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I TALK TO Kayode Ewumi

After a successful pilot in 2017, Enterprice launches this week as a four-part boxset on BBC Three and will also get a BBC One repeat on Friday nights.

Enterprice is written by and starring BAFTA's 2016 Breakthrough Brit Kayode Ewumi, who is best-known for #HoodDocumentary which amassed millions of views on YouTube before attracting the attention of BBC Three, who offered him a six-part series on the channel made up of five-minute episodes.

But wanting to push himself creatively, Kayode chose to close that chapter of his life and focus on writing something else, which came to be Enterprice, a series which follows his character Kazim's fledgling delivery business, Speedi-Kazz, which he has set up with college friend Jeremiah, played by Trieve Blackwood-Cambridge.

In the opening episode, they win the opportunity to pitch for £20k in front of some of London’s most successful entrepreneurs and as the series continues, Kazim attends his school reunion, cameos in a music video and Jeremiah returns to university.

Here's what Kayode had to say about Enterprice and diversity on British television when I caught up with him recently...

How did you first get into acting?

I grew up on the Aylesbury Estate with my mum, dad and two sisters so a lot of the time we'd either be watching free TV or Michael Jackson, because my mum really liked him. But we started complaining that we didn't want to watch Michael Jackson anymore so she bought us The Mask and Home Alone and told us to watch that.

I always used to watch The Mask and was fascinated by it. When I was about thirteen, I watched The Mask again and when I looked at the credits, that was the first time I realised that Jim Carey and The Mask were the same person. I thought they were two completely different people and I remember thinking "this is what I want to do". I wanted to trick people, I wanted to be different people so I started taking drama seriously in secondary school and in college I did my three A-Levels including Drama and Theatre Studies.

Back home I used to do shows at the Young Vic during the summer and all these weird free residencies for young people - Unicorn Theatre, you name it and I was there. I then went to Coventry University to study journalism but a couple of days in I changed my course to do Theatre and Professional Practice.

By 2016 I got scouted whilst I was still at uni so after my third year I left already with an agent and I just continued acting and I really enjoyed comedy. People used to watch Disney Channel and I used to watch Def Jam Comedy, which I shouldn't have been watching at my age but I just found it hilarious. So I just wanted to try doing it myself and that was it!

How did Enterprice come about?

It came about whilst I was doing #HoodDocumentary for the BBC Three because I had a writing agent as well as an acting agent so I wanted to have other stuff in my locker, and this was before I decided to step away from #HoodDoc.

I thought what if we did 10 seasons of #HoodDocumentary and that was it? What would happen to my writing agent? She'd probably drop me. So I needed to come up with some new ideas and after bouncing some ideas around I came up with this idea of these two boys in London who set up their own business.

I work in scenes, so I think of scenarios and then I start to build the world. I just imagined lots of different scenarios with these two boys and started building it. Then once I stepped down from #HoodDoc I gave it to my agent, they optioned it and Bob's your uncle!

The pilot went out a year ago. What did you make of the reaction?

It was very humbling, mainly because I came from a piece of work on YouTube which went viral, to BBC Three and then I brought out Enterprice but because it was a pilot it didn't get the push I wanted it to get. There weren't many trailers or whatever so I think a lot of people missed it.

Which is why a lot of people think that what I'm doing now with these four episodes is series two. They're kind of confused. I have to tell them no, this is the first series and that was just a pilot.

That being said the pilot did get a lovely response, it had a particular following. It wasn't a viral show, which is not what I want. I don't think I want that again because sometimes there's no longevity and more pressure. I just want a show that people follow.

What did you learn by doing the pilot?

I learnt about story and how to write a full 25/30-minute script. I also learnt how to have my own style. That's one thing I made clear to the BBC and the producers, that this is my show and I know what story I want to tell and how I want to tell it.

Of course I don't know everything, I'm not arrogant, I need to learn things, but I know what comedy is. And the BBC let me, they saw that the pilot did very well, it was funny, so they were like "Yeah, why not?! Let him do his thing!"

And why has the casting of Jeremiah changed since the pilot?

It's just availability. Daniel (Ezra) got an amazing role abroad so he had to decide and of course he chose that. But there'll always be love from me for Dan. He made a good decision.

What's Enterprice about?

It's about two young boys called Kazim and Jeremiah who set up an errand service in the heart of Elephant & Castle. And we follow their journey as they try to turn this business into something prolific.

It's a story that's really close to my heart because of growing up on the Aylesbury Estate. You see so many shows that are shot around the estate but I wanted to tell a story that I know.

