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The Beautiful Game: Sheyi Cole chats football, music and superheroes.

The Beautiful Game is a 2024 sports drama/comedy film that stars Micheal Ward as Vinny, who is enlisted by Mal (Bill Nighy) to join the England squad for the Homeless World Cup in Rome.  We sat down with Sheyi Cole – who plays the hilarious and endearing Jason to discuss his process in preparing for the role, his love of music and finding people who champion you. Q - How would you best describe the film?  “I would use words like, heartfelt, encouraging, exciting and thrilling. It's just about human resilience and giving people a second chance through football”. Q - Having just seen it, I would completely agree. The essence of teamwork and diversity in struggle really popped out.  What did you do to get into character for a role like Jason? “I played a lot of football. That was kind of like the first thing. We had football camps. So, pre-Rome, and during the weird time of COVID, we were actually kind of like doing football training over Zoom.” Sheyi laughs briefly when reminiscing about this online process. To note, this movie was filmed back in 2021. He continues… “We had Mike Delaney, who's an amazing football choreographer, giving us drills to open up our bodies to be able to be comfortable with the ball.  For me, like, there wasn't like one thing that I did to open up Jason, I think through Frank's writing, it was quite easy to see how Jason is as a character. So, it was easy for me to kind of like read and actually kind of attach myself. … The world was already created for me. All I had to do as an actor is make that believable. Bring the reality of the situation to life.” Q - Can you speak to me a little more about the artistic process for you and how that ties in with this film? “…big up Thea [Sharrock] for allowing me to be myself and bring shade to the world of Jason. There were things that I saw in the script that for example, there’s a scene that Jason becomes quite flustered and tense whenever he is around Rosita (Cristina Rodlo) because he has a crush. So, it's just stuff like that, as an actor and as an artist that I was able to bring to the table. A lot of what Jason would do, I feel like I’d do myself to be fair, so it was great to combine my own imagination and artistic interpretation with my own personality.” Q – .  I’m conscious to find out more about your origin into acting. More so how the transition or combination between singing and acting happened for you? (Sheyi initially started his career as a singer) “My uncle was a musician and he trained at Guildhall School of Music and Drama himself - piano. So, the link for me was already there, it's kind of in my bloodline. My grandma, she ran a nightclub in Nigeria! So naturally, the entertainment world has always been something that we've been into...” "And I think also being an only child, it's very easy to be bored and so you need to find things to fill your time – and that was covers for me. So, I used to do a lot of musical covers when I was younger, from Ed Sheeran to Dells to, to John Legend, like my go to karaoke song was Ordinary People!  …Later I realised that being in a more conventional school wasn't really it for me. I needed to be surrounded by people that also wanted to be creative, and that's when I came across the Brit School. Originally, I wanted to go in and apply to be part of the music strand...I then realised, I would have a lot more fun, involving myself in theatre, where just having raw talent didn’t feel like I had a disadvantage.  So yeah, it was a simple and easy kind of transition for me, just to be in a space that kind of elevates and kind of like champions your individuality." We laugh for some time after this, discussing how interesting his creative family was in comparison to typical depictions of the Nigerian heritage we both share. When prompted about how he found himself with his current agent, Sheyi’s eyes lit up so I was interested to learn more... Q – Can you tell us a little about how your origins, specifically the National Youth Theatre and getting your first break? “The NYT for me was a place to be surrounded by like-minded people and to build a group that I could talk and create with. Post training, you get added to an opportunities list and that was how it started for me. I emailed Sarah Council one of the casting assistants and I said, "hey, I would love to audition for this role." She was super direct and sent me the link to send a tape in.   …Whilst I didn’t end up getting the role, the ins and outs of that process gave me greater understanding and put me in the rooms of people that I’ve maintained relationships with. Sarah then really pushed for me to get an agent after this. She gave me a list of agents, we worked our way through it together and this lead me to my now agent Zoe! This process happened six years ago and it meant so much to me." Q – What has it been like for you to grow in these past six years with your agent? “It's great when someone knows who you really are before, all of the amazing things kind of like have happened in your life.” “…she grounds me, she encourages me when I get in my head, she's the first person to put me on the straight and narrow and just be like, "hey, remember how you got here in the first place?”" Q - I asked Sheyi about how he felt knowing that the Homeless World Cup had such an impact on so many lives.  Specifically, the fact that the members of Team South Africa in the film, had all personally played in the Homeless World Cup themselves. “Because we know that this story is bigger than us as individual actors, that we know that we had a responsibility to uphold. I think for me I just wanted to represent myself, the team and the film in the best possible light”. Q – It would be great if you could shed some light on your experience with working with someone as legendary as Bill Nighy on this production? “Just to give you an idea of mine and Bill's relationship, like he's saved on my phone as 'Uncle Bill'. He's so smooth, I call him a smooth operator.” Sheyi laughed when reminiscing about how Bill would be singing and dancing in between takes – Marvin Gaye included! “What I learnt from him is to really to work from a place of relaxation. He’s someone that doesn't want to overthink everything, that loves to go from instinct. You'll be having a conversation with him, they’ll call action and it’s like BANG in character”. Q – Who would you love to work with in the future? “Colman Domingo”. Said with absolutely zero hesitation!  “I admire him and his journey in that it didn't come to him straightaway. He's had to do a lot to get to where he is. I've been really blessed to meet to meet him, and he is as stylish and lovable as he seems. And I just love him as a craftsman. He really takes time to really investigate his characters, and every single role that you see him do, you will see a differentiation between his work and his characters. Q - Speaking of range, is there any genre you’d love to dip your feet into? “I'm a big superhero nerd. I won’t disclose how many times I cried at the end of some of these Marvel films but just know that tears were shed! It's mad because obviously Tom Holland went to BRIT School as well, so to see his journey from then to now being Spider-Man is mad, but so inspiring. Hopefully I can do the work and become a Miles Morales.” Quick Fire (we tried) question round: Q – Is there anyone on the rise, other than yourself, that people should keep their eyes on?  A – Niyi Akin and Josh Tedeku (both currently starring in show Boarders ) Both for the talent level and also the energies they have on screen. Q – Chelsea to win the Champions League, or Nigeria/England to win the World Cup? A – I’d have to choose winning the World Cup, purely because Chelsea have already won the Champions League – twice (humble brag). Q – TV series or film? To be in, and to watch? A – Films to watch for sure! But I’d love to be a regular in a series – even though I love being in films. A TV series can be series 1 to 6 and so with that you get the character development perspective where you can see the growth in your character. Q – Planner or Not a planner? A – Not a planner! I feel like I’m really spontaneous. Q – Delete your favourite song or delete your favourite movie?  A – I’d delete my favourite song because I could go into the archives or the studio and create something similar based on what I liked about it! This interview has been edited for clarity The Beautiful Game is available to watch now on Netflix UK.

We sat down with Sheyi Cole – who plays the hilarious and endearing Jason in new Netflix film, The Beautiful Game.

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