Malachi Kirby - who was nominated for the Outstanding Newcomer in the Evening Standard Drama Awards - stars in the acclaimed British prison drama Offender. We caught up with the young Londoner, who also appears in the forthcoming drama My Brother The Devil.
Sky Movies: How did you get into acting?
Malachi Kirby: When I was in year nine I went to Battersea Arts Centre, near where I lived, and that just sparked it for me. Acting was not on my horizons before that. I watched TV and films and that but that was it. I didn't like the spotlight - still don't - but people came up to me after my first show and said I was good and so it became something I wanted to study. In my last year of college I found a part-time drama school called Identity and they had an agency attached to them so I joined them. Shortly afterwards I got my first part in Silent Witness. It was carzy because I'd never been on camera. I'm not usually star-struck...but I was then. But I got into my zone and it felt great and I thought this is what I want to do.
SM: How did you get involved with Offender?
MK:I has six auditions over the space of about six months. During that time it had a lot of script changes - my character was actually two different people at one point. They kind of fused them together and they became Harry.
SM: What particularly did you like about the character of Harry, a university-educated inmate?
MK: Harry is not a violent character, even at the end of the film. He's not got a strong voice because he's never had to use it before. I was tempted to do a kind of Gladiator-type thing with him stamping...but it was just not him. I didn't want to give him a very powerful voice.
SM: What was the attraction of the film?
MK: I like the way that it incorporated the riots into it. It seemed to suit what what going on in the world right now. I particularly the part Harry's character played in the movie and that of Sean Dooley (who plays a bent prison warder). It had a lot more depth to it than you usually get. I loved Joe's journey - although it was extreme at time but it was one of a genuine individual.
SM: We approached this thinking it was going to be the same as Ill Manors and Anuvahood but it's not - it's a very different sort of film. Did you twig that it wasn't going down that formulaic, geezer route?
MK: I noticed that when I first read the script. I particularly liked the language - it was not just street. The story being told is universal - I think anyone can relate to it, even the characters in prison. They're not all gangstas and bad boys and some are not supposed to be there. For instance my character was put in prison for stealing a bottle of Lucozade during the riots. That was it...and he got six months. Obviously it was wrong and he accepts it but there is feel feeling of injustice.
SM: But that storyline didn't make it into the final film?
MK: No, it didn't.
SM: One of the interesting things is that of the relationship between Harry and his cellmate Joe - they're not buddies although it would have been easy to make that happen.
MK: I loved that. You've got Harry who didn't want any trouble, wants to do his time and get out and then you've got Tommy who's coming in there just for trouble. They are the complete opposite but have to somehow live in harmony. Funnily enough, in terms of the whole prison, they are the most similar. Tommy was before just what Harry was like...and I think that Harry understood that. He saw that in him, saw someone who had been hurt.
SM: What was it like working with a new director?
MK: I loved that. This is my second film and the first film - My Brother The Devil - was also a first-time director. Their passion is so much more prevalent and I love sharing that journey with them. I'm very passionate and it's great to work with someone who's equally passionate. It makes it that much more exciting.
SM: What did you make of the religious aspect of the film?
MK: I loved the fact that the Moslems werem't violent. The sort of thing that gets attached to them is that they're all terrorists - it's not that at all. Yet they weren't just goody-goodies. They could have done something but they chose not to because of their faith. I loved that they showed that side of them.
SM: What do you think people are going to get out of Offender?
MK: I have no idea! I watch and someone else from the film watches it we both have very different interpretations of it. We pick up on very different things from the film whereas some people may pick up on the violence. A lot of films glamourise life in prison...but this one doesn't and that's what I liked about it.