Stratford born and raised Malcolm Kamulete had to wait a while for the spotlight, but now, the actor is flourishing. Here, he talks starring in Champion, catching a vibe on set and more.
Real ones will remember Malcolm Kamulete for his role in Channel 4’s OG Top Boy series; the much-loved drama showcasing the streets of London in its most gritty and unforgiving form. Playing Ra’Nell Smith, a smart schoolboy groomed into a life of gang violence, the actor was destined for stardom, but he’s had to wait years for what’s finally come his way. Signing to a dodgy agency didn’t help, and briefly, he tampered with the idea of pursuing one of his other passions, football. But now, Malcom’s stars are aligning, and after scoring a leading role in the new BBC show Champion, the sky’s become the limit for such a promising actor.
A love letter to Black British music, Champion is the series making waves thanks to its relatable themes and impressive soundtrack. Malcolm plays Boscoe: a UK rapper fresh out of jail and looking to make it in the competitive scene. While in prison his sister Vita, played by Déja J Bowens, has also kick-started an encouraging music career. The eight-part drama explores the nature of sibling rivalry and how these professional tensions can come between brother and sister while examining the dynamic underpinning many households in which son and daughter are trying to chase their dreams.
Born and raised in Stratford, Malcom’s got a bright future ahead of him. But first, he sits down with us to speak his starring role in Champion, learning to be patient and more.
Let’s take it right back to the beginning. How did you first get into acting?
Being born and raised in Stratford taught me so much and gave me my first opportunities in film and TV. I was always engaged in drama lessons at school but I’d say acting found me. The chance to be a part of a project presented itself to me very early with Ill Manors, a film where I played an extra. However, a few weeks later, I was auditioning for Top Boy. My teacher at the time, Marnie Crymble, told us about the open casting, urging me and my classmates to go to the audition. Six months later I landed the role of Ra’Nell Smith. The rest is history.
And at what point did acting start to look like a career?
I’d say it looked like a career later in my life; there was limited information when I was coming up into the acting game. There was a lot about acting and the business aspects of it that I had to learn and I still continue to learn about them today. I’d attempted to try other avenues but acting and making music seemed to be the things that stuck with me even when life felt stagnant. I always had a gut feeling that it would work out for the better.
Did you idolise any actors growing up?
I wouldn’t say I idolise anyone but I definitely respected a few actors growing up. Off the top of my head, I enjoyed films that starred the likes of Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Jim Carrey, Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence, to name a few. My mum has always had good taste in films and music, so I was very much in the know.
If you could be cast in any film franchise, which would it be and why?
I would love to work with A24 Productions in some way. I think their style of shooting and formatting of storylines is so brilliantly put together. To me, it represents freedom not only in the text but also in the performance and I’d love to be a part of the world they’ve created over there.
Congratulations on your leading role in the BBC drama series Champion. How are you feeling now that it’s out in the open?
Thank you, I appreciate that! I’m just glad it has been well received so far. I am very proud of the team that helped bring this important project together and to the forefront. I feel as though narratives like this aren’t told enough and I’m happy that I got to be a part of that. I hope people continue to spread the word and enjoy it! And of course, we all hope for a season two!
The show is said to be a love letter to Black British music. Which artists are you personally into at the moment?
Honestly, the albums I’ve been playing are the official Champion soundtrack, which is full of quality musical numbers and J Hus’ ‘Beautiful And Brutal Yard’, which may seem a little biased because he’s my pal. But I have been listening to a lot of J Hus lately. There are so many timeless songs on there.
Other than that, I am a mixed bag when it comes to music. I listen to music according to my mood, and more often than not, I listen to multiple genres daily!
What was the vibe like on set? Do you have any funny anecdotes from your time filming the show?
The set was one of the best that I’ve ever been on, especially for vibes and quality work. The greatest part of the process was how enjoyable and funny almost every single day was. I probably wouldn’t be able to recollect the funniest moment as there were honestly too many, I wouldn’t change anything about my process or the people I met along the way.
Are there any directors that you’d like to work with in the future?
I’d love to work with so many directors. Off the top of my head, I appreciate the work of Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Daniels, Antoine Fuqua and so many more!
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging parts of my job, for me personally, is trying to remain at ease even when you have the burning desire to want to work again, which is equivalent to finding patience when you feel you don’t have any. Being present can be difficult sometimes because of all the expectations we subconsciously put on ourselves.
Malcolm Kamulete rules the world for the day, what’s going down?
If I could rule the world for the day, I am absolutely ending poverty and homelessness and I am creating a tax-less society where the hard-working people can keep what they earn. Additionally, I’d probably create as many opportunities as humanly possible. Oh, and I would make Arsenal win the Premier League and Champions League!
What’s next for Malcolm Kamulete? Have you got anything else exciting coming up later this year?
I have quite a few things for everyone to look forward to. I play the character of Kevin in an amazing BBC short film called Area Boy which has just been selected for the Venice International Film Festival. I also have a few more editorials to come and hopefully, I’ll be able to bless everyone with some music releases!