English actor, Daniel Adeboyega (who has starred in hits such as James Bond: Skyfall, Transformers and Dr Who) was born in Lagos Nigeria but was raised in South London. He spent much of his childhood watching movies and cartoons and was inspired by his childhood heroes such as Robert Zemeckis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, to pursue a career in acting. Daniel trained at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. After being typecast to certain roles because of his strong build and physicality, Daniel has proven he is much more versatile, and has shown his talent across many areas of film, television and theatre, becoming a well-established professional within the industry. We managed to catch up with Daniel for a coffee and a quick interview where he told us about his experiences within the industry.
First question: What attracted you to acting?
“A number of things actually. I wasn’t particularly academic when I was a kid, I didn’t know where I fitted, especially with the academic subjects. If you gave me 2+2 somehow I got 5 haha. I was struggling at school, but I would always find myself watching movies and cartoons. I realised I was really drawn to them, and it sparked an interest into the world of film & television.”
Were cartoons & movies something you found inspiring?
“Well here’s the thing, I didn’t really know what these things were, I just watched them and knew I enjoyed it. When I was about 11, I realised how much I loved and appreciated films & movies. I would watch and memorise my favourite scenes. But I still didn’t understand what an actor was. I remember asking one of my teachers and when he explained I was completely sold on the idea and thought: that’s what I want to do, I am going to be an actor! And that’s where it all started.”
Were there any specific actors that inspired you?
“I watched a lot of Spielberg stuff, Robert Zemeckis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. They were my heroes when I was growing up and actors who I looked up to and felt inspired by. Football, rugby, basketball etc. I was good at, but not the best. I felt useless at academic stuff, maths? Nah, none of that rubbish. English? You want me to write?..Nah, not going to happen sir haha. Not today! It led onto the idea of wanting to be heroic, and wanting to do something to help, like Superman, Spiderman, Batman and James Bond . All these characters always did the right thing and helped others, and I wanted to do the same.”
What would be your dream role - if you could play any character, what would you be?
“My dream role would probably be a mad scientist or something. Because I am a big guy, I get a lot of action, fighting, martial arts, warrior type roles so it's always interesting when I get the brainy characters instead, like a scientist, a teacher or a doctor. You know, a crazy physicist would be super cool. That way I can be myself which is a bit of a geek haha!”
What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
“Finding myself! I went to drama school for three years and they did their best to try and mould us into what they thought an actor was or should be. They never looked at who we really were, or thought 'What can This person bring to the table?'. They always said “Oh Daniel you're too big, you’re too muscular, you look like a bodybuilder, you look like an athlete”. Hearing that for so long, I became very self-conscious of the way I looked. I tried hard for years to lose weight, to be thinner and smaller because I thought it fitted the paradigm. It didn’t work. It didn’t matter how much weight I lost, I still had my ‘frame’ and it just seemed a bit of an issue for the drama school.
Daniel starring in the New Years Day 2019 Dr Who Special.
Image from: https://bit.ly/2ymwufv
“When I graduated, I pursued acting on the theatre scene, where people would also bring up my physicality. That was hard because I just wanted to act and do the job that I enjoyed. It took a long time, almost 10 years before I was able to say, ‘You know what, I am a big guy, so what?! Just deal with it. If they don’t want it - fine, someone else will.' In drama school they would say, 'You don't want to be typecast, you want to be as flexible and versatile as possible'. Whilst all of that is true in a way, everyone, absolutely everyone is typecast by definition when they first start their career. It doesn't matter who you are, whether you play Romeo or The mad Doctor, when you first start you are always cast to the vision of what the director and the producers want. So, initially your acting doesn’t even come into question. Instead you FIT within the image of what the production wants. If you build up enough body of work, then you can diversify and move around, but until then you will be cast to type. The irony was that they were telling us “don’t get typecast, you don’t want to be typecast”. But out in the real world, being cast to type is how you find work.”
I suppose it's a type of confidence you have to learn and develop along the way?
