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'There's not enough black actors cast in Shakespeare plays'

TAKING OVER THE STATES: British actor Alfred Enoch

BRITISH actor Alfred Enoch has swapped London for LA, and the wizarding world of Harry Potter for Shondaland.

Making waves after appearing as favoured Gryffindor Dean Thomas in the colossal Harry Potter franchise and heading ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder as Wes Gibbins with Viola Davis, Enoch recently returned to home turf to perform a rendition of Shakespeare’s illustrious King Lear.

The 27-year-old starred alongside acting veteran Don Warrington in the play, which was presented in April by Talawa Theatre Company – the UK’s primary black-led theatre company.

“You do get black actors in Shakespeare, but there’s not enough,” says Enoch, who first dipped his toe into the realm of acting as an eight-year-old when performing a sonnet as part of the Shakespeare’s Sonnets Walk at the Globe Theatre.

The actor, who studied Spanish and Portuguese at Oxford University, continues: “You can do Shakespeare with black actors without it having to be set in Africa.”

The issue of diversity isn’t only being examined in the productions of Shakespeare, but in Hollywood too. After the 2016 Oscars saw just white faces secure nominations in the acting categories, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science took steps to ensure better representation of ethnic minorities in their membership.

“I think it’s important that the arts and theatre reflect the society that it’s playing to. People go to the theatre and want to hear stories told by people that look like them, or have the same culture or beliefs. Theatre is a real open space, but I don’t think it feels very open if you go and you feel like in a sense it’s not talking to you,” says the Londoner.

“Shakespeare, theatre, film whatever it is, it’s for everyone.”

Interestingly, as a mixed race actor, Enoch has never felt excluded from any opportunities in the industry. His white father, the actor William Russell, famously played one of the Timelord’s first companions, Ian Chesterton, from Doctor Who’s very first episode in 1963 until 1965.

“I grew up seeing my dad’s work, so being an actor seemed very tangible to me,” he explains.”

Enoch continues: “I’ve talked to people who have said they grew up watching TV and didn’t see anybody who looked like them, that made me feel quite outside the story. I thought ‘well that’s interesting’ because I had never felt like that.”


MURDEROUS CO-STARS: Enoch with Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder

The Harry Potter star credits his father as well as his iconic co-stars for helping him hone his skills.

“My dad encouraged me and nurtured my excitement and passion for acting,” he says. “He has hugely helped shape my craft.

“He was the one who taught me the sonnet I performed for the Globe. That was an amazing experience, and that was all made possible by the teaching and influence of my dad and him nurturing me.

“I’ve learned so much from him.”

“And of course, I’ve worked with some great actors. Watching Viola [Davis] at work, you’re just like ‘wow, she does that so well.’ It all shapes you.”

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