Top Boy Director Jonathan Van Tulleken talks about the casting for S2
Top Boy is a story told from the inside out. From development through to filming, collaboration with the actors was vital. The cast often informed the script and would on set be encouraged to make it their own. This meant that for some of the parts, classically trained actors just wouldn't have brought the level of honesty and accuracy to the collaboration. Of the 48-strong ensemble cast, a substantial number of the roles were street cast.
In particular with the younger parts, the aim was to find children with real acting talent - thoughtful and uninhibited – from in and around that community. Children given lines often end up sounding like they are simply reciting. We were looking for actors who would be able to take the meaning of the lines and put them in their own words.
To this end, casting agent Andy Brierley went into secondary schools, youth clubs, community centres, local drama groups and held open auditions which attracted large numbers of young people.
Malcolm Kamulete and Giacomo Mancini resume their roles as best friends Ra’Nell and Gem in the second series. Ra’Nell is determined to keep his head down and concentrate on football - which Malcolm is also very talented at in real life - but luckless Gem can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
Neither had acted professionally before the first series of Top Boy. Giacomo now has an agent and has been a number of other high end dramas since Top Boy series 1.
For those of the cast who aren’t professionally trained the rehearsal process became even more important. The acclaimed acting coach Martin Ledwith worked with the cast across series one and two, running workshops with the children to prepare them for their screen debuts. This involved improvisational games, one-on-one coaching and workshops for specific group scenes.
The newcomers were amazing to work with: genuine natural talents with real craft and diligence. They gave scenes a sense of spontaneity and authenticity that is hard to come by.
Many parts are played by music performers. Kane “Kano” Robinson made his acting debut in series one and continues as Sully – one-time close ally of Top Boy Dushane played by Ashley Walters. Ashley Thomas, a London based recording artist and actor, also known by his stage name Bashy, plays Sully’s cousin Jermaine and No Lay plays Dris's wife. Other gang-members in series two who come from the grime and music world include Kevin “Lefty” Noel, Cashief “Cashtastic” Wayne Nichols and Roxanne “Roxxxan” Conway.