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What does it take… to be an actor?


Part of being the best you can be is focussing on what it takes to get there. We’re continuing the “What does it take…?” column, which looks at this aspect of being the best. This month we chat to renowned British-Nigerian actor, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, of Hotel Rwanda fame.


On a scale of one to ten, how happy are you right now?



100, that’s a good answer. Why are you so happy?

Why not?


Fair enough. How did you become an actor?

I just did, really. I just sort of partly fell into it. I trained. That’s a weird question, how did I become an actor. I just did.


What’s the best thing about being an actor?

I love it all, everything. I love it all. I love everything about it. I especially like being pampered.


What is the most challenging thing about following your dream?

Yeah, that is the most challenging thing; following your dream. There are lots of obstacles that get in the way.


Which living person do you most admire and why?

At the moment, Sidney Poitier I really admire. Why? Because I love the fact that he… him and Harry Belafonte, actually, I love what they did in terms of their work as artists, but also as activists.


If you could have dinner with one historical person, who would it be?

Kwame Nkrumah.


What has your proudest moment been?

My proudest moments will probably

be the birth of all my children.


How many children do you have?

100. No, three.


What did you want to be when you were little?

Big. It’s true. You know, when you’re little you always want to be big, right?


That’s very true. Now that you’re big do you want to be little?

Yes, exactly. Exactly that.


When last did you see the sunrise?

I wouldn’t know, actually. When did I last see the sunrise? Oh, it’s, oh… You know, I can’t remember. It’s probably, I don’t know. It must’ve been a month or so ago, maybe more. See I’m getting old, you see. In my youth I used to see the sunrise every other day.


How do you relax?

I’ll tell you what I do, really, which is the most relaxing thing is getting a fantastic Thai massage and having a steam.


What would you like to be remembered for?

I think I’d like to be remembered for making great change in Africa. In some small way. Positive change, that is.


What inspired you to become an actor? I mean you said you just did it, but was there anything that made you decide, ‘this is what I want’?

I was inspired, actually. I had this wonderful English teacher who did Julius Caesar for English class, and he would play every single character, but he would play with such gusto and verve and it was such a fascinating English class to be in that, you know, it prompted me to sort of look in, get into it. At least take a look. Then he cast me in the school play, so maybe it was him. Mr Guy Williams, his name was.


What is the main challenge you face when getting into a new role?

Trying to really get into a space where you believe completely where you’re coming from as that character. That’s always a challenge, trying to really, really delve into the depths of understanding where a character’s coming from.


Are you ever entirely happy with your performance or do you always want to change something once you’ve looked at it retrospectively?

Never entirely happy, but you always feel you can do it a bit better.


What sorts of people do you like to work with?

Good people, and people that are really passionate about the work and don’t have big egos. Who really just enjoy being on set and enjoy being with other actors.


Who is your favourite actor and why?

I don’t really have one favourite. There are several actors who I really enjoy. You know, that I really enjoy watching. I think they’re great actors. I’m loving Michael Fassbender. I love Denzel Washington’s work. I love Johnny Depp; Christian Bale I love – I love his work. Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, you know, a bunch of actors and actresses whose work I really enjoy.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m doing a TV series called Black Sails. We’re shooting Cape Town, actually, at the Cape Town Film Studios. It’s a Michael Bay production. We had episode one last weekend, which seems to have gone down well. Some stars in the United States and it’s been a great ride. It’s been a wonderful thing to be part of.


What are your goals for the future, both work and life-wise?

Carry on doing what I’m doing and hopefully get in a space where I’m nominated for some wonderful awards and doing some fantastic work, and life-wise, you know, it’s just really watch my children grow and be in a really wonderful space with the family.


What will people be surprised to learn about you?

That I was the one who delivered my second child on my own. On my living room couch.


How did you know what to do?

I didn’t, it just all happened and it happened very quickly, so… I’m very lucky.


Do you have any tips for aspiring actors?

Yeah, just work hard and be passionate about what you do, so yeah, that’s the most important thing.



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