BAFTA Rising Star Nominee Micheal Ward Lands Lead Role In Steve McQueen’s ‘Small Axe’

EXCLUSIVE: Micheal Ward, the Top Boy and Blue Story star who has been nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star award, has secured a major role in Steve McQueen’s BBC and Amazon drama Small Axe.

Ward will play one of the two leads in the third episode of the anthology drama, which tells five stories from within London’s West Indian community between the 1960s and 1980s.

The British actor told Deadline that he originally auditioned for a part in episode three and failed to land the role, but McQueen saw something in him and gave him a role earlier in the series.

Ward was coy about revealing too much detail on his storyline, but said he plays a character who falls in love with a female lead over the course of one day. His co-star has not yet been announced.

“It’s actually an early memory from Steve McQueen. It’s a bit of a love story, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. The episode follows the two of them through the day,” Ward said.

Black Panther’s Letitia Wright and Star Wars‘ John Boyega also feature in the long-gestating six-part series, while other cast includes Malachi Kirby (Roots), Shaun Parkes (Lost In Space), Rochenda Sandall (Line Of Duty), Alex Jennings (Victoria) and Jack Lowden (Mary Queen Of Scots).

Ward said it was “amazing” to work with 12 Years A Slave director McQueen. “He took the time to try and understand me as a person. That was exciting. Steve is very artistic, so when he saw me, he saw the character that he wanted. His mind is constantly working and that’s refreshing because you know you can put your trust into a director like that,” he said.

Ward was born in Jamaica and raised in Romford, east London. He said it was hard to put into words his reaction to being nominated for the 2020 BAFTA Rising Star prize alongside Awkwafina, Kaitlyn Dever, Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Jack Lowden. “It’s a blessing to be recognized within the industry,” he said.

McQueen has said the BAFTA Film Awards are in danger of becoming “irrelevant, redundant and of no interest or importance” after the event was criticized for a lack of diversity among its 2020 nominees. Ward was reluctant to be drawn into the #BaftasSoWhite debate, but said that “a lot more work could be done to shine a light on films from a BAME background.”

Ward is represented by CAA, Management 360 and Olivia Bell Management in the UK.

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