagerness for the spotlight. "He has anti-hero vibes about him because you want to hate his decisions, you love the character, but you can't help but feel sorry for him. When he's got his clothes on, and he's outside, that's his armour, and he's stripped bare when he's at home, he's back to himself and in his own head and trying to figure out who he is, what's going on and why what is happening to him is happening. He is a bit oxymoronic in that way, but it's great for the character's art because you see why he's so confused and how much he has to carry on his shoulder as the season goes on."

Champion's brilliant soundtrack is also a part of its appeal, with works by artists like Ghetts and Ray BLK delivering vibrant tracks. As a musician creating material for the last 10-12 years, Malcolm brought some of his experiences to the part. "Funnily enough, I am not even sure they knew about my musical talent when they gave me the tape. It was a blessing in disguise. Being able to rap made it so much easier for me to perform as Bosco and make it believable, just knowing how to approach a song in a studio already, knowing how to make a song, the process." In turn, his time as Bosco also informed and encouraged Malcolm's musical ambitions and brought some of his dreams to life with the opportunity to perform to a large live audience. "It has given me the confidence to perform to a crowd, even if it's not 5000 people sold-out crowd, it still gives you the feeling that, 'I can do this, I can give them a piece of music, and they can enjoy it', so it has given me so much more confidence, it's even reignited the spark within me to go to the studio and make more music and be more proactive in that sector."

Vintage Leather jacket. Shirt by Fiorucci. Trousers by Mr P at MR. PORTER. Cuff and rings by Matilde

While 'Champion' is primarily about a family torn apart by sibling rivalry, Malcolm acknowledges that it touches on many other important messages. Above all, he believes the series sends a powerful message to men about being open and expressive about difficult experiences. "It's a good example of what can happen to a man by suppressing emotions and not dealing with them upfront. It's a rollercoaster because it dives into a place of untapped issues men don't want to deal with, and it shows the level of vulnerability versus the bravado and how much more damage it does by covering it up and not dealing with it." It was an area Malcolm felt was particularly important to highlight, with so many issues around young men and mental health. "What I take from it is trusting yourself, doing things more wholeheartedly, not listening to the outside noise and not letting outside influences stop you. It also is about taking action, looking after yourself and being at one with yourself. I think it's a positive message, it has blurred lines when you are watching something, and some elements are uncomfortable to see, but if you can take the raw message out of it, you will always be better off."

With 'Champion' launching on the 1st of July and an upcoming short film called 'Area Boy' with BBC, Malcolm says he's keen to start a new project. If he could work with anyone, he says, with a beaming smile, it would be A24, the production company behind the astonishing Oscar-winning 'Everything Everywhere All at Once', 'Lady Bird', 'Uncut Gems' and 'Midsommar'. "I really love their films, their style of filming and just how they write. It's a wacky world, and I want to be a part of it. As for directors, that's a difficult one, he says. If I could pick any director, oooh, there are a lot of great ones out there. You know what? I will not pigeonhole myself if there are any great directors out there willing to work with me, and A24, I love you so much, but any production house willing to work with me, ha-ha." With exceptional performances like Bosco in Malcolm's portfolio, no doubt those calls will be shortly incoming.

Exclusive online interview with the actor Malcolm Kamulete. Images by Pip Bourdillon. Styled by Sara-Rose Harrison
Shirt by Commas. Trousers by Carhartt. Cuff and rings by Matilde


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