Uxbridge native Nathan Bryon is a passionate writer and actor with strong affinity for his Caribbean heritage. He has written for critically acclaimed CBeebies animation show Rastamouse, BAFTA award winning production Swashbuckle and Apple Tree House which is soon to be aired on CBeebies.
Bryon currently has a cartoon series titled, Afro Kid a futuristic concept is based on a young boy with super powers that derive from his Afro hair, being considered by major broadcasters. Last year Nathan’s first ever radio play Bilal’s Birthday was produced in New York by Naked Radio and Paines Plough. Nathan was the writer in residence at Paines Plough for the year 2015 and had a short play of his performed in Barcelona.
Bossman, is Bryon’s latest short film directed by Theresa Varga which is about an intergalactic fried chicken shop. This creation has won awards in Berlin and Romania respectively. Furthermore, this eye-catching short has been screened in New York and amazingly been offered a distribution deal. He has recently won the Tim Bevan Award at the BFI and received a scholarship to attend the Screen Art’s institute who are developing his feature film, Unhealthy Competition. He describes it as a light comedy and buddy movie about coping with cancer.
As well as writing, Nathan is a series regular in the ITV long running hit sitcom Benidorm, he plays Joey Ellis. He was also a series regular in BBC3’s sitcom Some Girls. This month, TBB is pleased to catch up with Nathan regarding his latest work; a release of numerous online sketches called, Reality, described by the man himself as ‘social commentary shorts’.
Here’s what he told TBB’s Albert Yanney…
Nathan Bryon, welcome to TBB. Which comes first, acting or writing?
First I’m an artist. I just want to be able to create in whatever form I think suits the story or the message best. Being an actor and a writer-producer; part-time director are just different hats I put on to look at things objectively. I also find calling myself an artist more empowering as I am the boss of my own gallery when I die and I’m watching a playback of my life I can be like hey I told some good stories. I’m just a professional storyteller. I think the connotations of being one or the other suits society’s dream of forever putting people in boxes. Being an artist means you can truly create anything and no-one can be surprised! You can tell I love Kanye West innit! [laughs].
Do you feel it’s essential to have more than one string to your bow given the complexities of working in the UK’s creative industries?
Yes, yes and yes. Being able to create is the tool that has allowed me to be vaguely sane and knowing that I am not reliant on others is a nice feeling. If I want to make a film, comic book or a play I know the most talented human beings who can help guide me to make it. I have surrounded myself with people who if I said I’m going to drop a 20 track trap album would be like “Sick! I can’t wait to hear it.” which is wonderful (obviously I won’t ever do that, or will I *evil laugh*). But it’s the point no-one tells me to stay in my lane. I have a mind that darts about and you only live once so I’m going to try to do everything I want. Finally, I am in a position that even if the phone doesn’t ring I had my a recent film screening at BFI Southbank for my web-series Reality. It was free and in NFT1 which is the biggest cinema in the BFI.
Delving into your background, you’ve got a solid list of credits and personal achievements ranging from BAFTA award winning productions, celebrated plays and short films as well as high-profile television appearances. What has been the ultimate highlight of your career so far?
Being on Benidorm was one of the best experiences ever. I get the best comedy writing by Derren Litten, to work with comedy legends like total legends, in a hot beautiful country watched by 6 million people on ITV. Getting the call for that job was a dream! Another one which is tiny in comparison but really special to me was when my film, You Saggin’ – about people sagging their pants, available on YouTube, screened at the Harlem Film Festival in NYC. My girlfriend Theresa Varga who is a directing don and I attended the fest. I was paralysed with fear that no-one would get it, it’s a lil British comedy and we screened to maybe 200 people who thought it was f-ing hilarious. So much so the projectionist emerged from his booth at the back of the cinema to tell us how much he loved it! That’s super special to me. I can’t take all the credit for You Saggin’ – I collaborated with Tracy Grant a wonderful artist and we worked on the piece together and of course Stuart Mackenzie (“batty crease”) steals the film!
Let’s get into your latest work. Reality is series of what you describe as ‘social commentary’ shorts. Give us some insight as to why they have been made…
I just needed to f*****g rant! I wrote the pilot called Oscar So White and I sat on the script for a year too scared to make it in case I upset anyone in our industry then one day I said F**K it! We shot it, we screened it at S.O.U.L Film Festival which is the most important screening event for POC, BAME filmmakers in England – so check it out, the audience reacted perfectly to it. So then I questioned what else do I want to rant about? I met Grant Taylor who really enjoyed it; Grant is a force of nature, I think I am productive, I am literally nothing on him and he just helped me massively make the series. He also co-directed it.
I found Reality fascinating because each episode is about conversation and dialogue that is unpredictable. This forces you to listen carefully as the viewer before formulating your own opinions. Is this a fair overview of the project?
Aww yes! You’re making me smile! Totally, Reality is my opinion. I’m just some loudmouth I’m totally happy for people to watch it and be like shut up Nathan. I totally disagree with left wing eggheads; I’m just up for opening a discussion.
Give us a few words regarding your collaboration with the acting talent in each episode and your experience of recruiting performers who would execute your vision…
So Kiell Smith-Bynoe our leading man is basically my fave actor in England. He is just a don. He gets every single line, beat, just a total pro and he is hilarious. I believe I am very, very blessed to know the best actors, every actor was a pro (remember I’m not paying yet) so they just had faith and I’m so honoured they believed in my words to give me their time.
Who else has been instrumental in the production of these intriguing online shorts?
Grant Taylor co-directed and helped shaped the scripts; he is a creative don seriously just watch him; stalk him [he’s] also a super gent. Max Ross producer don, making 6 eps on basically no budget is very hard. I would be like Max I want to shoot in this specific bar at the end of my road, and by the end of the day Max had secured that. Gonçalo the editor; again a wonderful perfectionist; every first cut was basically screen quality, and he is just a lovely human. My team were literally incredible, we had never worked together before but they are all my “go to’s” now, and I think I also got a new group of mates which is perfect!
What is your overall vision for Reality as a production?
Well I wanna make a few more series off my own bat, work out a way to make it long form maybe, but maybe not, just finding a platform to talk to my generation in their vernacular and being uncensored about our thoughts. We are generation Internet and with that spoon as president we better keep shouting about what we don’t like!
What has been the best piece of advice in relation to your career so far?
Ohhh I’m literally surrounded by kings and queens who drop wisdom on me on the regular. Ummm one of my favourites is “you are not a brain surgeon, it’s not that deep”. Also, my parents have always told me just be nice to everyone, I’m just trying to be a nice human who creates dope art! I frequently watch DJ Khaled interviews and steal his positivity which is infectious as positivity is the only way…
So what is next for Nathan Bryon in 2017?
Oh no, unfortunately I’m going to be one of those gremlins who can’t say what I’m doing next as I really don’t want to get in trouble; but let’s just say I’m very, very excited about something dropping in February. I do have a new short film coming out which I am the lead actor, directed by Marley Morrison. She is a legend. This short is called Leroy; about a boy who wants to dance like James brown but well, can’t dance, but has a great heart. That should be dropping soon. It’s a really fun film. Also Bossman our stoner Sci-Fi comedy short film which I co-wrote with Theresa Varga (who also directed it) should be dropping online, when you see the film you will totally understand why she is one of the most important directors we have, her eye and vision is lit.
What are you doing once this interview is over?
Writing up an outline for a TV show I’m working on which I have watched since I was a kid. After that, I’ll be chilling with my brother who is the funniest person I know. Ah listen, I live a good life!
Keep up to date with Nathan Bryon via his YouTube page