Kamal Simpson is a London based actor with a theatrical background in Meisner and Improv. Kamal began working in television after graduating from college. His early credits include BBC sitcom After You’ve Gone and the Award winning ITV series Benidorm. As a young man, he took time to travel the world and live abroad before returning to the UK in 2014. He recently appeared in the multi award winning feature film Never Let Go by acclaimed Director Howard J. Ford and the soon to be released short Scripted by CBBC director Dan Berlinka. Kamal will play the lead role of Keith in the upcoming feature film Scales.
First and foremost, congratulations on your performance as Keith in Scales. I know you haven’t seen the film yet but it’s a great performance and one that I’m so excited about. What were your first thoughts about the script and what attracted you to the role of Keith?
Well, the first thing that struck me about the script was the smoothness of the dialogue and the engaging storyline. It is always a bit of a worry reading a new script, as bad writing can be stressful for a performer but when you get handed something where the characters jump of the page and the conversations feel very real, then that’s already half the work done, which gives you that extra space to go deeper. I felt I really understood Keith, essentially, which always makes for an attractive role. When I approach a character, I always begin from myself – and there were many aspects of Keith that just seem to click straight away, which got me super excited – his desire to be loved and admired, his tendency to self-sabotage, his playfulness and natural charm. I knew I would have a lot of fun playing with those aspects of me and bringing myself into the role.
What did you enjoy most about filming Scales?
Aside from playing the role, of course, what was really awesome about Scales was the tightness of the whole team. It was really nice getting to know all people involved with the production on a personal level, which generally isn’t possible on larger scale projects (no pun intended).
Tell me a bit about yourself and your acting journey?
I knew from a young age it was my first love in this world. I went to the BRIT School for secondary and sixth form, which I found incredibly nurturing and encouraging as a young performer. It was there I felt I gave myself permission to embrace my spiritual side too – it’s a very encouraging place in terms of individual expression, which does inevitably lead to a lot of ego – haha – but, hey, it also allows you to be who you want to be, which young people aren’t given enough of in regular institutions. I started working professionally when I left, then after a few years, I got sidetracked and moved to Norway chasing love! I was actually very confused at the time, still discovering myself and not so sure of my place in the world. But some years it became too much – I had to come back to London to act and I’m almost tempted to say that that’s when my acting journey really began. I realised I needed a lot of training, having been out the game so long, so I did all sorts of workshops – I discovered clown, did a bit of improv, which led me into Meisner, which has been instrumental in my development as an artist. I’d say that before, I’d always approached acting with the idea of ‘playing a character’, whereas these techniques allowed me to discover the beauty and uniqueness in my own character as an individual, and that I already had everything within me – it’s just a case of being open and vulnerable enough to reveal those things. In that sense, acting has become a spiritual path for me – and I mean that in the realest sense of the word.
Is there a dream role you would like to play?
You know, this is one of those questions I always struggle with and I guess it’s because I don’t really have an answer but a part of me feels like I should have! The parts I’d like to play depend on where I am on my acting journey. I want to play something that is really going to test and stretch me, and encourage me to go to places I haven’t been before and on the surface appear foreign and unfamiliar. Right now that would be a dark, manipulative, aggressive and abusive character. These are shadow sides that I haven’t acknowledged so much in my day-to-day and often fluffy hippy lifestyle – hehe. I think acknowledgement of the shadow is essential for everyone, as it is its unacknowledgement that gives birth to this toxic shame and blame culture we find ourselves in today. Acting can be an incredibly powerful way of doing that.
What advice would you give to up and coming actors?
It’s funny, I remember about a decade ago – maybe more – standing opposite Peckham Library and seeing these placards of famous black actors with their quotes of inspiration underneath. There is only one quote I remember and it is the one I scoffed at at the time, being young and naïve, believing I was wonderfully talented and just born to be a star! Hahaha. That was a quote from Delroy Lindo, which was ‘Practice’. There is nothing more important and, sadly it seems (in this country at least), often more overlooked than practising your craft. So many actors finish drama school and assume that that’s it – ‘I’m a professional actor now, I’ll just wait for the work to come through!’ This is wrong – in what other profession does this logic apply? Do athletes train for three years, then chill out until each tournament or competition happens? No. Do musicians wait until their next concert to practice their playing? No. Singers? Dancers? Only actors seem to think this way. Professional athletes and artists are constantly in training – they have to be if they want the stamina and ability to perform at the highest level. ‘Oh, but I’m just naturally talented,’ a younger version of myself would say. Yes. So is Lionel Messi. So is Andy Murray. So is Floyd Mayweather. Bruno Mars. Adele. Eminem. Do you think any of these athletes or artists would be at the level and platform they are at if they didn’t practice what they do almost every day that they have the chance? Of course not. Why do so many actors, then, have this attitude? Talent is great, but it’s overrated. Especially in today’s reality TV culture. As an actor, there are few things you have control over, as you develop your career. Ability is one of them – don’t miss out and don’t rob yourself of your deepest and most beautiful potential.
You are in Season 2 of web series Casting Directors. Tell us about that experience?
Hey, Casting Directors was a super fun experience. Completely different to Scales of course. It was a bit of a challenge for me – which, as I mentioned, I always enjoy – as I had to play quite an arrogant and grossly misogynistic guy. I was a bit apprehensive at first but in understanding the context of the show and knowing it was in service of an important message, it allowed me to embrace it fully – and with playfulness too. It is a comedy, after all, and it was nice to do a bit of clowning with the part, which is something I have missed recently – not since ‘Grumpy Lettuce’! (YouTube series – check it out! ;-))