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Isaac Baah is leading by example

19-year-old, Kennington-born actor, Isaac Baah, speaks to SCTR grass roots writer Vivian Iroanya, about his past, his acting aspirations and his desire to inspire.

Written by SCTR Grass roots journalist - Vivian Iroanya

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Photography Lara Soluade

Kennington-born 19-year-old Isaac Baah is leading by example in his newly begun acting career. Surrounded by the wrong influences, he is inspiring young kids to choose a different career path- “with the normal stuff you see on a daily, I think to myself ‘I can’t be like this, I want to be different.”

Isaac Baah discovered his passion for acting at 14 years old where he landed the main role in his secondary school’s play of the film Bugsy Malone. “The main character was white, but I still auditioned and got the role,” he recalls. “I loved the feeling of being on stage and performing. And that’s how it all started…without me knowing I wanted to be an actor.”

“When it comes to acting, especially with black parents, they don't see it as an actual job or as sustainable. But after the awards, I face-timed my dad. It was such a special moment and was the first time seeing my parents recognise my hard work"

His drive continued and at age of 16, he landed his biggest role thus far in the 2019 film Chance the Movie. Written and directed by James Vancooten, the film is set in South London and aims to highlight and break down some of the main causes and effects of knife crime in the UK. Baah explains how he instantly got the part of the main character Sammy as he stepped into the audition room. “The director told me as soon as I walked in, he was like ‘yeah that’s Sammy right there.’ I thought I didn’t get the role but then I received an email from him the next day which was crazy,” he recalls.

The speed at which Baah landed the role gave him the confidence that he can do anything. The movie was a turning point in his acting career, where since then, he has appeared on ITV News and has filmed multiple music videos with rappers such as Stormzy. He is set to appear on Believe Conquer Motivate, a short film set in East London and Faith, a feature film to be released in cinemas later this year.

"It is easy to get caught up in situations that you don’t want to be involved in, which won’t only affect you, but also the people around you, and your future plans as well. It is the reality we have to face,”

The 19-year-old is also an award-winning actor after Chance the Movie won best short film at the UK Entertainment Awards. Despite his parents- his mother from Jamaica and his father from Ghana- not fully supporting his endeavours, Baah recalled the joy on his dad’s face after taking the prize that night. “When it comes to acting, especially with black parents, they don’t see it as an actual job or as sustainable. But after the awards, I face-timed my dad. It was such a special moment and was the first time seeing my parents recognise my hard work. I have this award now so you can’t say what I am doing is not making sense.”

The second part of the movie, Second Chance, is set to be released this week. “I am hoping the film will send another positive message to young kids like the first one did. It is easy to get caught up in situations that you don’t want to be involved in, which won’t only affect you, but also the people around you, and your future plans as well. It is the reality we have to face,” Baah continues.

Indeed, growing up in South London, Baah said his environment shaped him into the person he is today. “You grow up around drug dealers, gang members. It’s just the normal stuff you see daily and I think to myself ‘I can’t be like this, I want to be different. It’s not even me saying it, it is also something within me. I am straight on my path and I am turning away from these things. I used to come home from school and turn the TV on and I would see headshots of young black boys associated with stabbings the previous night. It’s about having the power to say no to that because you want to pursue acting.”

One thing that surely keeps Baah motivated is knowing he is inspiring those younger than him and that he is leading by example. What makes him different, he says, is how no one in his area is pursuing the same career path. “I am really inspiring young kids that are coming out of school and when they see me and they’re like, ‘Yo, I’ve watched you on this thing and that thing,’ and that makes me wanna work even harder,” he says.

“You grow up around drug dealers, gang members. It's just the normal stuff you see daily and I think to myself ‘I can't be like this, I want to be different. It's not even me saying it, it is also something within me."

There are some challenges and rejections along the way however, for Baah, this is all part of the process. “I did three auditions last week. This is the life of an actor you have to commit to it. It is so easy to get discouraged when you hear ‘no’ or when you don’t get the role. People think that ‘no’ is not part of the journey but the losses and winning is all part of the process,” he explains.

Despite being only 19, there is so much Baah would like to achieve. From working with his biggest inspirations such as Daniel Kaluuya, Damson Idris, John Boyega, and Malachi Kirby, to landing a role on Netflix. “I want to be a known face in the industry for the right reasons. I want to keep inspiring. I am willing to push talent to the extreme. I want to play a scientist, a lawyer or something that I haven’t experienced in life because it’s too easy to play a young black boy from South London. It’s not me playing a character, it’s just me experiencing reality on screen. So if I get the chance to play the weirdest role I will do it, only if he speaks to me,” he adds.

“It's really easy to get caught up in the wrong things in this industry. You just have to stay woke and true to yourself. A lot of people do famous things but then they lose their head a bit, so staying grounded is a really important thing"

As for most Black British actors, Baah sees his acting career expanding to the US too. He’s glad diversity in the UK is encouraged more than ever but says the support in the States is different. “There are a lot of guys in the UK paving the way right now, and I am basing how I move, talk, and how I carry myself off their backs. But we don’t get as much love here in the acting industry as much as we do in America. They love us over there for our accents, for example. There is nothing you can’t do in America. There is more money, bigger productions, more ideas, and more people you can network with.”

But Baah is willing to work anywhere his acting journey takes him: “It’s really easy to get caught up in the wrong things in this industry. You just have to stay woke and true to yourself. A lot of people do famous things but then they lose their head a bit, so staying grounded is a really important thing. I’m only 19 and I’m thinking time is running out, but you can have a breakout role in the next week or at 24, so anything can really happen.”

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