Raised in a cramped flat, this Zimbabwean actor is now making waves on Netflix

PUBLISHED: Fri, 09 Nov 2018 23:18:33 GMT

By Trust Matsilele, follow him on twitter @trustmatsilele

A two-bedroomed flat shared with six others in a South London estate with a supportive mother was all Percelle Ascott needed to become a world-famous actor. Now he has a leading role on Netflix series – “The Innocents”.

“I remember riding my bike everywhere, playing football and making treehouses. All the kids who grew up on my estate knew each other, and it was probably where my love of acting grew from,” Ascott remembers of his childhood.

“I had a wild imagination for all the things I didn’t have. I would make something out of nothing.”

The 25-year-old born British actor’s family moved to London when he was three. His recollections are a mixed bag- struggles and triumphs and in his story, he has a mother who is his role model and a figure behind his successes.

“I’m sure every family has struggles especially financially when you live in London, but I was blessed to have a hardworking mum and aunt who always provided for me and my cousins,” he says.

His parents are part of over seven hundred thousand Zimbabweans in the United Kingdom, Zimbabwe’s former colonial master, most jokingly call Harare North.

“My bug for acting started when I was 11 years old. I played the lead in my school play as Mowgli in Jungle Book, and my Mum told me how I would recite everyone’s lines if they forgot them. But it wasn’t until I went to a secondary school where I came across an exceptional Drama teacher who instilled so much confidence in my ability”, says Percelle.

He dreams to be part of exceptional storytellers.

“We only remember the stories that shaped us, shaped our perspective on the way we view the world. I hope I can create meaningful real characters that people can relate too, that can laugh with me, cry with me and go through a journey together,” says Percelle.

“I remember watching the film ‘Philadelphia’ starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington and couldn’t help but think about Denzel’s character. The journey his character goes through is so powerful given the timing of the film. At the start, he has this ignorance toward[s] HIV and AIDS which is shaped differently when he meets Tom and becomes his lawyer fighting his case. I’m sure it must’ve informed the opinion of audiences who had the same perspective on HIV and AIDS.”

On his new role in “The Innocents”.

“The casting process for me started in February 2017 and I received the role in June. It was a lengthy process that required me to do a few rounds plus chemistry tapes with different actresses, but I guess that’s what it takes when you’re trying to find Harry and June. Their romance being so crucial to the story, that energy between being something that just has to fit,” he says.

Percelle proudly represents a country many wish they never came from.

“Since the launch of the show on Netflix, I’ve had a huge number of fellow Zimbabweans reach out to me. I find that special because it’s not something a kid from Zimbabwe has as their career trajectory, to be a lead on a Netflix show”

Percelle is planning to lead film projects in Zimbabwe in the future, a move that will reshape the country film industry that has been in decline since investors turned their backs on the country following former President Robert Mugabe’s “less than pigs and dogs ” comments at Zimbabwe Book Fair in early 2000.

“There are more and more projects being funded in Africa as a whole. South Africa has a fast-established industry growing there. Why not Zimbabwe? I told my dad already we’re going to build a film studio in Zimbabwe one day. There are so many stories from Zimbabwe because of its vast history. Let’s show the world what the real Zimbabwe looks, the kings and Queens of Great Zimbabwe! Maybe I’d play a warrior prince from the kingdom of Zimbabwe.”

With another leading Hollywood actor in Danai Gurira who made it to one of the most watched movies of all time, “The Black Panthers” and “Pursuit of Happyness’s” Thandi Newton, Percelle’s dream might soon be a reality

For now, he is working on a short feature film “Shiro’s Story”.  The just released part three in the trilogy has garnered around 2.2 million views on Youtube in 24 hours.

“So, the plan now is to go and pitch this series to a bigger broadcaster maybe someone like Netlfix,” he tells me.

Other than acting Percelle produces as well as writes and directs films.

“I am also the co-owner of the “The Wall of Comedy”, a platform across social media with a following of eight million people. So, day to day we create content, nurture new talent and are building a network in which is run by the people and for the people.”

For young aspiring African actors, he has some advice.

“Hard work, determination, and perseverance. Ultimately, I would say love. A love of what you do. A love of why you do it and to always use that as a compass for the choices you make.”

Sign Up for Our Newsletter Daily Update
Get the best of CNBC Africa sent straight to your inbox with breaking business news, insights and updates from experts across the continent.
Get this delivered to your inbox, and more info about about our products and services. By signing up for newsletters, you are agreeing to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.