Fisayo Akinade stars as Dean in Queer as Folk creator Russell T Davies‘ two new dramas, Cucumber and Banana.
CultBox caught up with Fisayo for a chat about the shows and his new BBC One series, Ordinary Lies…
Dean is a rather flighty character. Was it fun to play someone who is in some ways so out there and in some ways so innocent?
“Yeah, it was the most fun I’ve had playing a character. He’s always looking for something new to do and always has a story to tell. Really I think that he’s a bit of a bored teenager, so he’s always looking for the next outrageous adventure. It’s a lot of fun to play out those situations, especially Episode 4 of Cucumber.
“We had a lot of fun that day. I remember speaking to Russell and him saying that the real key for playing Dean is that he’s young. Freddie’s line “You’re just so young Dean” Is really the crux of Episode 1 of Banana, and that carries through both shows.”
How unusual was it as an actor to be interviewed for your thoughts about sex for Tofu? Have you banned family members from watching?
“Fortunately my parents aren’t great with computers so they don’t know about Tofu, and I wouldn’t let them watch it if they did! Doing the interviews for Tofu was fine actually.
“Benjamin Cook is a very good interviewer, so it was really easy to talk about sex and things, probably a little too easy. Think I made a few embarrassing confessions.”
Publicity for Cucumber and Banana has been everywhere. What has the response to the shows been like? Did you prepare yourself for letters of outrage from Daily Mail readers and have they come?
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew I was very proud of the shows, and I just hoped that people watched them and liked them. From what I’ve seen and received on Twitter, people are really enjoying them and I’m glad they’ve started debates about why we need more drama centred around the lives of gay people on our screens.
“I haven’t had a single piece of negative feedback from anyone, which has been a relief. It’s been 16 years since there was a drama like this, so I’m just happy it was even made, and call me biased but I think its truly brilliant drama.”
How awkward/uncomfortable/weird was it to wear the male chastity belt?
“There was a whole saga concerning that device! I wasn’t originally going to be wearing it, but after various chats and meetings and fittings, it became apparent that the best and easiest option would be for me to wear it, instead of say, using a prosthetic.
“It wasn’t painful or anything, just slightly uncomfortable. It was a little weird at first, but then I ended up feeling sorry for everyone else, particularly the cast. Poor Vincent and Letitia had to get very close. But it was all done in good humour and everyone on set was very respectful.”
What advice did Russell T Davies and Nicola Shindler give you about how to handle the scrutiny of playing this role?
“We never really spoke about that. I guess those things are out of your control. You can’t predict how a character will be received. I know if I ever was in a situation where I had to defend myself or my portrayal of Dean I could call either of them and they’d be ready to help in a flash.
“They’re two of the loveliest people to work for, and they really care.”
Can you give us any hints about what’s coming up for Dean in the remaining episodes of Cucumber?
“As the series comes to a close I think you’ll get to understand Dean a lot more. I think he matures over the course of the next few episodes. And it’s really interesting to see how the events of Episode 6 affect Dean and his relationship with Henry.”
Aside from Dean, who’s your favourite character in Cucumber and Banana?
“I love all the characters but I really adore Cleo. She seems to be the only one with her head firmly on her shoulders. You could almost call her the moral centre of the piece. You can see that she has this huge heart and she just wants the best for everyone, she has this openness to her that’s incredibly attractive.
“Her attitude to her son’s fluid sexuality is just one example of that, I think that really, she just wants her brother to stop being daft and go home. And Julie who plays her is incredible, and a good laugh.”
I love Dean’s walk and the energetic skips he does! Is that something you introduced?
“Ah, thank you. Yeah, I’m quite proud of that walk. I can’t really remember how it came about. I think it happened during my first day on Banana.
“We were doing the hotel scene and I was rushing to find the right room and I just started to walk like that, it just sort of felt right for the role and no one told me it was silly so I carried on. I’m glad people like it.”
Would you be up for returning as Dean if either/both shows get a second season?
“In a heartbeat. I’d love to play Dean again. It’s so much fun being someone with so few inhibitions theres something really freeing about playing him and I’d relish the chance to go again.”
You describe yourself as a ‘junior geek’ on Twitter – what other TV shows are you watching at the moment?
“Catastrophe is one of my new favourite shows, it’s so brilliantly done. I loved Utopia and I wish they’d bring it back! Looking and Girls on HBO are great.
“Really big fan of Game of Thrones, True Detective, Mad Men, Treme… And I’ll always have a soft spot for Xena Warrior Princess.”
Were you a fan of Russell T Davies’ era of Doctor Who and would you like to guest star in the show one day?
“I was a HUGE fan of Russell’s Doctor Who. If I were lucky enough to be offered a role I’d love to play someone like The Master… That’d be fun, or an alien of some sort, I’d like to be made up with prosthetics.”
You’re also going to be appearing in BBC One’s Ordinary Lies. What can you tell us about that?
“It’s a drama set in a car showroom and each week the story focuses on one character and one lie. But the brilliant thing about it is that even though the focus is different each week, there are lots of other story lines running parallel to the main one.
“So you get to know all the people at the showroom and their various relationships, secrets, and lies as the show goes on.”
Not many young actors can have as their first major TV credits scripts by Russell T Davies and Danny Brocklehurst! How do you feel to be starting out with those two guys behind you?
“It’s the biggest privilege in the world. They’re both brilliant writers, and both shows are great. Ordinary Lies was great to film and I can’t wait to work with Danny again. And Russell has had a huge impact on me. He’s changed my life.”
What else have you got planned for 2015?
“Hopefully more quality work. Theatre, TV or film; I just want to do good work with good people.”