Inside Look: Arinzé Kene

Arinzé Kene in his dressing room at the Donmar Warehouse in London, UK on November 25, 2016.

We spoke to actor Arinzé Kene about his role as Same Cooke in the Donmar Warehouse production of One Night In Miami.

Cooke was a ground-breaking artist beyond just a creative capacity in that he crossed genres (at risk of losing his gospel career) and took control of his music management. How much do you think these chapters of his life would influence his role in the civil rights movement, or vice-versa?
There were several differing views at the time on what the best methods to combat racial injustice were. Some saw peaceful protest as an ideal route while other activists took the ‘eye for an eye’ approach. Sam Cooke, being the businessman that he was, fought a unique fight. He put his politicals in his music and it can be heard in A Change Gonna Come and that’s why the song became an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.

What was a seemingly small detail about Cooke that had a significant impact on your understanding of him?
When he started his own record label and saw the benefits of keeping all of his music, he didn’t keep it to himself. He evangelised. He tried to get other artists to do the same. And live on air, when asked what his ultimate goal was, he replied “for all of my artists to have hit records”. He really wanted others to do well. He wanted to share his success and went to great lengths to do so. He hired people he knew growing up and he signed people from his church to his record label. He changed the course of music because he was so generous.

Amongst the figures depicted in the play, Cooke is unique in that he is the only one among them who is an artist rather than an athlete or a political figure. How do you feel that may have set his perspective apart from the other ones in the room, if at all?
I think that in 1964 black artists were idolised in quite a similar way to black atheletes. Sam, Cassius Clay, and Jim Brown, there was a lot of common ground they shared. I think Sam’s unique perspective comes from him being an individual, not so much that fact he was an artist or a performer.

Do you feel that there are any contemporary cultural figures who represent the people depicted in One Night In Miami? If not, why do you think that is?
I don’t think there are many but there are some. The LeBron James Family Foundation donated $41M to send kids to college. Draymond Green doesn’t make half as much as LeBron and he donated $3.1M to Michigan State. Colin Kaepernick, NFL player, took a knee during the Star Spangled Banner and when asked about it afterwards his response was, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”. I think if there are contemporary figures who represent the people in One Night In Miami, its these guys, to name a few.

Sam Cooke and Malcolm X would not make it out of the 60’s without tragic and violent ends, whereas Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali would continue to carry on their legacies of civil/ social/ racial equality. To what degree do you feel Sam Cooke would have enhanced his legacy and social change had he lived?
I think he’d have continued to fight through his music and through music management. Music changes lives. It saves lives. Through Sam Cooke, several people at the time who had aversions to black people, were able to see different. I think he’d have inspired more artists similar to him that they can do both, make money while doing what they love and fight for equality.

How aware were you of the relationships depicted in this play prior to your involvement in the project? What did you find the most intriguing or illuminating about it once you invested so much thought?
I had no idea that these men knew each other so intensely. I knew that Clay and Sam were friends and that Malcolm helped Clay become Ali, but that was all. Exploring this play really opened my mind. It showed me that it’s important to do the right thing with your power. These men gained a platform and they all used it for something that was greater than them. Greater than their legacy combined will ever be.

What Sam Cooke song does everyone reading this need to drop everything and listen to immediately?
A Change Is Gonna Come

Kene’s dressing room was filled with archive images of Cooke for reference and inspiration.

After changing into costume, Kene exited the dressing room to give us a tour of the theatre.

The stage wings of the Donmar.

Kene strummed out a Cooke song which features in the play.

The bedside table on the stage.

Kene looked out to the empty theatre before the evening’s performance.

Kene held up a prop from the play.

Back in his dressing room, Kene took a call from his agent to organize the week’s schedule.

Kene’s wig was removed to reveal his shaved head underneath.

Kene shared his dressing room with castmate Sope Dirisu and Josh Williams.

Kene changed back into his regular attire to go grab a bite to eat before the show.

Kene joked around with castmate Williams.

Arinzé Kene recently won Best Supporting Actor at the Evening Standard Film Awards for his role in The Pass, in cinemas now (UK). He can also be seen in Crazyhead on Netflix (UK). He wrote the play good dog, which opens at the Watford Palace Theatre on 14 February 2017 before touring nationally (UK).

