Souleiman

I get the chance to have a chat with Souleiman Ismael, up and coming French Actor of East African origin who has featured in Spooks, with Jack Black  in Gulliver’s Travels, with Daniel Radcliffe In Harry Potter and in a commercial with Agyness Deyn amongst other things, on the highs and lows of his profession and his influences and other ambitions.

Now you have a lot of experience in different acting mediums, are there any you prefer? I want to do film, and I would like to do theatre at a later stage as I know lots of theatre actors who are a bit bitter as they don’t get the recognition beyond the theatre-frequenting community. More people go to the cinema, which is a very democratic medium, everyone loves films. I’ve done theatre in Paris but for me it doesn’t come as naturally, there are a lot of techniques involved, its different as with a camera, it has to look like real life.

What are the more challenging aspects of your job? In terms of accents in acting, I find the British one hard to do but American comes naturally as I learnt English by watching Hollywood movies and listening to hip hop, when I came to London people asked whether I was from America as I was copying the dialect but it has gone away a bit now as I have been here for 5 years. One of the hardest auditions I had involved auditioning in the three languages I speak, English, French and Somali. English is my first language for acting, Somali was hard and French is now awkward as I am not used to it anymore, it’s hard to switch from English to French as the rhythm is different, I had to tape myself and I started at 10 in the morning and finished at 1am. I had a friend helping cutting it, it was very very tedious but they loved it.

What role models did you have as a child? Are there any actors or directors that have really inspired you?
 I have three brothers and I am the eldest and my father was into martial arts films and boxing, you know the usual types, Rocky and Van Damme, Bruce Lee, he was my idol as a kid. It wasn’t until I was 18, 19, 20 and got a cinema card and then I was watching movies properly and I realised who was good and who wasn’t. As a kid I most admired football players such as Ronaldo but I just really liked action and fighting films. I maybe am still attracted to acting in those type of films as I like pace in a film, I like gangster films and I do like a good complicated story. I can handle myself in action roles as I did Judo as a kid but I am not very flexible and that comes from football. When I was 12 I saw Malcolm X, Denzel Washington is just really good, I was impressed, he’s been one of my favourites for a long time. Other obvious ones are Pacino and De Niro. Pacino has been very clever about his choice of films.  And as for directors Spike Lee, Scorsese and Michael Mann, he did collateral which I really liked. I love Tarantino’s films, I like the pace, there is always something happening, he keeps you interested. I like TV shows a lot, The Wire is a favourite.

Do you have any preferred genres on a personal level? 
I am very easygoing about the type of films i watch now, I do actually like comedy a lot and french comedies are great. A movie I really liked this year was Drive, it was very intense, I wasn’t expecting that. The director was very clever as he had a great soundtrack and the music was stuck in my head for a couple of weeks. It all comes together nicely, its the whole package, the music, the costume, the tone and it becomes a cult film. The story is very basic and there is no real amazing twist but everything fits. The problem is sometimes with films everything is all over the place, for example I saw ‘Man on a Ledge’ the story is great and the film is great up to an hour and then it stops making sense, still I am not so much of a critic as I can still enjoy it.

Do you have any other creative faculties you would be keen to explore? I would like to write and I have been told I have good writing skills. I would love to write books but I need to get started. I would choose a different name to author under. I would also be interested in doing music, I grew up in the 90’s and hip hop was my main passion but my tastes are more diverse now.

Do you have any advice you can offer aspiring actors? Two things, the first is to always accept or choose something that you would be proud of later even if you are not known. I’ve refused stuff that I am uncomfortable with; I don’t want to be in the situation where I do something because I have to rather than want to.

The best acting advice I was given was by my favourite teacher and it happened when I was on stage doing a scene and he said ‘That’s not interesting to watch’ then he said, ‘when you are in real life you might never stop thinking even when you speak ‘and when you act you tend to just think about your script and he said ‘never stop thinking when you act and you will always be interesting’. And to just keep the faith. Don’t quit.

Your favourite thing about acting? 
Acting gives me an excuse to do things I wouldn’t normally do, its fun to act, even the pain is fun in a way as you learn about yourself. I love method acting when you are completely wearing the shoes of the other person, its very interesting.