Payback Season's Adam Deacon Interviewed: From Hackney To BAFTA

The East London actor talks candidly about the riots, the Olympics and his new film Payback Season.
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The East London actor talks candidly about the riots, the Olympics and his new film Payback Season.

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I am warned two minutes before interviewing Adam Deacon that I shouldn’t ask anything too off-track and that he is, for want of a better word, tetchy. Keep it simple, the advice is, about the film he is here to promote (Payback Season) and don’t get personal.

Deacon was open and chit-chatty from the off, his unguarded nature perhaps a reflection of the fact that though he might have recently won the Orange Rising Star award at  the BAFTA’s, he is not a classically trained actor (as he will later happily proclaim). Nor does he talk like one, his accent giving away instantly his London council-estate roots and littered with the bruvs and whatevers that demonstrate Hollywood is a long way from getting their claws into him yet.

About 5 minutes into our interview he waves away the PR who comes out to tell us to wrap up, and is animated and emotional when we go on to talk about his home-town of Hackney. Above everything, though, I notice Deacon looks a little tired. It’s not that he lacks energy, far from it, just that his eyes betray the look of a man who’s recently been expending time and adrenalin like tomorrow’s the Rapture, and no-one’s going to tell him he can’t take advantage of every second he’s got. This being the case, I start gently- I don’t want to raise the beast.

How are things?

I’ve been at it non-stop recently. I just want to get away, in a sense. I haven’t had a holiday in 2 years or something. I mean, I love my job and I love working, but I’d like just a couple of days to let it all sink in, y’know? For the last 2 weeks (since winning the BAFTA) it’s been constant, meeting new people every day which has been mad, but great.

How were the BAFTA’s? I did an interview with Chris O’Dowd (another nominee for the Rising Star, which is voted for by the public) just before the awards and I told him I thought it was between you and him for it.

Yeah, they were amazing. There were lots of people on my side voting for me. With Chris, I think he actually had a lot of mainstream backing, like you’d read a lot of stories about him in the papers in the build-up. He’s a good guy, he’s cool, I’m a big fan of his work. I’m sure he’ll go onto win a lot of awards.

The timing of it is impeccable, with Payback Season coming out. Also when you consider the subject matter (Deacon plays a Premiership footballer from the East End who becomes embroiled in trouble and debt with his old estate crew during the most important season of his career), there’s some pretty big correlations between you and Jerome.

Well it feels like a new level for me. I made this film last summer, before the BAFTA or anything. This film was slated to appear now from way back, none of us could know where I’d be now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a religious person in any way, but something like this makes me feel a lot more spiritual.

Seriously?

Nah, man, I’m only joking. But it is mad. Like I just met the guys from BBC who are putting on the big Hackney Weekend event for the Olympics, and they’re talking about what I might do for it. I remember when I first filmed Kidulthood (directed by Noel Clarke, also a winner of the Rising Star Award), erm, in like 2006, I remember getting the bus to auditions and seeing the Olympic stadium just being built and I wondered where I’d be in 2012. If I’m honest, I thought I might have a family bruv [laughs]. I thought it would be nice to have a family day out at the Olympics!

It seems now that you are one of a number of  mainstream young actors and musicians (such as Professor Green and Plan B) at the forefront of this new East London, and are sprouting up seemingly in sync with its arrival on the world stage with the Olympics.

Well, it’s like I wanted to get across with the BAFTA speech, where I said it was a win for the underdog. I wanted to get across this feeling that that area of London is a lot more of a positive place to be now.

10 years ago that was not the case though right?

Well, yes, but Hackney is one of them areas where so many classes and cultures mix. It’s not as bad as people think.

Do you still live around there?

Yeah, I’m still around there. I think with it, though it gets a lot of attention for the bad stuff happening, most of the time you will only find that if you are putting out those vibes.

I’ve lived around there for 3 years and never had any trouble.

Exactly.

Well, other than the riots. What did you make of them?

Well, it was weird because everyone was talking about how it was political, but a lot of the time it was just people taking an opportunity, like, to get a new TV or something. Lots of the people involved and that, they had jobs, they weren’t getting in trouble with Police.

I went down to the riots on Mare Street (in Hackney) and I got a similar impression, that a lot of the kids didn’t really know what they were doing and though this stuff undoubtedly springs out of a wider general dissatisfaction, also a lot of them were just along for the ride.

I really do believe a lot of people were just thinking “the Police are having a day off, we can get away with this, run wild, go crazy.”

I don’t think a lot had a wider comprehension of what it was they were actually doing.

Well, it’s very deep, ‘cos even though a lot were like that, I also think a lot of them were really angry. I mean, I talk to a lot of young people at  the moment and the vibe I get is that loads of them do feel hopeless. And I’m not just talking about kids from the estates or whatever, but middle class young people as well - like, they’ve done what they've been told, they’ve gone to school, to college, gone to Uni and they’re thinking they should be getting a high paid job but they’re realising for the first time that that they’ve done everything they’ve been told to do, they’ve got themselves into debt, and they’re still going up for a job up against 45 people or whatever, and they’re thinking “who can I trust?”

Not meaning to blow smoke up your arse, but do you feel that the story of someone like you - who has come from a single-parent family in a difficult part of town - making it to where you have can act as inspiration?

Well, I always feel weird about the word role-model. Like, I haven’t been media-trained, I haven’t been to drama school, I’m probably going to make mistakes and I worry about that a bit. I just hope that if people realise I’m always going to be me as well, they’ll forgive me if I do go off and do those silly things.

Depends how silly those things are, perhaps?

Maybe, but it’s like I’ve just become an Ambassador for the Prince's Trust. But I said to them when I met them that I don’t want to be no celeb who just does it for the photo opportunity or whatever. Because I think that, actually, with money, investment, maybe I can pinpoint where money can go in Hackney and East London. I mean, I haven’t got enough money to do a David Beckham and open a football academy or something, but maybe with the help of someone like The Prince's Trust maybe we can start getting things out there that are really good.

Did you get to meet Prince Charles then?

I did, yeah, and I was really surprised in a sense about how engaged he was. It was very surreal, like I was sitting with him and Tom Hardy and we were joking about getting him into a film. He laughed about it and seemed genuinely interested in me, like he even seemed to know a bit about me directing a film and everything. I know his PR guy probably told him but he did genuinely seem to care himself.

Well he’s got kids.

Well that’s just it; I called a friend and said “this is mad bruv, I’ve just had a conversation with Prince Charles", and he said don’t be surprised about anything with him. He’s got William and Harry and they’ll keep his ear to the street.

I’d love to go on a night out with Harry.

Bruv, I’d love to meet him. You know what I’d love? I’d love to just have a one on one with him, ask him what it’s like being him, away from his media guy and the cameras.

It must be an incredible life being him.

Exactly, ‘cos he’s part of our generation. He listens to the music, he watches the films, so he’s part of it from that respect; but he’s just so elite.

Payback Season comes out on March 9th.

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