Ben Bailey Smith (London, 44 years old) plays one of the villains of Andorthe new series of star Wars which premieres on Disney+ on September 21. It’s the penultimate reinvention of Smith, an artist who started out as a rapper, then became a stand-up comedian, wrote several children’s books and now only gets offers for dramatic roles. Andor It is turned around and background of crook one (2016), which in turn was a turned aroundbackground of star Wars (1977) original centered on Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) tasked with obtaining the plans for the Death Star that would one day help Luke Skywalker destroy it. The creator of the series is Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter of the saga Bourne who made his directorial debut with thriller Michael Clayton (2007). Disney didn’t reveal many more details about Andor. Not even its main characters.
“Disney is so secretive that they haven’t told us anything,” said Ben Bailey Smith from London via video call. “I never saw a finished script the whole time I was working on the series. They only gave me my own scenes and once the shooting day came, they explained the context. Regarding. I had never worked in these conditions.
Two years ago, Smith did casting for a war drama titled Pilgrim. The only instructions he received were, “You’re an Army sergeant who briefs his soldiers.” Days later, he was told he got the job. And that it actually was star Wars. “I was riding my bike, stopped and started laughing. I couldn’t believe it. It would be a good job for any actor, but I’m obsessed star Wars from a child, all his life, because return of the jedi It was the first movie I saw in the cinema. I had done casting for onlyfor the role of Lando Calrissian [que finalmente interpretó Donald Glover]but I never thought it could happen to me,” he admits.
The filming was kept secret. The locker room signs were fake names, the scripts still had titles Pilgrim and the production sheets with the agenda (who works that day, what time and when is their break) were also false. The actors went from their make-up room to set covered with huge dark blankets to prevent a drone from photographing them. And even filming a scene did not shed light on the plot of the series.
“It was a problem with the dialogue because sometimes I had to say phrases that didn’t make sense, intergalactic jargon, and I was like, ‘What the hell am I talking about?'” the actor explains. “There was one day when the director came up to me and said, ‘OK, we’re going to do it again, but with a little more urgency, there’s a planet that’s going to explode.’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah? Well, I didn’t know. Thanks for letting me know. Yes, it was difficult.”
What he can reveal about his character (or rather what he knows about his character) is that his name is Blevins and he’s one of the bad guys. “He is a military man of the Empire, very mean and devious in his plan to climb the hierarchy at the cost of anything and anyone. He’s the kind of guy who would stab you in the back if he could get taller like that. The empire acts like the mafia, so the higher you are, the less chance you have of being liquidated,” he reasoned.
Officer Blevins has the enemy at home. Officer Didra Mero, played by Dennis Gough, has just arrived in the Empire, she is the modern soldier and wants Blevins’ job. “Within the Empire, we’re at war with each other,” the actor reveals. “It reminded me a bit of the Conservative Party fighting each other all the time for control of the universe.”
Tacos in 30 different languages
Ben Bailey Smith grew up in Kilburn, a working-class neighborhood in North London. His sister is the famous writer Zadie Smith. In his house there was always access to culture despite economic constraints. “There was a mix of Irish and Caribbean in my neighborhood. It was difficult, but it never felt dangerous. I didn’t feel out of place until much later, when I began to travel and saw that in other regions the divisions of race were much more demarcated. That there are 45 kilometers of poor and then a city of rich. London is not like that. The area I grew up in is one of the most diverse in the UK. When I was ten years old, I could say tacos in 30 different languages.
Growing up in Kilburn taught him to get out of sticky situations through agility, a gift he says has been key to his career as a rapper and stand-up comedian. “As a kid, I learned to be quick and resourceful to save my skin,” he says. What drew him most to rap was its tension: none of his vinyls, which he bought second-hand with his sister Zadie for 99p, sounded as urgent as the rappers in his neighborhood. “If you’ve had an artistic concern, whether it’s painting or music, you need money to pay for lessons or buy an instrument. but to do break dance, beatboxing or graffiti nothing was needed. Just myself,” he says.
Smith created the rapper’s alter ego and named him Doc Brown after the scientist from Back to the Future (1985), one of his favorite films. He won the battle on the London rap circuit and went on to record several CDs at home, which he himself sold to independent record stores. But then no one could live with rap and Smith retired Doc Brown. “I lost faith,” he admits. “It wasn’t my decision. My daughter was born in 2005, I wasn’t making any money and I had a baby to support.” Smith focused on her “real job” as a youth center co-ordinator in North London.
