Michael Ward on Empire of Light, life after Top Boy, and kissing Olivia Colman

25 year old

“Top Boy,” 25, did what it was meant to be for me, which introduced me to the world, showed the world I could be great, and showed the world that a new kid is at the door,” says ex Michael Ward (Joseph Sinclair)

Michael Ward was most afraid of pigeons. The actor came to the set Empire of Light, its biggest project ever. She would play the lead role opposite Oscar winner Olivia Colman in a movie directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes and directed by Oscar winner Roger Deakin and also starring Oscar winner Colin Firth. But it was Coco the Pigeon, for which there was no prize, that made Ward sweat. “I was so nervous,” he says now, laughing at this. I didn’t even touch her until Sam told me to. Being a director’s favorite, I nudged him a bit, but…” A violent chill came over his body. “Ugh!”

Feather scare isn’t what you’d expect from the 25-year-old Bafta winner, who made her mark by playing a gang leader in a crime drama. best boy. Ward is so synonymous with his character that it’s hard to imagine him raising an eyebrow at a loaded weapon, let alone flapping wings. But the actor has no intention of squeezing himself into any box – including the person currently on Zoom desperately trying to contain his own likeness. Ward fidgets and speaks fast; the answers come out of it in loops, collapsing into themselves, and then coming out again without chronology. The camera lags in a futile attempt to keep up. His career is starting to show signs of his restlessness. Ward’s IMDb page featuring the blockbuster Netflix movie old guardSteve McQueen’s wonderful lyric Lovers Rockand List A, a supernatural teen drama – reads like an actor trying to stand out from what came before. But whatever the role, Ward always lends the same star quality, a mix of warmth and fragility that – from what I learned from our conversation – is all his own.

Empire of Light So that’s Ward’s final evolution. The film is set in Margate, where Hilary (Colman), a manager at a local movie theater, is struggling with depression in the early eighties. Ward plays Stephen, a jovial young man who joins the movie’s ragtag group and whose energy and compassion match Hilary’s boring life. The two begin a quiet and tender love affair. That’s another reason why his zoophobia came as a shock to Ward: There’s so much to be nervous about! I mean, shooting a sex scene with a national treasure that’s twice its age. “He’s not twice my age, Annabel!” Ward jokingly scolds me. He is right. My math is two years behind. And in fact, it was Colman, who, by his own admission, was “deadly embarrassed” and said he helped calm his young co-star’s nerves. Ward dodges the compliment with a flick of his wrist. “Olivia says she was very nervous, but it was cool,” she shrugs.

Ward arrived on the scene confident; this wasn’t his first time. “I’ve also shot sex scenes with an older woman before. best boy, so I figured out what that was,” she says. Still, “I was nervous when Olivia was nervous, absolutely. Before she shoots a sex scene or even a kissing scene, it’s always going to be a little awkward until she gets that first kiss.” It took just one session with intimacy coordinator Ita O’Brien to feel “absolutely good” about getting close and personal with Colman. “We understood what we were comfortable with. Olivia would hold my hands and put them where she was comfortable to touch so I knew I couldn’t cross that line,” says Ward, explaining that she did the same for Colman.

Control is something that comes up often in our speech – if not the word itself, then the concept. Ward is a man with a plan. Longevity, he says, is the goal. “I want to be someone people want to work with when I’m 60 or 70. To make people think there’s still something in me.” He seems ambitious and confident enough to actually make it happen. Mostly though, he’s the same Arsenal fan from Essex who was elected class clown at school. He even now lives at home with his mother.

Born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, he was raised there until he was four years old when his mother moved him and his sisters to east London. (His father died in a car accident when Ward was two.) They later settled in Romford, Essex. Growing up, he loved football, and his hopes of becoming a pro at it were too good to be completely misled. At the same time, she made room for music and drama by singing in the choir and acting in a school production. Macbeth. Considering this now, Ward says it wasn’t Shakespeare who helped him realize his passions on stage, but Akon and Snoop Dogg, who sang “I Want to Love You” so inappropriately at Ward’s 5th annual talent show. He is reminiscing. “He showed me that I was born to entertain people. I didn’t know what capacity he would be in, but I’m glad he’s acting.

When asked if he had a particularly creative childhood, Ward rubs his now completely bald head with his hand—for a movie he’s been shooting, he quickly explains. “Man, to be honest, I really don’t know in terms of creativity. All I know is that I love football. I grew up in Essex, so my childhood was different from a lot of people I know now,” he says. “They were my friends. I was playing football with my friends. It’s not like I was playing football with my White friends or my Black friends. They were just my people.”

