Ever since the original and controversial Blue Story stormed the scene…
Audiences have waited with bated breath to see the next moves for its leading man and break out star, Stephen Odubola.
Stephen’s role subsequent projects and role choice since Blue Story illustrates an intent by a talented young man who is not afraid to be bold and brave.
TBB got the opportunity to ask Stephen about his latest feature A Violent Man, his process, interests and his continuing growth in the industry.
Please introduce yourself…
I am Stephen Odubola also known as Stevie Gambles and I am a professional pretender from the estates of south London!
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
A Violent Man (AVM) is your biggest feature since the critically acclaimed and BAFTA-nominated Blue Story (BS) – how has the experience of BS moulded you since then and have you taken anything from that into AVM?
Blue Story was a wonderful first professional experience and it allowed me to become aware of what to expect for coming film sets and crews. I’m very self-critical and although BS was an experience it was a stepping stone to review and learn what I can do better in future.
Can you tell us about your character in AVM and how you prepared for the role?
My character Marcus is a first-time prisoner who is pretty much trying to find his feet in a whole new dark and brutal world and when he finds he is the target of fellow inmates, all he wants to do is survive. Unfortunately, I have some friends that have been in prison and one of the first questions you ask them is ‘what’s it like in there?’. So indirectly I had some sort of research through friends and through watching prison documentaries, alongside the character brief which allowed me to mould a personality for Marcus.
How does Marcus as a character add dimensions / subvert stereotypes of a young black man in prison and was that something at the forefront of your mind in your performance? Can you also speak on if this is important to you?
It’s funny because at first when I heard it was about a black man in prison I initially thought Nah because of obvious reasons. But as an actor, you have to see whether a character has layers and a journey and ask yourself if this can maybe relate to real people and so I decided that I wanted to use Marcus to divert people consciously or subconsciously from ever wanting to end up in that place.
How realistic was the on-set environment? Was it a stretch to really feel the effects of incarceration and how did it impact your performance? And did you and your fellow cast members stay in character to keep the atmosphere?
Weirdly, the keyword of 2020 (the year we filmed AVM) was ‘lockdown’ and the team couldn’t pick a better year to film such a claustrophobic environment! The cell you see on screen was built from scratch at Camberwell Studios and the whole film was shot in it! So you can imagine there was some sort of intentional/unintentional method to the atmosphere which really made me feel like I was stuck in a box with new people.
You’re starring alongside some well known English actors – what was it like working with them and how did their performances impact what you brought to the table?
I loved working with the likes of Craig and Jason. Craig brings that intense energy that as an actor you can only dream of bouncing back and forth with.
Without spoilers could you share a scene featuring Marcus that the audience should look out for?
Make sure you hold your sh*t in prison… I mean that as literal as possible.
You have written and directed since Blue Story, the short Two Neighbours, what was that experience like for you and how has this added to your skillset as an actor?
It was hard work but fun and creative. I’ve always said I don’t want to limit myself in this industry by just being an actor. I want to dive into as many different roles as possible and really have great all-around expertise in the film industry as a whole.
Having previously worked with a black director and having done it yourself, is this something that you are seeing more in the industry and what would you like to see more of for black creatives?
I definitely have seen the UK evolve from years ago to now and have seen way more black creatives in the film industry. I would love to see more versatile roles for black people other than the norm and the stereotypes but we are on the way there.
What aspect of your range do you want to explore next and what can we expect from you in the near future?
I want to go to the depths of what I am capable of and take on roles completely different from myself. That’s what acting is about at the end of the day, taking on a whole new life and becoming that for a period is what excites me but I’m on the way!
TBB spoke to you during the promo tour of Blue Story where you mentioned that the reception from your friends and family was immense, are your people used to you being in big features now and how do they continue to support you?
They got love for me and I got love for them! The continued support definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
- A book you have to have in your collection? The Noticer (thank me later)
- A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Notorious BIG – I Love The Dough
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? 24
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)? Lion King.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? – Passing of Jamal Edwards, Wind has cancelled some plans, Auditions and more opportunities.
A Violent Man In Cinemas and Digital Platforms Friday 4th February