Top Boy London Netflix TV show

KEIYON lifted by NYSHAI, HOPE, ALEXANDER and MICHAEL

The young London talent topping up the Top Boy cast

Volume 4 Issue 001: The Face sat down with the Top Boy teens to discuss filming, London and encounters with Drizzy.

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


MICHAEL ONAFOWOKAN, 22, PECKHAM

Describe your character in Top Boy.
Cornell’s one of the gang-members in A Road. He’s a ride-or-die for himself. I didn’t even know A Road was real before.

How were you cast?
I saw a post on Instagram and sent in a video. I just shared an experience of how I almost got stabbed. At the audition, [casting director] Des [Hamilton] just pushed me. He said he wanted truth. I was in character and I remember just switching. He was cussing me, telling me I was a wasteman. I wanted to punch him – I even took off my tracksuit top, like, let’s do this. It was very heated. After, everyone was quiet for, like, 10 seconds. It was crazy.

How authentic is the show?
Very authentic. They even allowed us to change some words where we were like: Na, that’s not up-to-date.” I grew up watching Top Boy and even from then, I was like: This is sick. This is actually real.”

HOPE IKPOKU jnr, 17, HOMERTON

Describe your character.
Aaron’s the second of three brothers but he’s not as hard as his older brother Jamie [Micheal Ward’s character]. He’s a big softie. He’s tryna keep his head down at uni. He looks up to his brother, but he doesn’t wanna be a top boy.

How were you cast?
I went for an open audition. Then I had to send a few tapes and just talk about myself. I told them a story about someone slipping at prom. They liked that.

What makes Top Boy special?
I think the dynamic between the three brothers. The most entertaining bits will be when there’s fighting, when there’s shooting and stuff – but the heart of the show is their relationship.

Did you get to meet Drake?
Yeah, that was exciting. At the read-through. I was just chilling, half-pyjamas, half-tracksuit, and then Drake walked in! It was so mad.

SHONE ROMULUS, 31, HOMERTON

How were you cast as Dris in the first series?
Someone came onto my estate. We had a chat about stuff that goes on in Hackney. Then I started helping Des out with streetcasting, going round schools. Everyone was saying: Who are these funny white people you brought to the block?” They thought they were police.

How authentic is the show?
I’d say 85 per cent. Most of the things you’ve seen is stuff that’s happened. Not a lot of people know that.

What’s the other 15 per cent?
Little things that would only matter to people living this Top Boy life. I got so much grief the first time round. People thought [the first series] showed too much. Kids selling drugs in Ridley Road market – that was actually going on.

Left to right: RICKY SMARTS and RENIKO FRANCIS

NYSHAI CAYNES, 21, PECKHAM

Describe your character.
Romy’s from Somerset House gang, but he’s friends with everyone. I’m the one that’s, like: Guys, if it doesn’t need to happen, let’s chill out.”

How did you get involved?
I’m a hip-hop and R&B artist, this is my first time acting. I literally just came to the audition and got the role.

How familiar is this world?
I’ve seen certain elements within my life. My friends have been stabbed before, been on the block, selling drugs. It’s not an everyday thing but you do see it from where I come from.

What makes Top Boy special?
I definitely see its cultural importance. There’s a lot of hurt youth out there, that wanna speak out but can’t. People want to have a voice. To feel represented.

How was filming?
Working with Ashley Walters was crazy – four years ago I was in the video for his track Leader of the Dance! I was one of those kids tryna get an opportunity. I missed ‑meeting Drake, though. That would have been live.

KEIYON COOK, 12, HACKNEY

Describe your character.
Ats is a funny guy, but he gets himself into a lot of ‑mischief! He does things that he doesn’t necessarily want to do – but it’s to help his mum.

How was filming?
Yeah, it was really fun, got to meet a lot of good people. The energy was just there.

Did you get to meet Drake?
Yeah! That was exciting. It was a surprise.

What do your friends at school think?
Only, like, two of them know. My best friend Marvin, he’s really excited for me. I wanted to keep it a secret. I didn’t wanna look like a show-off.

