Posted: 14 June 2012
You're not going to see me coming out of some night club, smashed out of my face or, if I have, I've never been caught
We all know that the characters actors play in films and TV are not actually what the actor is really like in real life. That is because they are actors. But when an actor continually plays similar roles it is hard to distinguish reality from fiction. When an actor is relatively private, and we only see them in the roles they play, the distinction is even harder to grasp. Adam Deacon is one such actor. People assume his own persona is that of the characters he is most famous for. With a back catalogue of predominantly loud, brash, violent and offensive characters one could quickly come to the conclusion that Deacon is similar. However, all of his characters share another common attribute, they are immensely loveable, funny and charming. It is these characteristics that can be attributed to Deacon himself and, I assume, the reason he has accumulated a mass of exceptionally loyal and devoted fans.
The characters he has played, his background and his inability to be anything other than honest, has made him into a spokesperson for the 'urban youth'. Thanks to being charming and what seems like a true responsibility to his fans to be, well responsible, it doesn't seem like there could be a better, or more appropriate role-model.
William Beaumont: Your character in your latest film (Payback Season) doesn't want anything to do with typical gang culture, unlike a lot of the previous characters you've played. Is this new character the sort of role you've wanted to play for a while?
Adam Deacon: Yeah you know, after Adulthood and Kidulthood there was a lot of scripts coming in where there was just drug dealers. A lot of characters that didn't really have any depth to them, at all. So when this script came up it was like 'Ok, cool. He's just a normal guy. He's not a drug dealer, he's not a nasty guy. He's just a footballer and he's put into this world'. It's nice to play a normal person who isn't very loud and hyped, especially after Anuvahood. It was nice to have a little love interest and have a normal character.
WB: Did it occur to you that you might have started to become typecast? Or did you think that type of character was part of progressing with your career and you'd end up growing out of them eventually?
AD: Yeah y'know it's weird like that, I can't really blame anyone for typecasting me as that kind of character, because I went out of my way to basically put that kind of character on TV and film. I didn't think there was anyone, basically, representing our culture on TV and film. I went out of my way to make these very authentic characters; change up the words, the slang. So I couldn't blame anyone for offering me those roles. I think it's down to the actor and work they want to do. There aren't many actors that aren't typecast. You look at Hugh Grant, he plays the very RP, kind of, upperclass, Englishman gent in a lot of his films. I don't think it's a problem. When you do it well, you are always gonna get offered those parts again. I take it as a compliment, that if people still want to offer me that work. But, now I feel I've got to a sort of level and I definitely want to move on and do different sorts of characters. I am quite lucky that I am in a position that I am able to do that now.
WB: Despite your character in Payback Season not wanting to be involved with violence, it is still a violent, gang film. Are you conscious when reading a script about the fact that gratuitous violence, if not done carefully, could glamourise that world?
AD: I think there are films that have been made that are one-dimensional. With the parts that I chose, you know, I've done a lot of work to those characters. With every character I've ever worked on, I've had to change up scripts and improvise certain lines to make it more authentic because I do think a character needs depth. Take Jay, from Kidulthood, he was written as a very loud, as a very dislikable character if I am being honest. I kind of went out of my way to make him a bit nicer, give him a bit more of a comedy edge. You could say for someone who doesn't know that world, they could look at my characters and say they are all the same. But people that know that world, or the fans that follow my career, they see there are differences in the characters I've played.
WB: You were quite vocal about the London riots last summer, you almost took on the role as a spokesperson for young people. Do you think enough, if anything, effective has been done to try to dissuade young people from rioting again?
AD: The scary thing is I don't know if anything has been done. I think we are very good at, if something happens you know, give it a couple of weeks and we forget about it. And that's the problem, and that's why I have been quite vocal. I think that's the problem, there is a lot of celebrities out there that won't say anything about these things. Young people do need some kind of voice. They need someone who will actually speak out for them. I'm not always gonna get things right, but if you wanna hear what I've got to say then I'll say it.
WB: Was it you who felt the urge to become a public figure after the riots, to represent the way young people feel or was it something forced upon you by the media because of the sort of roles you had played?
AD: Naahhh, no no no. It was a really weird thing. I've always spoke from the heart in a sense, I've always said how I felt about things. It was pretty weird because after the riots, it was just a phone call I got from the BBC saying 'Look, would you be up for coming on a young peoples question time?' Part of me, I've got to say, wasn't sure. Would I say the wrong thing, you know. My problem is, sometimes I don't think before I speak, so I could have just come out with something. I didn't wanna embarrass our generation; make them look even more like we don't know what were talking about. I was kind of nervous, but I went on there and just thought 'Lets just go with it. Lets put it out there what you think.' I went on there and, I was really taken back by how many people felt the same way.
