Tosin Cole: a young actor making waves!
Tosin Cole is taking on a new challenge - as the star of 61st Street, an American legal drama series. Playing the role of high school athlete Moses Johnson, the character is swept into corruption and racial injustice in the Chicago justice system.
Story by Vivian Iroanya/ /
Photography by Hamish Brown/ /
Stylist Lacie Gittins/ /
Video Director Christopher Jackson-Owusu/ /
Creative Director Kieth Waterfield
“Playing a character that is going through so much is challenging,” Tosin explains. “I wouldn’t class myself as a vulnerable person but to play a role whose life and morality was constantly on the line was definitely hard for me. I had to tap into that vulnerability, take a deeper look and really shed layers of myself to portray the emotions of Moses. But overall I am very excited for people to see this,” he says.
"I sacrificed so much that I had to stick to the plan because there's no plan B,”
The 29-year-old British actor grew up in London after moving from New York at the age of eight. He attended Abbey Wood Secondary School in Greenwich, but it was the Intermission Youth Theatre groups Tosin says that shaped him into the actor he is today. At 16, what looked like an initial hobby turned into an unpredictable career path. “When I was in college, I was skipping exams to go and do plays outside of London in other parts of the country. It was like on a tour, but my passion grew more and more. Acting just kind of took over and I made a decision to be like, ‘yeah, I’m going to pursue this and see how far I can take it’ because it was just a hobby at the beginning. Now, I wanted to be serious about it and so I was like ‘yes, I wanted to do this.”
“For every 10 projects, you might get eight no’s and two yeses. You just have to take it and keep on pushing"
Indeed, in 2010 Tosin began his on-screen career starring in BBC teen drama The Cut and the youth spin-off EastEnders: E20. He also appeared in a range of TV series and films such as Hollyoaks and Doctor Who as Ryan Sinclair. “With the right situations, connections, agents and so forth, I think I was blessed and fortunate enough to have the opportunities that I’ve had so far. I just took advantage and ran with it. But if I didn’t go to the youth theatre, would I have had the same opportunities? I’m not too sure. I sacrificed so much that I had to stick to the plan because there’s no plan B,” he says.
When asked where his acting inspiration comes from, Tosin explains it stems from “anything and everything.” “From every film or TV show I grew up watching. From actors to day-to-day real-life people in my life, family, friends or people that I just came across that have fascinating stories or have done great things.”
"Keep on believing and fighting... I get excited for the things that ain’t happened yet"
But failures and rejections are part of the game, Tosin elucidates. “For every 10 projects, you might get eight no’s and two yeses. You just have to take it and keep on pushing and powering forward. You always hear it’s a hard game to get into. You always start off confident and might have a timeframe for certain things but it might not happen in that time. And then you get disheartened because it’s not really working for you. But at the end of the day, this is a game of perseverance and longevity, so you have to keep on pushing. Keep on believing and fighting that it’s gonna happen eventually. I get excited for the things that ain’t happened yet,” he laughs.
But what drives longevity in the acting industry? I ask. “Longevity comes from what you want,” he says. “Having a good team, making good decisions and just keeping your energy on a higher vibration. By working extremely hard and doing your job as a professional. By keeping a good character and being positive. It’s about having the fire to just keep going until it burns out.”
“I wouldn't change anything because it’s through my mistakes and not knowing stuff that I've learnt”
Still, Tosin tells me how he wished “it was okay to just be myself earlier on.” “I’ve always had a strong sense of self. Sometimes, however, you might dumb it down or might not listen to your gut and might be swayed,” he recalls. “At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change anything because it’s through my mistakes and not knowing stuff that I’ve learnt and felt confident along the way.”
Thus Tosin is adamant “hard work, manifestation and prayer” are key in succeeding in the acting industry. “The things I’m doing now were conversations I probably had with my mates 10 years ago. But now it’s happened, and you’re like ‘rah I’m actually here, I’m actually moving forward and actually progressing.’ Sometimes you’re so present in the moment that you don’t realise. It was only a dream, a thought, but you’re in a place where you only once imagined. But now you are living it.”
"It was only a dream, a thought, but you’re in a place where you only once imagined. But now you are living it.”
For this, Tosin remains motivated for what is yet to come. “I’m looking forward to the things I want to do and achieve. Things I think are not possible yet but hopefully will be one day.” So who would you like to work with, I ask. “Everybody, everybody, everybody,” he laughs. “De Niro, Al Pacino, Denzel, Viola Davis, Coen Brothers, Donald Glover. You got Ryan Coogler too. I want to work with my pals that I grew up with- Damson Idris, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright. And there are too many films I would love to be the main character in or would love to be in just in general. I’m open to anything. I don’t just want to be known for one thing, you know, I want to be known for many.”
Indeed, five years from now, Tosin Cole sees himself as a staple household name within his generation globally. “I see myself aiming to be amongst the conversations and have a really good catalogue of work. I want to be able to empower people, my friends, and be in a better and more powerful position where I am able to create more. A space where my voice, opinions and creativity are really valued and taken on board. I just want to perform and execute on the top level.”
"I want to be able to empower people, my friends, and be in a better and more powerful position where I am able to create more."
For now, Tosin is excited about his upcoming projects. Alongside 61st Street, he is starring in SpringHill’s House Party and Till produced by Whoopi Goldberg. “Hopefully people will enjoy my work and stick along with me for the journey,” he says.