Interview: Clifford Samuel

From the interview archives.

With a strong background in live theatre, actor Clifford Samuel is quickly becoming a household name after being cast as Femi in the British crime series McMafia. VULKAN caught up with Clifford to talk about his transition from theatre to film and what he believes sets McMafia apart from other crime dramas. 

Prior to McMafia you performed a lot of live theatre. How did you find the transition from live theatre to live action filming? 

The transition has been pretty seamless because the basics of the craft remain the same, approaching any script whether it’s for screen or stage. 

Do you have a preference out of the two? If so, why?

I am focusing my energy predominantly on screen in the foreseeable future as I’ve always found working in this medium enriching. Although, if the material is good and turns my head around, I will get involved, whatever the medium.

What was it about the stage that lured you in when you first got started and have your feelings on that changed at all?

Good writing and extraordinary stories lured me in to theatre, as well as collaborating with brilliant artists which has continued to teach me and influence my work. I feel very positive about the future as a new generation along with current artists are making their voices heard beautifully. 

McMafia has been really well received by fans and critics alike, how does it feel to see such a positive response of the series?

It’s a wonderful feeling receiving so many positive, encouraging and supportive feedback. Very pleased the show has alerted us to some very important topics happening around us globally. 

How has been your experience working with director James Watkins?

It was fantastic collaborating with James Watkins on this project. He was very open and trusting with all my ideas on building the character, and was equally as passionate in serving the story. We both enjoy being detailed in our work. James was a great guide and his leadership on McMafia was exemplary. 

What initially stood out to you about the role of Femi? 

Femi is one of the few honest and dignified characters in this story. He’s surrounded by people who are the opposite. The fact that this character is three-dimensional, positive, non-stereotypical and explores multiracial relationships was a great draw for me to this role.

What type of situations do you hope Femi gets involved in going forward if McMafia gets a second season like fans are calling for? 

I’m hoping to delve a bit deeper into who he is and his background, exploring his relationship with Katya and her parents. It would be nice to see his reactions in the face of corruption and whether he gets pulled in deeper in to that world.

What would you say sets McMafia apart from other mob based dramas?

McMafia is incredibly well written and the fantastic Hossein Amini, the show’s creator, has brilliantly created a wonderfully convoluted and layered plot, with everything from gangster-style family dynamics (betrayals, torn loyalties,) to current topical issues such as organised crime and sex trafficking. It presents moral and ethical dilemmas in abundance. Due to the global story-telling of the show, James Watkins acquired multi-national actors from their respective countries to be involved in the show and this added another layer of authenticity which has rarely been shown on screen, certainly on the BBC, and showcased lesser well known actors. Adding the international locations along with the filmic style shots has paid dividends in the end result.

What’s one genre you hope to experiment more with this year?

I’d like to continue with experimenting more in the drama/thriller genre. 

What’s one show you’re always down to binge-watch?

Quite a number of shows! I’d say Peaky Blinders and Black Mirror. 

Do you have any aspirations in working behind the camera at all in the future? 

I’d like to challenge myself as a producer and a writer. I’m currently enjoying the writing aspect.

What is one issue you think would benefit from more attention this year?

Untold true stories and near burnt history to be given a nice platform and be seen by the masses. 

What does an ideal Saturday afternoon look like to you? 

Lovely brunch and catch up with friends, then headphones plugged in and taking a long stroll by myself on Hampstead Heath.

Any other projects upcoming that we should keep an eye out for?

Very lucky to have some exciting projects are currently bubbling at the moment whilst I’m focusing on my writing.

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