Adam Deacon (co-starred as Jay in the award-winning AdULTHOOD) took time out to before AdULTHOOD entered the top 5 in the UK film charts. We discussed the film, compared his acting in this with previous roles and whether he fears being type-cast in urban drama's and films.
Marvin Sparks: How long have you been acting?
Adam Deacon: I’ve been acting since I was about thirteen. I went to a place called Anna Sher down in Angel. You still go to normal school and that, but it used to be a little evening class after school. It kinda went from there, and I was really lucky to be spotted from a young age.
Marvin Sparks: So it started off as a hobby?
Adam Deacon: Yeah. Basically, I used to get in a lot of trouble at school. The only subject’s I was doing well at was Music and Drama, so the teacher told me about this place called Anna Sher that anyone can go to. You didn’t have to have much money it was like £2 a class. Went there ‘cause I knew a couple of mates that went there, so I went after school, then I got spotted for this film called ‘Face.’ It was a Robert Carlisle film, years ago. I just had one line but it kinda stemmed from there, and I just thought this is something I’d definitely like do when I’m older, and I was lucky enough to be able to be around people that could get me into it.
Marvin Sparks: You appeared in Ali G’s movie ‘Ali G Indahouse,’ how was that experience?
Adam Deacon: Yeah, that was one of my first parts in a film. I didn’t have any big lines or anything but, yeah. That was a long time ago, man [laughs]
Marvin Sparks: How has being recognised in the streets changed life?
Adam Deacon: It’s different because my money levels haven’t changed dramatically. A lot of the films I’ve been doing are low-budget films; they’re not multi-million pound films. You get money, it lasts for a couple months, and then it goes. My life hasn’t changed but people think it has. They see me and think ‘Rah, this guy must be [rich]. I saw him in this film, that film’ but life hasn’t changed.
Unless you do something like EastEnders or you’re in a film like Notting Hill life won’t change that dramatically. I have to tell people ‘I’m making these films, but believe me I’m not that guy yet. I’m not some rich actor like Hugh Grant out here yet. I’m still on the road grafting, and tryna do my thing,’ and there’s a lot more graft to put in ‘til you get to them levels, but its very weird walking down the street and people recognise you. I’m still not used to it, ‘cause you don’t know if [people] are watching you to maybe [confront] you, or are they watching you to say "I seen your films and I like what you’ve done." It’s very weird.
Marvin Sparks: What is Adulthood about and give us a breakdown of the story?
Adam Deacon: It’s 6 years on from the first film. Sam’s come out of prison for killing Trife [played by Aml Ameen] and it’s about how all the different characters cope with that. Some characters have moved on. They’ve got on with their life and done something positive with it. Characters like mine just stayed on this road mentality. They just stayed on the street. Jay’s [selling drugs] and stuff now, and has adamant that it’s about revenge. How can Sam come and kill his boy? Jay’s adamant that that’s it.
It’s about revenge. It’s a story of what goes around, comes around. You may have done something at 15 but people may not have forgotten about that. Something you did at 15 could change everything for the rest of your life. It’s all about cycle’s and redemption.
Both films, Kidulthood and Adulthood together, are about the whole culture. This underbelly culture in London right now that you don’t really see too much on telly right now. Noel Clarke tapped into it and people can relate to this stuff. The language, the culture, and what’s going on, so I just hope Adulthood has the same impact.
Marvin Sparks: Which main characters made it from Kidulthood to Adulthood?
Adam Deacon: Obviously we still got Jay. We’ve still got Moony, Sam, and Alyssa, and there are a lot of new characters that have come through. There are still a lot of the old characters and it just shows how they’ve moved on, really. It kinda shows that everyone can take a tragedy like that and be different.
For example you got Moony’s character. He was on the street like Jay, but he’s managed to turn it around and go to university, and just get on with his life. So there is quite a positive message in this whole film as well. That you can come from a similar background and do something with your life.
Marvin Sparks: Which actors did you look up to growing up?
Adam Deacon: I looked up to people like Ray Winstone. I’ve tried to do something similar to what he’s done but in a street way. Him and Danny Dyer, they took real people, even if it is the "Sweet as a nut, mate" kind of thing, they took real people and they put it on TV for the first time. Ray Winstone’s film Scum, I feel is very similar to a film like Kidulthood where the generation of the 80s could relate to a film like Scum. I feel that them kinda actors have been a very big influence.
Marvin Sparks: For those who haven’t seen Kidulthood, describe your character?
Adam Deacon: Jay was one of the hype guys out of the 3 kids in Kidulthood. I think everyone knows someone like Jay from school. There’s always someone like Jay that just had to take things too far. I feel that people really related to Jay.
Marvin Sparks: Being that you are from Hackney, did you go back to your ends to research the part?