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Photographer: Jessie Craig

Amy Wren

Top by CHANEL. Jeans by MSGM.

You recently played a lead in the TV series Tutankhamun. If you could pick any one aspect of ancient history/ culture/ lore to know everything about, what or who would you pick?
I was obsessed with Greek gods and goddesses when I was at school, but can’t really remember any of it now. So I would choose that to be my fountain of knowledge.

What is something you would only do in preparation for a scene that you would never do in your personal life?
It makes me laugh now when I think about it but when you have a crying scene you literally sit for like 20 minutes listening to sad music and thinking of the most horrific things that could happen to you or people you love in the hope it will make you cry! In real life I would avoid anything like this at all costs!

If you could pick any two characters from cinema or TV to be your ‘good influence’ friend and your ‘bad influence’ friend, who would you pick?
Good influence: Jack Bauer – He kicks ass 24/7
Bad influence: David Brent – I love him too much that I think he would bring out a side of me that is always best hidden!

What is the best and worst part about where you currently live?
Best part: I have four pubs near to me and all of them have a pub quiz on every week. They are starting to use the same questions in each one, so technically I’m not cheating we are just getting very good at remembering the answers.
Worst part: No one picks up their dog poo! Like literally no-one.

What is something you learnt how to do, or, you were emboldened to try, from watching a film?
I love the films Rust and Bone and Tell No One, both of which are French films. I actually downloaded the language app after watching both, in the hope I would one day be able to watch without subtitles…. still a work in progress.

(L) Shirt by MSGM. (R) Jumpsuit by BELSTAFF.

What is your least favorite small-talk’ism?
Football is one that I always get asked about because I am from Leicester (and if you didn’t know we are the champions!!). But I actually don’t know enough about the team, so we start off very excited but normally run dry half way through.

When in your life have you been incredibly overqualified or under-qualified for a task/ question/ request?
When I first moved to London I went for a job interview as a shop assistant, and somehow they got my details mixed up with a different girl applying and they actually gave me the job as their chief buyer. I didn’t know it was a mistake to start with so I just bluffed my way through the job for a week, until I realised there had been a massive mistake. It was very embarassing when I had to tell them I wasn’t who they thought I was and then I had to explain why I had pretended I could do the job.

How do you celebrate when something goes your way?
I ring my mum and then a night out on rum and Coke sounds about right 🙂

Who had the biggest influence on your taste in films?
My parents used to run a DVD rental shop when I was growing up. So I was very lucky! I got to watch every movie for free, me and my brother worked there so I watched all types of films.

What is a song or film that used to be a guilty pleasure but you now have no qualms praising?
Magic Mike is a great guilty pleasure… not sure I ever had qualms about that though!

What is a piece of, or moment in, pop culture that you lived through yet failed to make any impression on you whatsoever?
I think the Gangnam song was a massive moment in a lot of people’s lives ha!! I missed this completely somehow (not that I’m complaining).

Want more? Watch our behind-the-scenes film.

Amy Wren can be seen in ITV’s Tutankhamun, now available on box set (UK).

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Francesca Turner
Hair: Yusuke Morioka using Bumble and bumble
Makeup: Nicola Moores-Brittin

Andrea Riseborough

You’ll be appearing soon as Svetlana Stalin – Joseph Stalin’s only daughter – in Armando Ianucci’s The Death of Stalin. This will be one of Ianucci’s first projects not only using a real contextual setting but also ‘real’ historical figures. What can you share about the way this project (and you through your character) approached the balance of reality and creative license?
I watched the moving images of Svetlana available, read one book in particular, Rosemary Sullivan’s Stalin’s Daughter, which was comprehensive. And used all the stills of her available. Then made an effort to forget it all and embrace the contemporary language and rhythm of Armando’s script.

Top by MARNI. Shorts by STELLA MCCARTNEY. Necklace by NOEMI KLEIN.

In retrospect, what is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?
Falling in love.

What is next for you?
Nocturnal Animals, Mindhorn, Shepherds and Butchers, Battle of the Sexes, The Witness for the Prosecution and Burden

What is your favorite subject to discuss? 
Music. Literature. Politics.

