This interview took place prior to the SAG strikes.
“Confusing”, that’s how Malcolm Kamulete describes the complex character of Bosco Champion; one of the lead roles in author Candice Carty-Williams’ new BBC drama of the same name, Champion.
Champion tells the story of sibling rivalry and music. Bosco is a musician who's been recently released from prison and is back to reclaim his title as top dog. Vita, played by Deja J Bowens, is his sister, who’s looking to carve her own path in the industry.
Rapper and actor Malcolm has been on a steady projection since appearing in former projects; Channel 4’s Top Boy and Plan B’s Ill Manors, yet getting the call to play Bosco still came as a surprise.
“I was making tea when I got the call… When I heard the description of the character, it felt like my role in it all was reaffirmed.”
Malcolm had lost a friend in 2014, Champion Ganda, to knife crime and it felt like a sign to him to push for the role and honour his friend in the process.
On working with newcomer Deja, Malcolm said that the sibling vibes carried on even when the cameras weren’t rolling, “the relationship was quite strong from early on as we were in the same castings and are signed to the same agency”. Their trailers were next to each other and throughout filming the series the two played pranks on one another.
Reading for Bosco was something that came relatively easy to Malcolm, but becoming him was another skill altogether. A complex character; Bosco suffers from what appears to be frequent panic attacks throughout the show, “anxiety and PTSD” Malcolm informed me.
Speaking and studying with mental health experts aided Malcolm in becoming Bosco Champion and in showcasing the issues Bosco faces. The opening scene of episode one sees Vita hunting down Bosco ahead of his first performance home from prison. She finds him in the midst of an anxiety attack and has to talk her brother down. In the early episodes Vita is the only family member who seems concerned for her brother’s mental health issues.
Malcolm told me that whilst those scenes stretched him, the moments rooted in music were the ones he enjoyed the most. When I asked what he’d rate Bosco’s bars out of 10 he didn't hesitate before telling me, “10”.
“I think the music was the fun part for me because that's where I got to let the creative juices flow. That's where I got to basically be in my element. Because rapping, it's not really something I shout to the rooftops about…. So just being able to be in a space where people understand you're good enough or they trust you to be good enough to do it was empowering. Put me in a [good] space for my confidence, as well in terms of my own music.”
Malcolm told us that a lot of the show's performances were filmed live in front of a crowd. This amped up the pressure at times but also made him want to perform better. There’s a level of attachment, he said, to the songs he performs as Bosco. The lines were often blurred and he had to work to not take notes on his performances too personally.
But in being a show about music first and foremost, it was only natural that the best of the best was on board to work on the soundtrack. Singer/songwriter Ray BLK and rapper Ghetts serve as music execs for the series, along with Debbie, M1llionz and Corey Weekes, who plays Bulla, Bosco’s musical rival, also contributing heavily to the soundtrack.
With Ghetts’ penning lyrics for Bosco’s raps and Ray BLK writing for Vita; along with starring in the series as Vita’s best friend Honey, it was an honour for Malcolm to bring Ghetts’ lyrics to the screen.
“I think we might even get a shoutout for ‘Original Music: Fiction’ at the BAFTAs… Ghetts is an elite writer, he can write out of this world content,” he told me boldly. It’s clear the music means a lot to him and to have an artist believe in the content and storyline scripted really transfers well to the screen.
Throughout the interview, Malcolm continued to stress just how much of a family was created on set, and how refreshing it was to have a Black team throughout the process steering conversations and directing the show’s narrative.
On the the artists Bosco would bring on tour with him, Malcolm’s sticking with the people he loves, “I’d have to lean on my mates rates and bring on J Hus and Lancey Foux.”
Champion is available to watch now on BBC iPlayer.