Archie Madekwe: “In this day and age, being a person of colour is political”
Taking stock over lockdown, the London actor and advocate has spent the last 12 months helping to provide arts education for young people in the justice system.
Archie Madekwe, in all of his statuesque 6’4” glory, has just flown in from Toronto. After a tumultuous six months in Canada filming season two of dystopian Apple TV+ drama See – in the height of lockdown, no less – the South Londoner is back on his home turf.
“This time has been up and down for everybody,” the 26-year-old says. “But I’ve just been really lucky to still be employed. It’s truly a blessing.”
His, of course, is no ordinary job. Playing the role of calm and composed Kofun – one of two seeing people in a future world inhabited by visually-impaired humans – he is more than holding his own alongside castmates and Hollywood man-mountains Dave Bautista and Jason Mamoa.
Madekwe is the BRIT School’s latest graduate knockout, following in the footsteps of fellow alumni Adele, FKA twigs, Black Midi, Tom Holland – the crazily eclectic list goes on.
“You see the dregs of us popping up everywhere,” he says cheerfully.
Signing with an agent in his final year at the Croydon performing arts institution, he credits his creative education for helping catalyse his success. “It was truly a one-off and the only place in the world where young people are completely able to express themselves artistically in whatever way they see fit.”
You might have seen Madekwe alongside Florence Pugh in Ari Aster’s 2019 horror Midsommar, or in Channel 4 student flat-share comedy Fresh Meat – or, if sexy sci-fi thrillers are your thing, scope out the upcoming Voyagers, starring FACE cover star Lily-Rose Depp.
But despite the latter project, and See dominating his work schedule, he’s not only into far-flung fantasies.
“I definitely try to curate the roles that I play just to show a broad spectrum,” he tells me on the day of his shoot for THE FACE summer issue. “Being mixed raced and from South London it’s very easy to be pigeon-holed as the ‘guy from the block’ initially. We are so many other things.”
Lockdown also gave the actor a window to reflect and pursue new interests. As well as picking up a guitar for the first time and mastering the art of juggling (“I’m now up to three balls!” he proudly proclaims, laughing) Madekwe turned to advocacy, using his social media as a way to connect with his audience.
“There just became a necessity for it. In this day and age, being a person of colour is political. Whether you like it or not, you’re handed these questions.” That means, he adds, that “I’ve been made more aware of my place in the world”.
Hence his work with educational non-profit The Black Curriculum. Promoting their cause via a series of informative posts and videos “was the only way I could see us shifting the narrative around the country”.
And, even though Madekwe doesn’t like to refer to himself as an activist “because there are people out there doing so much more work”, his philanthropic efforts don’t stop there.
Teaming up with Converse and charity Youth Ink, he’s spent the last 12 months helping to provide arts education for young people caught up in the justice system.
“Right now we’re shaping what the schedule would look like,” he says. Working with a group of 20 to 30 participants, this activist-actor is pushing to spread awareness on the roles that exist within the industry, destigmatising the idea that acting is solely reserved for the middle classes – and, with his guidance, the group will write and direct their first short film.
“The biggest thing for me, about education in the arts, is that sense of community,” Madekwe reflects of a programme aiming to help those for whom many avenues are denied. “Some of those young people don’t really have stable home lives. So creating those safe spaces is really important.”
A return to sunny Canada is imminent as filming for See season three is set to continue, but Madekwe’s newfound humanitarian vision remains. “My hope is that when we leave the world, we’re leaving it a little better than it was.”
See season two is out on Apple TV+ on 27th August