After an impressive career on stage, Clifford Samuel has decided to set his sights on the small screen. Currently starring in new BBC crime series McMafia, Samuel gives us the low-down on his character and his hopes for awards season … 

1# We last spoke to you back in 2014, describe how life has been since then …

A constant learning experience as I have been presented with brilliant and exciting challenges that have helped me evolve, learn more about myself and the world we live in. [1]

2# Tell us about this new BBC drama McMafia …

McMafia is about Alex Godman, the English-raised son of Russian exiles with a mafia history. Alex has spent his life trying to escape the shadow of that criminal past, building his own legitimate business and forging a life with his girlfriend Rebecca. But when his family’s past returns to threaten them, Alex is forced to protect those he loves. What starts out as a story of survival and revenge becomes an epic tale of a man’s struggle against the lures of corruption in the modern world and in himself.  McMafia is impressive and intimate, glamorous and gritty, global in scale and forensic in detail.

3# What’s your role?

I play, Femi, partner to Alex’s sister Katya Godman played by Faye Marsay.

4# It’s great that you get to be a part of this gangster world, what made you say yes?

Femi is one of the few honest and dignified characters in this story. He’s surrounded by people who are the opposite. The fact that this character is three-dimensional, positive, non-stereotypical and the narrative explores multi-racial relationships was a great draw for me.

5# As the only black character of prominence how does Femi fit into this world?  Did you have to do any authentication conversations with the creators Hossein Amini and James Watkins? 

Femi’s journey is one of many interwoven into this sprawling story. As we all know, Russian opinions on black people have historically been hostile and what’s interesting here, is [though] the interracial relationship isn’t commented on it still speaks volumes. In terms of conversations with the creatives, this story is more of an intracultural tale, and therefore conversations with Hossein Amini and James Watkins were more a sharing of practice.

Clifford Samuel as ‘Femi’ on set McMafia. Photo credit: Nick Wall

6# What have been the best and most challenging parts of working on this project, and can you NO SPOILERS let us know if there’ll be another series?

It was brilliant to collaborate with all the different departments on this project. From our director, James Watkins to the costume and makeup department all were very open to all my ideas on building the character and were equally as passionate about serving the story. The night shoots were challenging when we were shooting in the V&A museum. But the pleasure and excitement of filming in a lot of these beautiful locations was thrilling. Any creative hopes for another series when you’re in a high-quality production like this one.

7# Feedback has been great, what’s it been like being part of a project that has this level of mainstream attention, are you getting paparazzi in your garden?

The feedback has been incredibly positive. From friends and family to the press. I hear it has been well received and the show has alerted us to some very important topics happening around us globally. It’s a wonderful feeling. Paparazzi? Ha, I’m an actor, what makes you think I have a garden!

8# You’ve got a great back catalogue of stage work, how has the transition to TV been, and what’s next for you, will you return to the stage?

My transition from stage to screen has been pretty seamless because the basics of the craft remain the same approaching any script whether it’s for screen or stage. I am focusing my energy predominantly on screen in the foreseeable future as I’ve always found working in this medium enriching. Although, if the material is good and turns my head, I will get involved, whatever the medium. I’m keeping myself busy with auditions and my writing.

9# If you could play a gangster who would it be and why?

I’d like to explore rising Nigerian gangster, John Bull. He’s swiftly making a name for himself on the shores of Sicily right now. The Sicilian mafia has been unshakeable for a long time yet John Bull and his clan are getting stronger and making a serious dent in Sicily.

10# As it’s awards season, are you interested, have you been following the nominations? Any predictions and which award is the one you’d cry the most after receiving?

Absolutely I’m interested. Looking forward to seeing Gary Oldman’s performance in ‘Darkest Hour’. It’s also nice to see ‘Lady Macbeth’ being widely acknowledged. I’m very excited and hopeful for Daniel Kaluuya. I’m so pleased his talent is being recognised globally.


Episode 4 of McMafia airs tonight at 9 pm on BBC One. To catch up with past episodes to go to BBC iPlayer.

[1] Read our 2014 interview with Clifford Samuel here.