Months later, a friend asked him for help with some dialogue for British comedian Lenny Henry’s BBC series. The task was to polish them to sound more believable, more of the street. Smith liked the producer of the series, who encouraged him to try as a monologue. “I got on stage, told my story and nobody laughed. He was no joke. But because I didn’t consider myself funny, I didn’t care,” he recalls. “The person in the room told me everything was fine, but jokes were needed. So I put a few on, came back the next month and people didn’t laugh either.” At some point he must have made the audience jump through hoops, because five years later he collaborated with Ricky Gervais on his series Derek.
Comedy gave him the musical success that rap had denied him. He recorded a parody song with Gervais, Equality Streetfor a charity comedy show that went viral on social media in 2012 and became #1 on iTunes in the UK, which has some poetry because Smith wrote it as revenge against the record industry.
In recent years Smith has published four children’s books and produced a BBC children’s programme, The Four O’Clock Club, which won the BAFTA Award from the British Television Academy. But in his latest transformation, that of a dramatic actor, Ben Bailey Smith connects more works than ever before.
It premiered on Netflix this summer PersuasionDakota Johnson’s adaptation of Jane Austen, which outraged the most die-hard Austenists because it conflated Austen with Bridget Jones, a bag of fleas or The Bridgertons. Johnson speaks to the camera and exclaims things like “he’s ten,” “we’re exes,” or “my sister is a total narcissist.” “A lot of people are angry because they think that if something is old, if you don’t take it very seriously, it’s disrespectful. We wanted to do something different, irreverent. If you want the other, go see the other version,” suggests Smith, who plays heir Charles Musgrove.
Specialist critics, ostensian or not, don’t like it too much Persuasion. Smith prefers to play it down and celebrate that the film was the most-watched film on Netflix in the UK in its opening weekend (it was third in Spain). “It’s the first thing I did and it was unanimously panned by the critics. But a movie is a movie, man. People will never understand how hard it is to make a bad movie. So I won’t even call you a good one”.
A few years ago, Smith wouldn’t even have been able to make this movie, good or bad. But bridgerton, the serial period, set in the 19th century with casting of racial diversity, changed things and now calls for castings they no longer indicate a specific race. The actor noted the increased volume of offers. Smith took advantage of both Persuasion What Andor to indulge his “chic accent”, so much so that the film’s director asked him to tone it down. “When you come from where I come from, you never get offered high-class roles, and I was so excited to play the rich guy that I put on an incredibly pathetic accent. in star Wars It sounds very fancy because I saw my character as one of those army officers who don’t fight but send other guys to die. And this type of officer is always refined.
It was all he had to build his character because Andor this was not the place to show off his improvisational talents. “In star Wars you can’t improvise. I’d love to play some more, but Daddy Disney won’t let you do that,” he jokes. What he could play with is the set’s gadgets. The series takes place before the original trilogy, so it had to fit into the seventies aesthetic (now called formicapunk or mainframe chic). This means not only that Captain Blevins is sporting a “little afro”, but also that 80% of the sets are physical builds, not digital. “It was overwhelming to walk into set sometimes. For one series, they built an entire alien world with houses, canteens and shops. It was a bit like Disneyland, you could touch everything.”
Smith was impressed to see up close the efficiency of the Disney machine at full throttle. Filming took place during the worst months of covid so there was a lot of protocol to follow and no time to waste. “These people know what they’re doing, let’s put it that way. On the first day of filming, Smith saw actor Stellan Skarsgård in line for an antigen test. They no longer crossed paths. “The set was huge,” he says.
After everything he’s been through, Sam Bailey Smith is looking forward to its premiere Andor. First, to upload a picture of himself dressed as Darth Vader on Instagram when he was eight years old. Second, to finally understand what he’s doing. “When you record it, you don’t know what’s going on. Now I can form an opinion. I’m looking forward to seeing it,” he says. “I know it doesn’t happen to everybody,” he says. “So I’m going to keep doing it, I’m going to keep mowing the hay while the sun shines. And the system ate me up and it spits me out tomorrow, I’ll be back on the computer, on the notebook, writing jokes. And in a year I’ll be on stage and counting them.’ But you can always say it’s out star Wars. “Sure, I’ll take that.”
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