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 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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