Adam Deacon: I’ve always been around my ends anyway. I haven’t really left, I suppose. I still hang around with the same people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on the street corner or nothing, but I still know the people I grew up with. So for me, when I got the part in Kidulthood, it was a case of seeing people around my area and exaggerating that whole thing. Just seeing people that I know and I know a lot of people like Jay, so it was just exaggerating the whole thing and putting it onto cinema.
Marvin Sparks: Early word from critics of your performance has been very positive in this film. How do you rate it against your previous performances in programs such as The Bill and obviously Kidulthood?
Adam Deacon: For me it was a chance to really shine in this film, and Noel had the vision to take my character further. I thought that in Kidulthood, for me, I was the funny sidekick. I was there to add a bit of humour to the film, whereas this time, as an actor, I got to show a wider range of emotions, so hopefully that will lead to more work.
Marvin Sparks: Do you mind playing these stereotype roles on the streets of London?
I don’t wanna just get pigeonholed in street films. I’ve done a lot of these street films such as Sugar House, The Bill, and The Wilderness. A lot of the work I've been doing recently has been on that street culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love doing that. I love portraying how it is on the streets, but obviously it is about breaking out and trying different stuff. Stuff that you’re not so used to as well, so I feel that this film has been a major push. I’ve had to work a lot harder on my acting, step it up a level, and go a lot more method this time around, just zoned in a bit.
Marvin Sparks: Do you fear being type cast in these roles?
Adam Deacon: I don’t think I have been type cast yet. A lot of the parts I’ve been doing have been street roles but a lot of them have been different. I played a part in The Wilderness where the guy was a [nervy] guy; he's scared of everything. I'm from Hackney and you got so many different characters. Just cause you’re from the streets doesn’t mean everyone’s the same. Not everyone’s gonna pick up a knife and do this and that. There are so many different characters in the ends, so there are many different ways you can play a character, but I’m definitely looking to do other stuff.
I’ve just finished a 5 part drama series for Channel 4 that is very different. I’m with Jaime Winstone who’s from Kidulthood. People are gonna be shocked when they see me in this series coming out in September.
Marvin Sparks: A lot of these films and dramas based on urban life are criticised for being inaccurate, Adulthood isn’t one of those. You’ve worked on a few so why do you think that is? Do the actors get more say in what’s real?
Adam Deacon: With Kidulthood and Adulthood I felt I was given a lot more range to go full out and add my own words. If I wanted to add something because kids don’t say that word anymore, I would just change it to something kids do say nowadays and that was good with Kidulthood and Adulthood. A lot of shows won’t let that happen.
I was in Casualty a couple years and I added the word "Blud" in a line that wasn’t in the script. The producer came down and she was like "You can’t say that, no one’s gonna know what it means." I feel that people don’t understand that there is a new language, there’s a new culture coming around.
We’ve lost the whole cockney accent now and writers are gonna have to realise this soon. If you’re writing something in London it can’t be "Yeah sweet as a nut, mate," ‘cause it’s changing. I feel I’ve tried very hard with the stuff I’ve done to try and just make it a little edgy so people can relate to it. Language makes a big difference. It can change up everything.
Marvin Sparks: Do you feel there is a market for credible street programs without being watered-down for mainstream?
Adam Deacon: It’s hard because people are scared of this culture. They don’t embrace it. They’d rather not write about it. I think slowly but surely doors are opening and more stuff will get written.
I’ve got another TV show coming out hopefully out in late summer with Aml Ameen, from Kidulthood, and that’s called Gun Rush on ITV1. That’s about a White middle-class family whose daughter gets shot, and it’s about people keeping quiet in the ends.
I think more and more writers are starting to realise that there is a market and more people will watch this stuff, so surely but surely, more doors are opening.
Marvin Sparks: Part of the advertising for the film is the phrase "Shoot films not friends." Did the recent spate of violence over the past two years compromise the film at all?
Adam Deacon: I don’t know too much of the ins and outs about how the film got made, but there were certain locations where they wanted to know what the film was about. No one really wanted to be associated with a film that’s glamorising gun crime.
Noel Clarke had to sit down with a lot of people and show them this film is not glamorising gun culture. If anything, it’s showing people that you don’t have to pick up a gun. Jay has got revenge in his head, but there are other characters that have been through exactly the same stuff as Jay, and they realise that it’s not really about that.
People were sceptical about touching Adulthood because is it glamorising gun culture? Are people gonna want to see it? Is there even a market for it? They realised by looking at the statistics of Kidulthood there is a market, and people won’t look at it like we are glamorising gun culture. They will look at it and say they can relate to this, they can relate to Jay’s character, and they can relate to Sam.
Hopefully people, especially if you’ve lost someone through similar circumstances by gun or knife crime, will realise that it’s not about revenge all the time ‘cause it cycles. You go and kill someone; someone will come back for you. It may be in five years time, but it might come back to you. Just when you think life’s happy, you got your girl and you’ve had a baby, Bam! a blast from the past comes and messes all that up for you.