At what age do you think you would have been the hardest to parent or discipline?
Every age.

This year you appeared in Netflix’s fantastic series Bloodline, as the cunning and manipulative Evangeline. Conniving, scheming characters are oftentimes the most intriguing to watch, as you are watching a performance (for the other characters) within a performance (for the audience). Who are some of your favorite cinematic schemers of all time, and how did that augment or alter your approach to playing Evangeline?
Olivier’s Richard III
Kim Jong II – Team America World Police
Dr. Strangelove – Dr. Strangelove
Mutley – Wacky Races
All the greats.

What smell reminds you the most of a certain time or place?
The smell of oranges. Reminds me of riding the now dated Horizons ride in Epcot with my dad in kidhood.

What is the coolest possession you’ve ever found?
A child’s scrapbook from the ’30s in Ripping Yarns second hand book shop in Highgate. Under the ‘oddities’ section were Virginia Woolf, George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde.

Bodysuit by ACNE. Fishnets by WOLFORD. Ring by NOEMI KLEIN.

What is the most unconventional food or drink combination/concoction that you love?
Probably not hugely unconventional but Maltesers on salted cinema popcorn.

What film do you think you’ve recommended the most?
Mikhalkov’s Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano
Kusturica’s Black Cat White Cat
Antonioni’s L’Eclisse

Which is more important to you, your daily routine leading up to going to sleep, or after waking up?
Don’t know. I wake up and eat chocolate first thing cause life’s short and it keeps me regular 😉 I listen to an album and read myself to sleep. I value’em both!

Andrea Riseborough can be seen in Witness for the Prosecution on BBC One (UK) on 26 & 27 December 2016.

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Francesca Turner
Hair: Bjorn Krischker
Makeup: Charlotte Hayward
Special thanks to the ME Hotel, London

Ronan Raftery

Jumper by FOLK. Trousers & trainers by WHISTLES.

What do you think would be the most inconvenient phobia for you to develop at this stage of your life?
A fear of interviews.

Which cinematic villain or antagonist have you always felt the most empathy for?
Beetlejuice, he just wants the house to himself! I usually empathize with the bad guy. Good movies rarely have a villain with no redeemable characteristics or moments where they question everything, however briefly. I’m thinking of Charlize Theron in Monster or Jack Nicholson in The Shining, Darth Vader etc. Moments when the armour cracks and we catch a glimpse of the person that once was. I should state for the record that I don’t want to go on a murderous rampage or take over the universe…

If you found out the world was ending tomorrow at an exact time, what would your last words be?
Probably “Hey, what time is it?”

Money notwithstanding, if it were completely up to you, how much would you want to work per week/ month/ year?
6 months on, 1 month off would be a good cycle I think. It was the reverse ratio at times in my career and I nearly lost my mind, so anything but that. When a great project comes up I don’t really care how much I’ve been working before then, I just want to do it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?
A marine biologist. I didn’t really know what one was, but I wanted to swim with sharks and save whales from nets.

(L) Jacket, top & trousers by JOHN VARVATOS. (R) Jacket by BELSTAFF. Jumper by FOLK.

In Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, what word or spell did you come across that’s the most difficult to pronounce?
I’m only a lowly No-Maj so I left the spells to Eddie and Katherine, but I’d give anything to be able to whisper Lumos Maxima when I’ve lost my keys or something.

Inspired by Bob Dylan, what award would you make no public comment upon winning?
An Oscar. No, I’m kidding, give me one!

If you could swap one species into extinction with one Fantastic Beasts species into existence, which would you swap?
Oh I’d swap in a Niffler for any of our species: panda, snow leopard… Man – don’t care. I just want a Niffler.

One of your upcoming projects, The Terror, is an anthology drama/ horror series focusing on a naval expedition beset by an ominous creature. The anthology format for television continues to gain in popularity, what is a film you admire that you think could be interesting to reformat as an anthology series?
Reformatting films has been outrageously successful in some cases – Fargo is an amazing piece of work. But I think the future of the anthology series lies more in original content. Not needing to write 5-7 seasons of a linear show is giving writers and studios much more room to experiment with genre, style and casting. True Detective lead the way a few years ago, and hopefully The Terror is going to change game again. David Kajganich, Soo Hugh and their team have written some incredible scripts.

