Micheal Ward Drake Top Boy Netflix TV

Micheal Ward: Summerhouse’s anti-hero

Volume 4 Issue 001: Our new Top Boy on his first acting role, set alongside Kano and exec-produced by Drake.

Arti­cle tak­en from from The Face Vol­ume 4 Issue 001. Order your copy here.

Last July, Micheal Ward watched Drake head­line Wire­less fes­ti­val in Fins­bury Park in north Lon­don. At one point the Cana­di­an super­star brought out Dave, the 21-year-old rap­per from Streatham, south Lon­don who’s since tak­en UK hip-hop by storm. The crowd, already hyped to the heav­ens, lost their shit. For Ward – bare­ly out of his teens and part-raised in near­by Hack­ney – see­ing artists of that stature on his home turf was crazy.

The fol­low­ing day, Ward sat down in a swish cen­tral Lon­don hotel for the first read-through for his first act­ing job. Also at the table: Drake and Dave. The for­mer had helped bring Top Boy back to life. The lat­ter had been cast as the bal­a­cla­va-clad rival to anoth­er new char­ac­ter, Jamie, played by Ward.

It was a mad, mad day,” recalls Ward of that ini­tial script meet­ing, exhal­ing heav­i­ly and smil­ing. We got these big house­hold names involved in a project that is so close to us, and to Lon­don. It’s just sur­re­al. It’s mad.”

Exact­ly 12 months on, Ward is still pro­cess­ing the last year. I’ve been hold­ing this in,” he beams. Every sin­gle day since I got this role, it’s been on my mind. Every sin­gle day.”

Ward has every­thing to be excit­ed about. To start with, he’s the new top boy of Sum­mer­house Estate, call­ing the shots while also car­ing for two younger broth­ers. It’s the first act­ing role for the unknown 21-year-old, and he’s a co-lead along­side Ash­ley Wal­ters and Kane Kano” Robin­son on a big-bud­get Net­flix show exec-pro­duced by Drake. More than any of that, though, he’s proud to be part of a dra­ma – a phe­nom­e­non – of huge con­tem­po­rary cul­tur­al impor­tance. As he puts it: I always see the big­ger picture.”

Ward was a fan of Top Boy from the begin­ning. After it launched on Chan­nel 4 in 2011, the 13-year-old Ward reli­gious­ly tuned in week in, week out. He even DM’d Wal­ters to ask for an audi­tion. (He nev­er replied.)

Top Boy is just real,” enthus­es this charis­mat­ic tal­ent, all hard fea­tures and soft brown eyes, when we meet at The Face shoot on Hack­ney Road, east Lon­don. It’s very mat­ter-of-fact. We’re doing exact­ly the oppo­site of glam­ouris­ing what’s going on in the streets – and that’s what makes it dif­fer­ent. You actu­al­ly get to fol­low people’s real-life jour­ney through all this mad­ness. You see every­thing for what it real­ly is. Jamie’s life, that’s a real lifestyle. Some­one is liv­ing Jamie’s lifestyle right now, you get what I’m try­na say?”

We’re doing exact­ly the oppo­site of glam­ouris­ing what’s going on in the streets – and that’s what makes it dif­fer­ent. You actu­al­ly get to fol­low people’s real life jour­ney through all this madness.”

In sea­son three of Ronan Bennett’s show, Jamie is our Top Boy. He’s smart, hun­gry and often ruth­less. But we’re root­ing for him any­way. He’s a nat­ur­al-born leader,” says Ward, but every­thing he does is for a cause. He’s got a big heart, and I don’t feel like he does any­thing with a bad inten­tion. That’s the prob­lem peo­ple watch­ing are gonna have: they don’t know whether to be on his side or not. He’s doing all of these bad things, but it’s for his brothers.”

Bad things” weren’t too much of a shock for Ward. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Hack­ney when he was four. He lived there until he was 10 before his fam­i­ly moved to Rom­ford, Essex. Still, leav­ing Hack­ney didn’t mean leav­ing the ends”.

I’ve nev­er been involved, but it’s always there,” he says of the lives depict­ed in the show. Grow­ing up, there’s always peo­ple around you, peo­ple going to jail, even being in school with the old­ers around. [The show] touch­es on every­thing, and that’s what makes Top Boy so real.”

Cour­tesy of Net­flix and Drake, the third series will have a tru­ly inter­na­tion­al reach. Some fans were wor­ried that the stream­er would add too much gloss. But while pro­duc­er Alas­dair Flind acknowl­edges that the show has def­i­nite­ly entered new ground”, Ward insists it’s kept all its authen­tic­i­ty, its grit­ti­ness. It’s just a lot more cinematic.”

One of the fea­tures from the orig­i­nal ter­res­tri­al UK series that has remained uncom­pro­mised is the lan­guage of these east Lon­don streets. Like The Wire, David Simon’s cult HBO show set in a bare­ly fic­tion­alised Bal­ti­more, lit­tle effort is made to trans­late local slang for a uni­ver­sal audience.

Ronan gave us the go-ahead to speak how we actu­al­ly speak,” Ward affirms. “’Cause our lan­guage is so impor­tant. It’s very dif­fer­ent to any­thing Amer­i­cans have heard. And that comes from the youth.”

For his part Micheal Ward, smoul­der­ing Top Boy anti-hero and act­ing star-in-wait­ing, is con­fi­dent it’s job done. I just feel like we deliv­ered, man.”

Top Boy is avail­able to stream on Net­flix on Sep­tem­ber 13th

Micheal wears t-shirt LOEWE, trousers and shoes LOUIS VUIT­TON and jack­et Micheal’s own.

Hair NURIYE SON­MEZ and RANELLE CHAP­MAN using LEONOR GREYL, Make-up MAYA MAN using KIEHLS, Dig­i­tal oper­a­tor PHILIP BRADLEY, Retouch­ing STU­DIO RM, Pro­duc­tion ROSAN­NA GOULD­MAN, Pro­duc­tion Man­age­ment KATHER­INE BAMP­TON, Photographer’s First Assis­tant STRA­TON HERON, Styling Assis­tance WISAM MAS­RI, Make-up Assis­tance GEOR­GIA WILLIAMS, Thanks to TOW­ER HAM­LETS, NICOLE OJO, MIT­SU­MI REH-VAN

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