RICKY SMARTS, 20, PECKHAM/​CROYDON

How were you cast in the first series?
The casting people came to my dance rehearsal. I was 13 and in care and I can’t lie: I wasn’t interested in what it was about – I only went to prove to my carer that I could. It was just lucky I got it.

Describe your character.
Jason’s had a hard life. His parents were on drugs, so he’s been on his own. From the last series he rolled with Sully, and Sully looked after him. I was his little young G. Now Jason’s older, he’s more cold-hearted.

Can you relate?
Yeah, we have a lot of similarities. Not having his ‑parents around, being on his own.

What makes Top Boy special?
You see when people say: If I can do it, you can do it”? That’s how I feel. I wanna put out a message, like: Bro, I’ve come from a place where I would never have expected to be on a TV show this big.” This has proved to me that if you put your mind towards something, and you put the work in, things will come to you. Word.

SHIANN MAY DALY

SHIANN MAY DALY, 18, SOUTHGATE

How did you get involved?
This is my first acting role. I auditioned a few times over a month and then I finally got the call. I feel proper proud to be part of it. It just felt meant to be. I even got proper emotional after my first audition. I felt it.

Describe your character.
Tolga is the only girl in the gang. So, yeah, she’s pretty tough! A danger-seeker. I can relate to my role because when I was younger, I was quite troubled as well. I was going missing quite a lot and getting into a lot of shit that I shouldn’t have been getting into.

So this world was familiar to you?
I’ve seen people stabbed right in front of me. This role really put that negative side of me into something positive. It’s been a release. Like therapy, almost.

How authentic is Top Boy?
I think it’s the only programme that portrays London for what it is.

ALEXANDER BLAKE, 21, BROCKLEY

How did you get this role?
Des Hamilton. That’s my G, man – that’s Uncle Des! He saw me a long time ago, chilling in Boxpark [in Shoreditch, east London]. Afterwards he was like, Ra, I wants to cast that kid,” but I was with bare of my friends so he didn’t come over. Then I walked into his office a year later.

Describe your character.
Cam’s a troublemaker, a hothead. He’s confused in himself, which is why he acts up. Always tryna be the big guy. Big cars, big drip, y’know what I’m saying?

Can you relate?
Na. But I can play Cam cause I know a lot of Cams. It’s nothing I wanna aspire to be like.

How was filming?
Filming was lit, man! Feet up in my trailer all day. Can’t complain.

Are you close to your Top Boy family?
Yeah, 1,000 per cent. Me and the gang link up on a regular.

RENIKO FRANCIS, 19, WEMBLEY

How did you get involved?
My mum told me about the casting so I went for some auditions. I was never that type to do drama in school or nuttin’ like that.

Describe your character.
Tyrone is the driver. Whenever there’s something that needs to be done, he’s there, innit.

How was your first experience acting?
I was just myself. Obviously not exactly. But it’s, like, there’s somewhere between me and the character, innit. There’s a space between them, where I had to go into, to do the role. It’s not like it was me tryna be the character that I got. It was like me tryna make the character my own.

How familiar is this world to you?
Obviously, it’s around, innit. As long as you’re in London you’re not gonna be able to avoid it.

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

Main Image
Shone wears shirt ALBAM, tracksuit bottoms STONE ISLAND, trainers and hat stylist’s own. Alexander trousers CARHARTT, trainers NIKE, t‑shirt and accessories Alexander’s own. Micheal wears jacket ACNE, t‑shirt LOEWE, trousers and shoes LOUIS VUITTON and jacket Michael’s own. Hope wears top ACNE, trousers AIR PANGEA and trainers NIKE. Shiann wears vest COTTWEILER, t‑shirt NAPA MARTINE ROSE, trousers CARHARTT and trainers NIKE. Keiyon wears t‑shirt CARHARTT, trousers A‑COLD-WALL and trainers NIKE. Michael wears shirt ALBAM, t‑shirt STUSSY, trousers STONE ISLAND and shoes ACNE. Nyshai jacket and trousers COTWEILER, trainers NIKE and accessories Nyshai’s own. Ricky shirt STUSSY, t‑shirt C.P. COMPANY, trousers STONE ISLAND, trainers NIKE and accessories Ricky’s own. Reniko shirt PRADA, t‑shirt CARHARTT, trousers and accessories Reniko’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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