There is a real sense of new beginnings surrounding the upcoming release of British crime drama Offender - as not only is it director Ron Scalpello's directorial début, but for the majority of this cast, this picture is also their first feature film - and we caught up with two of the newcomers, Malachi Kirby, and Scorcher.
Kirby - who was nominated for 'Outstanding Newcomer' at the Evening Standard theatre awards, has swapped the stage for the screen to take on the role as our protagonist Tommy's cell-mate, whilst Scorcher, on the other hand, is famed for his work in the UK grime scene, yet takes on a role as Essay in what is only his second acting performance following a role in TV drama Top Boy.
The pair discuss what they learnt off one another with The Fan Carpet's Stefan Pape, whilst also telling us what it was like working with Scapello and also discussing their inspirations for their roles, as Scorcher tells us of his previous stint in a youth offenders institute - the setting of this feature.
Firstly, how were you first approached for the role? And when you first got the script did you immediately think this was something you wanted to do, or were there any hesitations?
Malachi Kirby: I first got the script last summer and since then I had about six different versions, but the final script I was really happy with.
And Scorcher, predominantly you have been known for your music, but was acting something you had always dreamed of getting in to?
Scorcher: Not really if I'm honest. I'm not going to lie and say I wanted to be an actor but through music you become more than somebody who goes into the booth and records, you become an entertainer. Acting is another form of what I do already so it felt natural and it was really fun. Its so nice, I've been doing music for so long and at times its like a job, because I'm past the hobby stage, I have so much fun making music, doing music and performing, but I'm past the hobby stage, we pay bills now. Acting though, where it is so new and so fresh, its like one big hobby to me, I'm learning it, every time I go and do stuff. I will never forget, this is the God's honest truth - one day we were filming, we were just chilling and waiting for our scene and Malachi and Daniel started off some random improvisation, but I never went to acting school, I know nothing about this, and we were just sitting there and watching, it was such a big learning experience, its so much fun for me right now. I cant see myself backing away from it any time soon.
So do you think its fair to say that you learnt things off each other? Because although you haven't done much acting before Scorcher, you’ve got more of an association to the characters in the film, do you think you bounced off each other in that respect?
Scorcher: I would never disrespect these guys and the kind of hard work that they put into their craft, but I would definitely say that I learnt so much from working with all the professional actors.
Malachi Kirby: I'm not just saying this but I learn from everything, I learn more from more people than I would learn from an actor, in terms of what I can bring to a character, so yes definitely.
What was the atmosphere like on set? Was it an enjoyable place to be or was it very much work orientated?
Malachi Kirby: it was a mixture of both for me, I take it seriously, but at the same time I have to play, I cant take it too seriously. When you weren’t filming, there was a lot of waiting around so you have to find some way to keep up your energy.
Scorcher you have been to prison yourself before, how much did you draw on past experiences when preparing for this role?
Scorcher: I didn’t really prepare for it as such but the set was so good and the actors were so on point and the wardrobe was so accurate, so it wasn’t hard to believe, it wasn’t hard to feel like I was in jail and I think for me, I'm not a profession actor, but believing what is going on, after that everything comes easily. It's all real and so it wasn’t a case of me having to draw on old inspiration because they made it so real for when we were filming.
Do you think its important for you personally that you can take experiences like that from the past and take something positive from it?
Scorcher: Yeah, 100%. The first proper foray into acting was Top Boy and seeing people like that I'd been to jail with, who said they had been watching me and phone calls from people who were still there, this is a step further, this is going from being in jail to filming a film about being in jail and so hopefully that can be something that inspires people. A funny story that I can tell people is that when I first went to jail I was in the young offenders, so that’s that. The first day of filming a car comes to collect you, you get the call, the car's downstairs, so you go downstairs and get into the car. I say hi to the driver, who then pulls out and says so you alright Scorcher? He turns around and he was my cell-mate from when I first went to jail and he's also got a role in the film, Aymen Hamdouchi, we used to call him Gucci Hamdouchi. Yeah, that was my old cell-mate, a good friend of mine, and now were both in a film about being in a jail, I don’t know if that’s irony, fate but I find that inspiring.
