Custom Search 1

Interview: Kayode Ewumi talks new TV show, diversity + more

ON-SCREEN: Kayode Ewumi

IT HAS been a quiet but very productive year for Kayode Ewumi. The south London native who broke the internet with the hilarious #HoodDocumentary has graduated from YouTube and plunged head first into the BBC realm, creating content he truly
loves – starting with his new series Enterprice.

The show is a story about two young black entrepreneurs, with the aim of creating their own business, and it was a positive story that Ewumi wanted to tell instead of the many roles which pigeonhole black men.

“I always have ideas and after #HoodDocumentary was done, the BBC said they wanted to hear what kind of stories I wanted to tell,” he says. “And I remember watching Atlanta and for me that changed the whole game.”

Atlanta, created by Donald Glover, focuses on the lives of two cousins trying to make it on the music business, and has received critical acclaim for its authentic take on the realities of being black while striving for a version of ‘The American Dream’.

“I liked their social commentary and I wanted to tell my own commentary on these two black boys in London just walking aroundandthingshappening around their area. When I watched Atlanta it just gave me more of a drive that it can be a simple story and interesting things happening.”

The Bafta Breakthrough Brit recipient uses the show as a lens into black British life, beyond the guns and knives which are often there on and off screen, while taking inspiration from the surroundings he once grew up in.

“We shot a lot of the show in Elephant & Castle, which is where I grew up, and when I shot the pilot it was surreal. There was a school with kids around, and neighbours looking out their windows.

“That’s why I love this show, because it’s just about two boys trying to make it – anyone can relate to that story and they go through issues in their life but they’re trying to overcome it and that’s what Enterprice is – it’s a story of hope.”

Ewumi was born and raised on Aylesbury Estate, and the middle child to Nigerian parents.

THEATRE

The 25-year-old creative always had an interest in both acting and writing, which carried through to his studies in drama and theatre at City and Islington College and later, theatre at Coventry University.


SOARING: Kayode Ewumi, right, with Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge, who play Kazim and Jeremiah in the series respectively

“I started writing at university where I studied theatre practice. While I was there, I wrote an African tale which I got a first for,” he recalls. “In my third year I wrote and co-directed a play and from then on it just went to the next level.”

Ewumi admits that his family were once cautious of his chosen career path, feeling that there wasn’t a space for black actors in the UK. But as the Londoner continues to create these spaces, they are beginning to see the influence of his work.

“They’re proud and it’s an emotional feeling,” he says. “When they come on set they see me, I can say to myself, ‘Yeah... I did it’. Now they get that just through grafting, I can make these spaces work for me, especially with social media.

“You got Michael Dapaah and all these people using online to push their platforms. Before we only had ve channels or cable and they told us what we could watch and
that’s changed now. You weren’t really seeing black people, but now you can go and decide for yourself.”

Social media has indeed changed the television landscape, allowing BAME talent to thrive. Ewumi was one of the frontrunners when his 2015 YouTube short film #HoodDocumentary really took off. However, for those not in the know, Ewumi’s story might seem like a cautionary social media tale.

He created a hit YouTube series, teamed up with the BBC bigwigs and the same magic that made people fall in love with the viral hit seemingly fizzled out. And while the scrutiny for the BBC Three version came in thick and fast on the very platorms which once upheld the mockumentary, Ewumi keeps a healthy distance from the online world for the sake of his mental health and creativity."

"Social media is a funny one because I think it played a big part in the rise of #HoodDocumentary and now I've got this following. However, I also feel that for
my sanity, I’m not a fan of social media as much,” he says.

“I think it will still have a big part to play for Enterprice but I try not to engage in it too much. I just focus on writing scripts and acting.”

POWERFUL

And this focus is serving the industry well, as Enterprice is putting us onto a host of new black British talent that we should look out for – something Ewumi has received praise for, particularly regarding the female characters in the show.

“A lot of women have thanked me for writing the female characters in a way that is powerful and not about her trying to get a guy’s number or whatever,” he says. “There’s a woman in the show named Fatima who is black and Muslim and she is this powerful woman who runs a business and I think a lot of women have respected that.”

Ewumi highlights the importance of continuing to create content which showcases diversity, adding to the creative mav- erick’s work as a game-changer both on and off the screen.

Tune into Enterprice on BBC One weekly, Fridays at 11.25pm

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments