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Percelle Ascott: 'I was so happy when I read these scripts'

MULTI-TALENTED: Percelle Ascott wants his work, both on the screen and off, to push boundaries

Percelle Ascott stars in the new Netflix original sci-fi series, The Innocents. Here he talks about what’s at the heart of the shapeshifting series, how Hollywood is changing and why it’s essential we have the opportunity to tell stories from our perspective.

Q: This is a departure from the work you’ve done in the past. What attracted you to this project?
A: For me, it was the scripts. I remember I was in the audition process and...there’s a magic where, as an actor, you read a script and you just picture the whole journey, the whole story. Harry’s got the complexities I feel would be authentically truthful to a character at that age.

It being a sci-fi show with [shape] shifting, there’s challenges in and amongst that but at the same time it’s all about the relationships and I think for any actor, every story, it’s important that the relationships are truthful and they have meaning. I just feel like that’s where, for me personally, I can just throw myself in there and get to work.

Q: It's a sci-fi series but at the centre of The Innocents are these two young people who really care about each other and are in love. What’s at the heart of the story for you?
A: I think love is definitely a massive factor, a big factor of what’s at the heart of the story but I think a big thing – the messaging behind the show – is identity. I think we’ve used the shifting device to talk about identity and for June’s character it’s this journey of acceptance and for Harry also.

Harry, my character, makes choices to love June even though he is struggling to accept her for who she is and struggling to understand this world.

Q: As a Netflix show, The Innocents will be viewed on a global platform. Have you anticipated the possibility that this series could take off the way other popular Netflix originals have?
A: I may have thought about it in a small way but I’ve not given it too much thought. I’ve been on this rollercoaster of a journey for eight years, I feel like I’ve come to know that you can’t ever comprehend what’s going to happen.

Yes, there is the fact that it’s going to be premiered in 190 countries and there’s a lot of people who might watch the show but...whatever happens next I’m always just going to keep being me and keep grounded, nothing’s going to change.

Q: What’s your favourite sci-fi film or series?
A: There’s so many. I’m going to say one because it’s on the top of my head. There’s a movie, a feature called Kin, that’s coming out and it’s [executive produced by] Michael B Jordan. I watched it a couple of weeks ago. I loved it because it has similar themes to us [The Innocents] in terms of sci-fi. Although it was say sci-fi, it was still about the relationships.

Q: Actors of colour are getting better access to more varied, challenging and exciting roles. Is this something you’ve noted personally?
A: Yeah, I think there’s progression. Seeing that we’ve had the blockbuster of Black Panther do so well and Get Out, I think there is definitely a conversation that’s going on. And there is trust there, especially from say a financial perspective, that these shows do travel, they’re international. So I feel like there is a movement. Even right now as I’m doing this promo tour, a good friend of Mine Aml Ameen is doing Yardie and it’s exciting that we’re all playing these roles.

ON SET: Percelle Ascott pictured with his co star Sorcha Groundsell (Image:Aimee Spinks/Netflix)

To talk about The Innocents in that respect, I was so happy when I read these scripts that it wasn’t defined by the way I looked. It felt so refreshing that this character was layered and had so many dimensions to him and it wasn’t about where he was from.

I think there’s definitely progress, more can happen for sure. I don’t want this to be a moment. I want this to be a movement. That’s why my passion is also producing and writing because I feel it’s essential that we are able to tell stories from our perspective and keep pushing that narrative, keep creating opportunities for people of colour but also I want to create opportunities for everyone.

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’ve just finished producing something called Shiro’s Story. We did part one in March, part two in June and we just did part three. Both part one and part two respectively are on, I think, 3 million views on YouTube. It’s a musically narrated short film where we worked with an artist called Rapman [and] told this story. The story was a song but we saw it as a script so myself and my producing partner, Joivan Wade, wanted to be attached to it as producers not just the actors in it. Right now we are going back and forth to the States, we’re having several conversations about what we can do [with it].

We’ve got a platform called The Wall of Comedy, which is a network of 8 million people and we’re constantly producing content there, commissioning talent and also managing talent.

Q: What’s the role you’d love to play?
A: I like characters that challenge me. I’m going to keep on looking for roles in the future that keep on doing that for me, keep testing the boundaries.

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