I bet you wouldn’t have believed that would ever happen at the time...
Scorcher: It's mad.
How about yourself Malachi - did you do much research into young offenders institutes, did you go to any, speak to anyone?
Malachi Kirby: I watched a lot of films, I went to HMV and brought literally every prison film I could find and read the book Scum because this movie is based on it, but I know a lot of people who have been in youth offenders because of where I grew up, you are just surrounded by that, so it wasn’t so much that I had to ask people because I just knew that way of life already, and what its about. I've never been into one, so in terms of getting my head in that space it was mostly from the films and documentaries. The documentaries were brilliant in terms of getting into the head space of what its like and how that can affect you and what it does to you mentally.
You’ve done a lot of stage work in the past, just how different is it being on stage to being in a gritty British film? Would say there's one you prefer?
Malachi Kirby: I'm finding a love to film, my background is in theatre, it is where my passion started and where it still lies. But I’m finding a new love for film and the challenges of it, which is why I loved theatre because I feel like, or I felt like, it was more of a challenge, to stay in the role the whole time and running it the whole way through, just vocally and physically what it does to you and the effect you can have on the audience, being able to relate to them and the energy you feel, even before you go on stage. I don’t feel that on a film set, there's a lot waiting around and I don’t feel that same buzz.
Scorcher: You know I was saying, that when they say to you ‘do you prefer music or film?’, the thing about film is that even if you smash box office records, you're not actually there. Last night I performed a show, not even in front of a lot of people, 400/500 people, and when I went there, I went out early and surprised them, they didn’t even know I was coming out, for that little moment, there's a moment of magic, I don’t know what it is that everyone in that room shares. With film you don’t get that because you do it, then it goes off, and then you talk about it before or after. You don’t share the moment with the audience, that’s the only thing. I'd assume theatre is the same.
What was it like working with Ron? Because it was his début film did that brush off on you as actors to know that the person behind the camera was also learning as well as you guys were?
Malachi Kirby: This is my second film, the first film is coming out after this but I filmed it before, My Brother the Devil, and the director of that, it was also her first film too, and I've done a lot of TV in terms of working directors. But these two films were full of so much passion because it was their baby if that makes any sense, and its nice to be able to work with someone who has that same passion that you have, sometimes I work with directors and it has just become a job for them and I can tell that Ron felt really passionately about this. And every time he got into state of hype or anything he was there with us, which was great.
So do you think the passion wore off on you from Ron and other members of the crew?
Scorcher: Yeah I wouldn’t know if he had directed a million films or not, but he didn’t seem to me like a new director, and I learnt a lot from him, maybe he's wise beyond his years.
One of the underlying themes of this film is the London riots, did either of you go out and see what was going on at the time, and if so did you draw on such experiencs when preparing for the film?
Malachi Kirby: I was in it, not by choice, because I live in Croydon and I was on my way to the barbers which is in Clapham Junction and I remember getting there and there were police outside all the shops, but there wasn’t any trouble yet. When I came out of the barbers all the police were gone and it was just the riots, it was weird, I didn’t know about this film when it was happening, but something told me that I wanted to be there, and be a part of history, not to be involved but to observe. When I got back to Croydon it was all on TV and it was weird, it didn’t feel dangerous, to me it didn’t feel like anyone was going to do anything to me. In a weird way it felt like the most amount of unity there had been in London for a while, even though it was for a lot of bad reasons, everyone was together, and that part of it to me was beautiful that everyone could work together like that, if only it could be used more positively we could do some amazing things.
Scorcher: I hadn’t thought of it like that before.
Offender Film Page | Offender Review
OFFENDER IS OUT WEDNESDAY AUGUST 8