Kosar Ali: the Rocks actor takes on 18th century France

Call Sheet: Even a BAFTA nomination can’t faze the star of Rocks and a new Dangerous Liaisons. But potentially pissing off anime fans? Forget it.

I’m just chilling out, eating a mango,” shrugs Kosar Ali, sitting in a black hoodie while casually popping chunks of fruit into her mouth. She does indeed seem incredibly chilled, especially for an 18-year-old who, in the space of about three years, has gone from normal East London school kid to a BAFTA-nominated actor.

Maybe it’s because her career started by accident. When director Sarah Gavron visited Ali’s school to cast her coming-of-age film Rocks, the then 13-year-old wasn’t even going to bother auditioning. Coming from a Somali household, academics had always been her main priority. Drama was just something she did for fun. I never saw it as anything that [could be] professional, only because no one else in my family had ever done it,” she says. It wasn’t something I thought was tangible.”

Luckily, Ali’s mates egged her on and, at just 13, she was cast alongside Bukky Bukray in the film that went on to garner critical acclaim. It raked in nominations and wins at both the BAFTAs and the British Independent Film Awards – where Ali took home Most Promising Newcomer and Best Supporting Actress, no less – but to be honest, she’s pretty unphased by all that, too.

When I got nominated, because I’d never done any acting or had experience with that stuff, I was learning everything as it came. So when the BAFTA nomination came in, I was like, great… but what exactly does this mean?’” she says, laughing. It took me going through that process and seeing other people’s reactions to understand the gravity [of it]. Then I was like: Oh, shit, that’s insane!’”

Next up, Ali’s trying her hand at period drama, starring in a Lionsgate+ adaptation of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 1782 novel Les Liaisons dangereuses. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this pre-French Revolution-set tale of romantic rivalry come to life on screen, of course. The 1988 film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfieffer won a bunch of awards, while Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon pulled a Clueless with 1999’s modernised Cruel Intentions. This time, though, the story is getting the prelude treatment, with Ali taking on the role of Victoire, the closest confidant to Camille, the one embroiled in this steamy vengeance plot.

One of my biggest goals is to switch up the roles and just have range,” Ali says. It was very different to Rocks, so it was interesting to pick apart that character. I mean, we’re in 1700 France! I had a lot to learn and research.”

That’s good news, because we’ve actually prepared a little pop quiz for Ali. To be fair, it has nothing to do with 18th century history. What we actually want to know about is all the insider industry knowledge she’s picked up since hitting the big time. Come on, dish the dirt, Kosar.

The TV show that made me want to get into drama was…

I was a weird kid. I watched a lot of cartoons – still do. I connected to cartoons so much more than I did with humans. I was very much inspired by Tom and Jerry, Disney films and Pingu. They just speak in absolute gibberish, but I just really connected with it… I don’t know, mate. I think that’s why I really like musicals, because it’s that fantasy of just singing and nothing’s ever serious.

The first time I performed on stage was…

I was in year three and we did Mary Poppins. I was actually the grandma. I was an attention seeker when I was younger, so I loved it.

The best costume I’ve ever worn is…

The costume for Dangerous Liaisons was my favourite. There was just something about wearing a corset. And my shoes were from 1800 France, so I felt like I was stepping back into that world. It was a very strange experience. From your posture to the way you walk, it’s all contained in this costume. It wasn’t very comfortable to live in, but it was amazing to get in that mode.

The person that’s taught me the most about acting is…

So far, there’s not been a specific actor or person I’ve worked with. It’s more picking stuff up from all the people I’ve worked with and kind of soaking in their presence. I’ve gotten so much advice, so I’ve tried to take bits of it [from each person]. From all of that, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to just trust my instincts and myself as a person. Because it gets really hard to get a sense of yourself when you’re [portraying] different people all the time.

The thing I do to unwind after filming is…

I watch anime and do some painting. My favourite anime? I get so stressed [deciding], because people are so serious and, if I don’t get it right, they’ll kill me. But I’m going to have to say Attack on Titan.

The one thing that always travels with me is…

My film camera. I’ve been doing photography for about two years now. It’s very random, but I’m into contemporary stuff, just weird shit. It doesn’t need to mean anything – if I see a plant, I might take a picture of it. And I like taking pictures of random people in the streets. I actually want to do an exhibition in like five years time.

My dream role is…

Something super challenging and dark. I mean, I’m an emo at heart. Ideally, I would love to play the Joker.

UP next

More like this

00:00 / 00:00