ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: THE REAL TOP BOY
KILLA KELA: Tell me about the beginning, how did it all start?
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: I grew up in East London and I was inspired but the culture there. It was non-stop. I went to school in Layton, Lord of the Mics happened there. D Double E, Tempa T, these are people you could just see at the barber shop. I’m lucky enough to say I surrounded by all that. I also got a shout out my Mum who was constantly taking me to performing arts school. It was the combination of those two things.
My Mum encouraged me to do as much as I could when I was in school. She would always speak greatness, if I didn’t get the part in something I would come home moaning and upset and my mum would just be like, then it wasn’t meant for you, the next one would be meant for you, keep working, you’re going to play so many lead parts, you’re going to play parts don’t you worry son. Then literally I got to perform in art school at about 14 and got lead roles non-stop, then university more lead roles and now I’m in the industry and I’m doing projects that I never dreamt I’d be doing
KILLA KELA: do you think the influence of east London became an inspiration for your character in Top Boy?
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: I’m so glad you asked this because the character I’m playing Top Boy, if somebody had told me at 14 years old that I would play a character I’d tell you out of your mind because it’s the complete opposite of I am. At 14 I was just a little skinny like boy running around playing football. I liked music and did a a bit little dancing. I’m not hard man now and I’ve never been hard man so, I find it weird when I watch Top Boy because I’m nothing like that. I can’t really take the character as seriously it’s like looking in the mirror and seeing something different.
KILLA KELA: How do you prepare for a role like that, knowing it’s so different from your real life?
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: I had a whole way of getting into character. Once I’m in my trailer I try not to talk. I’ll put on my costume; read my character biography I’ve created. The characters can demand such a different vibe from me, so I have to prepare.
On the first day on set for Top Boy, I was meeting Ashley Walters. He works the same was as me in that respect, so we didn’t say much to each other. I wasn’t meeting Ashley I was meeting with Dushane.
We met each other as basically enemies. There was an understanding that we can’t get too deep into who we are right now. There was no point establishing this familiarity when we’re about to literally play adversities. We’ve just met so we might as well use our lack of familiarity to fuel the fact that the characters are meeting properly for the time. I day I met him is the same day that our characters have a full interaction.
KILLA KELA: So, tell me more about this character biography.
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: Yeah man, I’m basically building a backstory in crazy detail, l ike 10 pages of just knowing about the character biography of who I’m playing. I reverse engineering the character, understand who he is and where he comes from, his history, why he does the things he does. When I create that kind of backstory it means that when I turn up on set or on in the theater, I’m able to act as though there I’ve been that character a whole life.
When I read the script, I’ll noticed all these things about the character and then give them a reason for happening. Like if there is a point in the script where he gets really angry and it seems like he’s got angry for no reason, I make a backstory of the reason he seems to get angry, something about his childhood. You’ve gotta link everything to something. You have to establish those things in your prep otherwise you’re just going onto stage and just saying words. Why are you saying that? why do you do it like that> why does a character feel like that?
CHANNELLING YOUR INNER CHILD
KILLA KELA: What would be your most important as advice you would give other creatives?
ALESSANDRO BABALOLA: I think as an adult what can happen in the world is that it gets formalized so much that creativity gets stifled. You just get taught how to be the best at what you can be with the tools you have. So, I think it’s important to approach creativity like a child and with ability to create from a raw place. Kids have so much freedom. They play all the time. As artists we need to be able to have our childlike play and freedom but be able to tap into it whenever we want, that is what mastery is. Its serious play.