“Yes absolutely, it took a long time before I let all of that go and found myself. I realised that it is important to be yourself, so that you can get to know yourself and find others like you. It’s important to find your tribe, to know where you fit in, who you harmonise with and what your USP (Unique Selling Point) is. It took me a long time to really embrace this after hearing the opposite for so long. There just seemed to be a lot stigma with my physicality, so I decided to go where the work was, where my body wouldn’t be an issue.
What's your biggest acting achievement?
“In terms of work, doing a guest appearance on the Doctor Who New Year Special was a pretty cool moment. Doctor Who fans are amazing. The biggest wow moment however was...A bit of name-dropping here, hmm who do you want? There's been so many haha”
Haha how about your top three?
“Working with Morgan Freeman, Shaun Penn & Clive Owen. Shaun Penn was quite cool. Clive Owen though, he was so sexy he didn’t know how to switch it off. He was just oozing sexiness, and I when I worked with him I was like: 'Just stop it Clive, turn it off haha! Morgan Freeman is very quiet & gentle, how you see him in the movies is exactly how he is in person and how he works. Very pure.”
Is there anything you like to do in your spare time to help wind down?
“Hit the gym & play chess. Chess is a game which you can attribute to many if not all aspects of life. Which goes back to the whole thing of finding myself. When I play chess, it’s almost like I’m playing life. It teaches you to attack and defend, sacrifice, preservation, distraction, deception (not always a good thing haha). Above all else it teaches you patience. Boxing is my other passion and I attribute the same principles of chess, to boxing. Boxing is physical chess: this opponent is trying to hurt you and you're trying to figure out the next actions, reactions, moves and counter moves. They are both organic and it’s life, it’s constantly changing. It's not the strongest, the fastest or the most intelligent that survive, it’s the ones that are the most adaptable.”
What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
“Wooo... time travel haha ok, man, before I answer, this reminds me of a question which someone once asked me; ‘If you had the choice and someone offered you 10 million pounds to continue life as it is now or go back to your younger self with all the knowledge you have acquired, what would you do?’ I would probably go back you know. Leading into what I would tell my 18yr old self, I would simply say: 'It's going to be ok, have confidence in yourself, use that confidence to talk to and socialise with people.' I am very much a man who likes to stay at home, in the 'cave'. Oxford Street, for example is a very big 'Nope'. All these people spilling out of every corner - no thanks! But yes, I wouldn’t say too much because I don’t want to change where I am today”
Daniel Starring in ' Last Knights' 2015.
Image from: https://imdb.to/2Op7HCi
So, Walk London, we’re very much inspired by London and its vibrant culture. Is there anywhere in London you think is a cool hangout spot?
“No. Haha I’m not very cool in that aspect. But I will tell you where I think is cool: a place called Whistle Punks, it’s an axe throwing place. It’s good fun & definitely a good stress relief. I bet you weren’t expecting me to say that haha! But in terms of food, probably a restaurant Pit house bbq place, there's one called Red Dog Saloon in Clapham, loads of meats, all kinds of burgers and bbq. Your guy friends, they should go - they’d love it.”
Do you have a go to pair of shoes?
"My Tims (Timberlands). I’m very practical and someone once said my look is ‘lumberjack-chic’ and I was like ‘Oooh yeah, I am that actually!’ Haha”.
What is your favorite pair of Walk London shoes?
“The Darcy High Shine boots, they’re really nice and they’ve got a nice subtle shine to them. These are perfect as you can rock them with a number of different looks; you can wear them smart and casually.”
What do you like about Walk London?
“I think Walk London is a very stylish and fashionable shoe brand. The second I saw it, I was like ‘Oooh this a bit stylish innit'. Especially for people who need a bit of inspiration. I also like that it’s a small company, feels like a lot of thought and time has gone into the shoes.
Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment?
Yes! I am. But I am not allowed to tell you what it is. It will come out in a couple of years. The only clue I will give you is this: *talks with an American accent* That’s it! “Laughs”.
Scarlett Langley was in conversation with Daniel Adegboyega on Wednesday 10 July 2019