Michael Ward and Olivia Colman

Michael Ward and Olivia Colman in “Empire of Light” (Searchlight Pictures)

In his youth, Ward was unaware of how “rigged” the game was against him. “I really had the idea, ‘Big brother, I go to the same school at the same time as these guys. I’m learning the same things as these guys, which means they don’t have an advantage over me. “They can’t be smarter than me because their family has more money.” “From a young age, I’ve seen that me and them always have the same opportunity, and I think I’ve never left that mindset.” Ward eventually discovers he doesn’t have the same luck as his white schoolmates, but says he’s “pleased” that he had that mindset in his youth. It gave him confidence to continue acting. That and her mother’s unwavering encouragement. “A lot of people from my school, their parents weren’t that supportive, and I don’t think that’s true because everyone has the right to their own life; You don’t know what your children can achieve.”

While her childhood wasn’t typically creative, she developed her future in other ways. Living in a house full of women, he says, “There was this…”, he pauses, laughs, thinks again. “Actually, no, I won’t say that!” Put it this way: there were many “mood swings” in the house. In a minute, he and his mother would be walking around; then she would be yelling at him to do the dishes. He is also very prone to sharp emotional turns. “I was never afraid to cry,” Ward says. “I’ve always been good at expressing my feelings because my mom doesn’t hide when she cries. My sisters will show that they are angry with me when they are angry with me. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and that’s how I’ve always been. She adds that she is different from the behavior of her non-sister friends.

People are disappointed when they realize I’m not like Jamie from ‘Top Boy’.

Michael Ward

This softness is felt even in Ward’s most demanding role. best boyIt was the moment of its debut, revived by Netflix in 2019, six years after Channel 4 canceled it. In it, he plays Jamie, an ambitious, violent gangster who is also a devoted father figure to two younger brothers after the death of their parents. Jamie is the kind of role that would excite any young actor, and Ward stood out. Great interest, including the BAFTA Rising Star award, followed suitably. Critics praised Ward’s layered performance—how believable it was to watch his probing eyes and warm demeanor calcify in a second. Last year’s series ended on a cliff with Jamie being shot in the chest. If you don’t want to know your character’s fate, look away now. Or at least skip the rest of this paragraph. Will Ward return for the next series? Unfortunately not, he confirms. “To be honest with you, I was absolutely devastated,” she says. “So, whatever it is.”

Killing Jamie wasn’t always the plan. When Ward read the script and shot the scene, he was told she would get back to him. “But then things change, you know? It was fine. And you know, it all went well,” he shrugged. “best boy He did what was supposed to happen for me, which opened me up to the world, showed the world that I could be great, and showed the world that there was a new kid on the block.

It was hard to say goodbye to the role that started her career in earnest, because people still see her as the person she played. “Even now, they still do,” he says. “Not even to fuel myself, but people believed what they saw and now when they see me they see Jamie.” The character’s criminal life never reflected his own life. “It’s never been like this, and I hope it never will be.” She adds that it doesn’t matter if she talks the same way as Jamie. His speech is profusely interspersed with East London slang heard in East London. best boy‘s scenario. “Sometimes you can see the disappointment on the faces of people who realize that I don’t look like Jamie at all,” she laughs. “And he’s very clear about it!”

Think best boy next to the sequel blue story – a thrilling tale of friends torn apart by gang allegiance, told in the style of a Greek tragedy – and Ward found himself representing a world he couldn’t identify with. “I felt like I was the spokesperson for the roads, and I’ve never been that way. [My life] It has never been like this,” he says. People on the roads will thank him for the representation he gave them. “It feels a bit jarring because I know what I am and I know I’m not, but I am a young Black and I can be a spokesperson for young Black men. I just want to do positive things and I want it for all of my people. When people see me, I want them to think they can do something positive because I do it from a young age.” I’ve seen it since. I know we’re capable of it. I can see it, it’s just for everyone to see. There’s a lot of people doing it, and God is just paving the way.

Michael Ward in season three of Top Boy (Chris Harris/Netflix)

Michael Ward in season three of Top Boy (Chris Harris/Netflix)

Ward moves away from telling stories about “guns and drugs” these days. “Not because I don’t want to tell stories involving ‘guns and drugs’, but because I don’t want to tell a mix of guns and drugs because I feel like I’ve already done it and I don’t. I really want to do it again.” As for any casting agent’s reading, Ward remains open to playing the mastermind of a heat-gathering heist or a very veteran drug lord to get involved in fights. “I want to do things differently,” she explains. “I want things that can help me change my career in a positive way.” If not, at least Ward wants to be involved in productions that will resonate with his family. “If I don’t do that, I feel like I’ve failed.”

Ward returned to Jamaica for the first time last year. Despite the twenty years he had spent away and having no memory of his life there, the journey was still like a return home. “I know these people by the way they talk and walk, the way they move,” says Ward. He can’t pinpoint it, but there was something instinctive about being in Jamaica. The closest thing he can compare it to is eating guinep, a ping-pong ball-sized Jamaican fruit that tastes like a mix of limes and lemons. Suddenly, Ward’s voice sounds so sad. “This taste is very familiar. It felt like something I tried when I was younger.”

‘Empire of Light’ is now in theaters

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *