Percelle Ascot talks Passions, Purpose and Plans.
Interview & Words by: Rochelle Thomas
From the age of 14 Percelle Ascot was certain he wanted to be an actor. He was sure that his early decision would put him four or five years ahead of his peers with the same dream. He was right. Now, at age 25, the British, Zimbabwean born, actor is a experiencing a period of notoriety and already has an eight-year career under his belt.
With the support of his schoolteacher and family (his stepdad actually hand delivered his application), Percelle was accepted into the Brit School. It was here where is met fellow actor Jovian Wade (The Purge), whom he became fast friends with. “We both had the same fire in our belly. We knew we had to make the most of this opportunity and we did that. Before we even finished, we were creating Mandem On The Wall; we had an agent and everything”. Mandem on The Wall is a comedy webseries that launched in 2011 that was written and produced by its stars, Percelle, Jovian and Dee Kartier. The project was Percelle’s first step into producing, and arguably gave Percelle a push in his career that otherwise would not have happened. Though at the time Percelle could not foresee the impact that his own content creation would have on his life.
The trio quickly progressed from online to screen as they were cast in the e4 show Youngers; not long after this they were approached by comedian Kojo to star in the film The Weekend, which was a story based around the three original Mandem On The Wall characters. It was during this time that the trio decided to create a platform for other creatives to tap into and thus, the Wall of Comedy was born. The platform produces original content for digital and TV platforms and manages up-and-coming actors, writers and comedians – may of whom also established themselves online. “We looked at the comedy scene and used to say, imagine if people in comedy had their own production agencies and platforms [when we were starting out]. That’s the why for Wall of Comedy. Acting is for me. [It’s] my want in life, my love and passion but Wall Of Comedy is my purpose and it’s my job to fulfil. We want it to be able to serve people and also monetise people – which is important”.
Shiro’s story is a great example of how Percelle has been able to combine his love of acting and his passion for helping others. In the rap driven story, Percelle plays the lead antagonist Kyle, a character completely different to anything he’s played before. “In life we’re so complex. There’s no such thing [as playing a baddie]. I don’t justify his actions but I can understand where he’s coming from. It’s so funny, because I didn’t realise how much it mean to me to play that kind of character”. Something else that could not be told at the start of the journey is how big the story would be. What started out as a one-part project now has three parts on YouTube with each amassing over 4 million views and rumours are circulating that the project will soon be moving to Netflix. Percelle who is also a producer on the project says of its creator Rapman, “he’s now going to be a respected writer, creator and director and that for me is what the mission is”.
“We were lucky [when we started] as we had a great support system [and could] find people that could film things for us but some people don’t have that luxury. I can only imagine how many people have a great story in their head but they can’t [go further] because no commissioner is going to read their concept on a piece of paper.
They [internet comics] don’t know how to get to TV. They’re doing content out of their bedrooms because that’s all they know, that’s all they’ve seen. And you cant just take what they’ve done and stick it on TV and think its going to work and if they fail that’s it, there’s no more chances, no opportunities. One loss and they’re all out? Where is the nurturing? It’s so annoying [and] it boils down to us not having [the right] opportunities.
Percelle’s latest project, The Innocents, is produced by Netflix making it Percelle’s biggest project yet, in terms of budget and promotion, a move that is likely to catapult his career even further. His character, Harry, is again nothing like anything he’s ever played before and as Percelle takes up more work, he is interested in becoming more of a ‘character actor’, taking up roles that differ from each other and pushing himself out of his own comfort zone.
So what’s next for Percelle? On a personal note, he wants return to his homeland of Zimbabwe. He recently did an interview with BBC News Africa where he was asked about his place of birth. “The reaction that I got on social media was crazy. It meant so much to me that people showed that much support. Just knowing what it meant for them [Zimbabweans], meant so much to me. I need to go back and I know that’s going to reconnect me”. And in terms of his career, has his view on success changed due to his recent successes? “I think you go wrong in life when success is something based around numbers or how people respond to you. For me it should always be am I happy about what I’ve created, do I stand by that and live by that”.
You can follow Percelle Ascott on twitter @PercelleAscott
Interview & Words by: Rochelle Thomas
Photography: Kim Lang