Crunchtime for Hackney actor and BAFTA hopeful Adam Deacon
As the big day approaches, the Anuvahood star talks to the Gazette about his views on youth cinema
Adam Deacon may have just been shortlisted for a prestigious BAFTA Rising Star award, to be revealed this weekend. But for many in Hackney he is there already.
Walking along the Narrow Way, he gets stopped by two people in the space of minutes. “Yeh blud, great film,” shouts one man in a woolly hat, while a schoolboy darts a notebook under his nose and asks for an autograph.
“It’s usually the kids that recognise me,” says Adam.
“It’s good, I don’t mind it. I can walk around Hackney no problem. But I can’t take the bus – I had to stop that a while back.”
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The former Stoke Newington School pupil, 28, rose to prominence after starring in Noel Clarke’s hit films Kidulthood and Adulthood.
But it is since he directed and acted in the urban spoof Anuvahood, released last year, that he has been dubbed “The New Face of Youth Cinema”.
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Adam plays Kenneth, or Kay – a wannabe MC who disastrously turns to selling weed after his family loses their possessions to bailiffs.
After quitting his job at “Laimsbury’s”, Kay vows to become a respected gangster – with disastrous consequences.
The film went down a storm with some audiences, making �2million at the UK box office. But others were less convinced.
“A British urban spoof that is irredeemably lame and unfunny,” wrote Phelim O’Neill in the Guardian. “Anuvahood isn’t exactly begging for a sequel,” said the Metro.
“You can slate the film as much as you like,” says Adam
“I wanted to please young people. If it was a film that related to the under-25s then that’s fine with me.
“But when reviewers talk about this film like it’s ridiculous, saying that young people don’t talk like this – or that it shouldn’t have been allowed to be made in the first place – that makes me angry because it dismisses a whole demographic out there. There are kids out there that don’t want to go to see the King’s Speech. They want to see a film for them.
“I want to be at the forefront of films for young people. There are a lot of people making films for young people who aren’t young and they’re not from that world, so they don’t know about the dialogue. I personally think young people see through it. You have to write what you know.”
Adam Deacon was raised on the former Kings Crescent Estate in Stamford Hill by his English mother. His Morrocan father left when he was two.
But he left home at 15 and moved into a hostel.
“Me and my mum fell out,” he said. “I didn’t agree with the decisions she made. There were a lot of problems in the household because of my stepdad – for her and for us. I thought, ‘It’s fine if you can put up with it, but not if you put it on your children’. I didn’t understand and I had a lot of bitterness.
“It wasn’t until I was a bit older and things had got better for me that I realised that everyone goes through stuff – especially women – and not everyone is strong. I now know things aren’t going to change but I can be there for her now. It only makes you more upset if you don’t talk to your mum.
“Even if life was tough when I was a kid, I was determined that it wasn’t going to affect my acting. I went into a hostel. It was a hard time. I was trying to learn lines while there were fights going on outside. But I had to stay there to get a council flat.
“That’s when I started hanging around on the streets with my mates. We didn’t cause trouble. We might have had our hoods up most of the time but we were just chilling out. Without that I don’t know whether I could’ve written the stuff I’ve written.”
Adam was encouraged to act by his drama teacher at Stoke Newington School in Clissold Road, who suggested he tried to get a place at Anna Scher – the Islington theatre school which now counts EastEnders stars Michelle Collins and Martin Kemp among its alumni.
It was through a summer school in Year 8 and then a scholarship to regular drama classes that he got his first roles in the long-running BBC soap as well as The Bill.
“She really believed in me from the start,” says Adam, who lists Ray Winstone and Michael Caine as his main acting influences.
Adam’s CV may now include Shank, Bonded by Blood and, of course, Kidulthood and Adulthood – often violent films featuring guns, gangs and drugs – but he is keen to portray life for young people in London in a different light.
“I do believe we’re getting too many gritty urban films,” he says.
“I know we need films with a social message but at the end of the day, we also need to entertain young people. They only have to walk out of their estate to see someone being stabbed. But anyone who has really lived in Hackney knows it’s not all about guns on street corners. Hackney is about big characters. And that’s what I want to show with Anuvahood.
“Anuvahood is about saying don’t be a Kenneth. You get these kids living a bravado, sitting on the top of the bus shouting into their phone and acting all big. But it’s not cool to be a loud mouth, screaming your head off.”
This did not convince one headteacher in Redbridge who last week reportedly banned Adam from giving a talk, sparking angry protests from students.
“That all got out of hand,” says Adam. “They hadn’t even seen the film.”
But he is hoping he has made enough of an impression to be welcomed into the British Academy of Film and Television Arts instead.
“It really is the acceptance,” he says. I’ve really felt I’ve had support from the people out there – but not from the industry. Now to be nominated for a Bafta… It’s like my X Factor. That’s why I’m calling on everyone to vote for me.”
Adam will now go up against Birdsong star Eddie Redmayne and War Horse actor Tom Hiddleston for the Rising Star Award. The winner will be announced at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, on February 12.