If you could play any creature or monster in film history in a spectacular remake, what would you want to play?
I would like to play all of the Gremlins.

Ronan Raftery can be seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in cinemas now globally.

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Christopher Preston
Grooming: Oliver Daw

Samuel Barnett

Suit jacket & trousers by ACNE. Roll neck by JOHN SMEDLEY.

In the theme of your new series Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – since everyone will be asking you about the mysteries you’ve solved – what is a historically significant or famed mystery that you find completely uninteresting… or, likely possesses the least intriguing solution?
An enduring mystery lies around Shakespeare. Did he really write all of those plays…?!?!
Yep. He did. Mystery solved.

What moment in your life did you feel the most like a tourist?
I visited the giant bronze Buddha at a monastery on Lantau island. All the monks there were silent and dressed in their orange robes and I was there with a bunch of people, all of us in our shorts and flip flops, baseball caps, cameras out snapping away. Every day the monks provided free food for every single person who visited. The juxtaposition of peace and capitalism felt extreme.

Suit jacket by ACNE. Roll neck by JOHN SMEDLEY.

If you had to pick a character/ scene from a film to do a reading from, what would you pick? In the same vein of a singer covering a song.
Toni Collette has a brilliant speech in The Hours where everything you think she is gets turned upside down as she completely cracks open whilst trying to hold it together. I’d like a go at that. It’s a superb blend of acting and writing.

What is your proudest moment as an actor that wasn’t onscreen or onstage?
It was being at the Tony Awards in 2014, nominated for Best Actor. I was surrounded by friends and sitting next to my partner and I knew I wasn’t going to win so there was no pressure and I was just happy to be there. I also felt in some way validated as I had been nominated before in the supporting actor category so it felt like it wasn’t a fluke the first time around because it was happening again!

What do you love or enjoy more than the majority of people you’ve met?
The mannequin challenge. Ridiculous, right? But I find it fascinating. More than most people I’ve met. I don’t know why it thrills me so much. I keep watching them online.

What is your favorite film poster of all time?
Trainspotting. Because it has THAT speech on it.

What is the last bad habit that you’ve ridden from your life, or, what is the last good habit you’ve integrated into it?
The last good habit that I’ve integrated is meditation. Everyday. Whether I want to or not.

What is a piece of technology or innovation that blew your mind?
I still find it unreal that we can fly. I get it technically. But it still freaks me out.

Who was one of the most challenging but rewarding performers you’ve acted alongside?
I’m not gonna name names, but I’ve worked with a few challenging performers, all of them challenging for different reasons, and I’ve learned something invaluable from every encounter, either directly from the person in the form of a skill, or something about myself as a person and as an actor. It’s interesting what happens when challenges come up. I’ve learned to step up. Challenging performers are often brilliant, so the choice is either to try to come up to their level or get lost in the background.

(L) Top by FENDI. Trousers by J CREW. (R) Jumper by J CREW.

Was there a specific period of your life where you felt that you made the most artistic/ creative progress?
Actually it’s in the last 6 years since I did a play called The Whisky Taster. I followed that with a one-man show, two female Shakespeare roles, Penny Dreadful and now Dirk Gently. All these roles have been very different from one another, challenging in their own ways and requiring something new from me each time, sometimes difficult and immensely rewarding. I’ve been so lucky to get to play a variety of roles and I’ve learned something new from each one because each one has been a challenge, particularly the one-man show and the Shakespeare which I had never tackled before. It has felt like a creatively rich few years and I feel very fortunate to be able to do what I love.

What’s a (probably) great film that you haven’t watched, book you haven’t read, play you haven’t seen?
The Godfather, To Kill A Mockingbird, Top Girls.

Want more? Watch our behind-the-scenes film.

Samuel Barnett can be seen in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, available now on Netflix (UK).

As told to Paul Vaughan for TPJ
Creative Director & Photographer: Jessie Craig
Stylist: Christopher Preston
Grooming: Oliver Daw