WB: Do you think what you said on the show was right?
AD: You know I just said what I felt, literally. I felt that it wasn't all just young people involved in the riots, and this wasn't something that just happened overnight. It's been a build up to do with young people not being listened to. But it's about what we do now, finding out why these things are happening and moving on from that. Whether what I said was right or wrong, I can't remember the exact words I said on the show now, but you know I was really taken aback by the response I had after that show.
WB: Do you think the things you said on that show, or in fact anything you've done since you've been a celebrity has been controversial? Anything where, maybe afterwards you've thought it wasn't such a good idea?
AD: I've always been about my work, always been someone who tries to let my work do the talking. You're not going to see me coming out of some night club, smashed out of my face or, if I have, I've never been caught. You know what I am saying? I go out of my way to make sure I am known for my work, rather than some kind of celebrity thing. So I probably have said things, but I don't really have regrets in that sense. I just think that everything happens for a reason. I think what you do, what work you do and what you say makes you who you are. I am just about being quite real, I've never been a typical celebrity I've never been a typical actor and I don't think it's going to change now.
WB: Had you not been in the situation you are now, a successful actor, do you think you might have been involved in the riots?
AD: I don't know what would have happened in my life, you know. I was really lucky I got into acting from 12 years old. So given an opportunity like that you don't get a chance to think about anything else. You think 'I am going to take this opportunity with two hands and just go with it, keep running with it.' I had really supportive mates around that didn't let me get into any trouble. Where there might be other people doing certain things that they shouldn't, my friends would have been like 'No bruv, you're not getting yourself involved in any of that because we want to see you do well and we want you to be an actor.' So I was really protected from any of that stuff in a sense. Yeah I saw things happening around me. Living in Hackney you are going to see certain things happening. For me, my acting has always been about taking what I have seen, taking things from around me and kind of exaggerating that, whether it be for a comedy or drama, and just make it authentic. 'Cause living in Hackney you get to see that authentic London. I just felt that I wanted to be at the forefront of putting that onto the big screen.
WB: In Payback Season your character, who has earnt a bit of money and gained an element of fame, goes back to his neighbourhood and is met with quite a lot of animosity and a bit of jealousy. Has it been a similar situation for you, since you've become famous?
AD: No, you've got to understand, Jerome, the character I play in Payback Season, he's very extreme. He's living in a penthouse flat, he drives a Ferrari. People see me on a day to day basis in my area. I go to my local shop and they see me. I've grown up with the people around me. I feel very protected where I live. People are kind of proud of what I'm doing. I've been really taken aback by the level of support from not just from young people but dads, mums; I love East London man. It's mad innit, when we had the riots, it surprised me. Yes, you had riots in Hackney but it was weird how it got taken to even more extreme levels in places like Croydon. It's not always what you think, I feel pretty safe in Hackney. But my character and me, it's so different. I do a lot of low budget UK films and Jerome is a Premier League footballer. So err, ask any actor and they'll tell you that world is very different man.
WB: One thing that often precedes any interview with you is some spiel about how you have succeeded 'in the face of urban adversity'. Do you think that is the case? Or do you think where you've grown up has really helped you get to where you are now?
AD: Yeah, totally man. I say this all the time, but I really love the whole journey of where I have got to. There are other artists out there, where they have a whole machine backing them. It's like you've got this big team behind you that takes care of everything you do. I've never had that, you know. It's just been me, like a couple of my mates and some really tight family. That's basically it; we've had to do all this ourselves. The love that I get from the community, you know, that's the inspiration for me everyday. If you feel like you want to give up, a small young kid will come up to you, or a mum and just say 'I'm so proud, I saw you on the BAFTAs.' It just gives you that little bit of inspiration to say I'm not going to stop doing this. As I said, I've been doing this since I was 12 years old. It's not been an overnight thing. Because of that, you get to see everything. Yes you have good days, where you win an award and it's all happy, but there's a lot of other days where you're just thinking 'Why didn't I get that part? Why did I not get paid what I thought I should've for that job?' There's all that stuff that comes with acting. But I guess I wouldn't change that, because it's always the journey that I think you kind of need as an artist.