Michael Ward, who plays Jamie: "When 'Top Boy' first came about it was the first of its kind. When it went away, there was still nothing like it. Now it's back, and still the only thing of its kind."
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Making a comeback after the original series ended in 2013, Top Boy is one of the best British dramas of recent years. The 10 episodes of the brand new season see Ashley Walters and Kane Robinson (aka Kano) reprise their roles as seasoned drug dealers Dushane and Sully, and newcomer Micheal Ward stars as Jamie, a young and ruthless hustler.
Also starring Little Simz as Shelley and David Omoregie (aka Dave) as Modie, Top Boy returns to screens with some help from executive producer Drake – who was so upset when the show ended after two seasons that he announced plans to revive it – and his business partner Adel “Future” Nur, along with Maverick Carter and Jamal Henderson of Lebron James’ SpringHill Entertainment.
Ahead of the new season, Ward and Simz sat down with NME to talk about how important the show is to black Britain, their interactions with Drake, how Peaky Blinders inspired Ward’s acting, and to have a go at impersonating each other’s character.
When asked if he understands the importance of being involved in Top Boy, Ward replies: “More and more every day. There’s nothing else like Top Boy. When Top Boy first came about it was the first of its kind. When it went away, there was still nothing like it. Now it’s back, and still the only thing of its kind. It’s the only TV show that tells our story from the UK.”
He adds: “This is the first time people internationally are going to see what the UK is like. I remember a couple of months ago I went to New York and they were all taking the piss out of the way I was speaking because they had never seen a black guy speak like that. I was like, ‘Cool. In a couple of months you’re gonna see a lot of us speaking like that.'”
Speaking about his interaction with Drake at the show’s first read through, Ward says: “He came to the first read through and spoke and that was mad motivating. But what was weird was I saw him at Wireless… and then less than 24 hours later I’m chatting to Dave and Drake’s walking in. This whole process, for me, has been surreal. You couldn’t even write it.”
The very first season of the original Top Boy series starred Letitia Wright (as Chantelle), who has gone on to earn praise for her role in Marvel‘s Black Panther. Do her achievements inspire the new Top Boy actors? “It’s given us more fire in our belly to wanna do better and be a part of more projects,” says Simz. “But also, I wanna enjoy this and be in the moment cos’ a lot of the time I think that doing what we do it’s very much: do the job and then on to the next. But I think I’m just learning to be present in this and enjoy it and be here.”
In our video, watch Simz and Ward talk about the importance of Top Boy, the music being played on set, the influence of Drake, and what it was like seeing themselves on screen for the first time.
Top Boy is out now on Netflix.