These two young boys are just trying to make it, they're not stabbing anyone or killing anyone, they're just trying to make it and doing it the right way. But of course there are issues.

Music seems very important in the series. How important was it?

Music was very important. I'm Nigerian. I was born and raised in South East London but I consider myself as a Nigerian. That's just because Nigeria is in my house. I eat Nigerian food, my parents speak Yoruba, I understand Yoruba, I don't speak it fluently but I understand it.

So for me, there's a big emergence of afro beats and that Nigerian sound. I personally don't listen to that much afro beats, but I know a good sound when I hear a good sound.

Atlanta has an amazing sound of Atlanta, drill music and the emergence of hip hop. All great shows have that, Misfits had an amazing Indie kind of sound. All the great shows have it so I said "I want that. I need a sound." and that sound was going to be afro beats.

What do you think motivates Kazim?

He wants to be somebody and I think what pushes him is the fact that he needs to prove to himself that he can do this. I think he also has a few daddy issues because his dad is not around so if his dad is making it, he needs to make it to be somebody.

Describe the friendship between Kazim and Jeremiah. Are they best friends?

Not really, they only became friends in college and I didn't want them to be best friends. I didn't want that. The way I wrote it is not to show them as the best of friends, because there's nowhere to go if they're the best of friends. Even in Friends, as the series went on they became better friends as people died, they had babies and got married so that's what I wanted for Kazim and Jeremiah.

I still think they're trying to figure out their brotherhood. Kazim doesn't tell Jeremiah anything about Speedi-Kazz, he lies. Only towards the end does Jeremiah talk to Kazim about girls, not at the very beginning. They don't talk about girls all their time, Kazim doesn't talk about his familiy issues and what he's going through and Jeremiah hides stuff from Kazim. Their conversations are mainly work orientated. If you're best friends, you would speak up!

Would you say Kazim is more into the business than Jeremiah is?

I think so. In episode one, you realise that Jeremiah is still at uni, so I think he's just playing it safe. He clearly wants to be part of the business and he wants to be an entrepreneur, he's got the brains and Kazim has the heart.

He loves his parents so much and he just doesn't know if this business is going to work. He can be a Doctor where Kazim could have gone to uni but decided not to. So what does he have?

Is there room for a second series? Would you want to do more?

I would love to do more in a second season and tell more of a story, go weirder with the style and content.

What do you make of the comparisons between Enterprice and Only Fools and Horses?

I don't think they're similar. I personally think Enterprice is a show that I haven't seen on television. Maybe it's out there in British culture, maybe it's there, but I've never seen it before in my life. I haven't.

Not only in terms of style but also in terms of two young black boys leading. I've seen Kerching!, but that's a kids show. Two young black males leading and trying to do it the right way, in a positive way, with a lovely afro beats score is something I've never seen before.

Please, prove me wrong. Maybe it's there. But I haven't seen it. Regardless of what the reviews say, whenever I watch clips or talk to people about it, it's refreshing to see and gives me hope that the BBC continue to allow more up and coming writers to tell these sort of stories. Stories of culture and authenticity.

What's your view on diversity in British television?

I don't really watch a lot of TV, but I look back on my favourite shows like The IT Crowd, Misfits, Only Fools and Horses, Peep Show, Fleabag - all these shows, if you think of the cast, they're predominantly white. Or telling white middle class stories.

The point I'm trying to make is that I do think more can be done. The network can say yes or no, that's no problem, but we need more producers who are willing to force these new stories and new talent onto networks.

People like Samson Kayo for example who's coming out telling amazing stories. I can't wait to see Sliced on Dave and there was Hounslow Diaries recently on BBC Three - these are the stories that I'm like "Yes! Now is the time to tell these kind of stories."

I'm not putting the pressure on to say only tell black stories, but I just want stories that I can relate to. I grew up seeing people of different colours all around me so when I'm telling these stories I want to see these faces, because they exist!

But you watch some TV shows and they're not there and it's confusing for me and young people who want to be actors. Where's the hope?

What's the ultimate goal for you career wise?

Honestly, I don't really know. We'll see what God does I guess. He knows if I'll be acting or writing. I never thought I'd be writing. I just wanted to be the best actor in the world. That's what I wanted to be when I was younger.

But now I love writing more than acting. I never thought I'd be talking in schools or doing workshops and I enjoy that. So I might even go and do that for a bit. I don't know!

Enterprice launches as a boxset Thursday 29th November from 10am on BBC Three and Friday 30th November at 11:35pm on BBC One


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