Malcolm Kamulete On Why ‘Champion’ Was A Calling, How Bosco Helped Him Grow, And His Hopes For A Second Season

“Why are you being so silly? Why don’t you just do the thing that’s in front of you?”

With those questions, British actor Malcolm Kamulete accurately captures the frustrations viewers, like myself, had with his character Bosco Champion in the BBC and Netflix series Champion.

Bosco Champion is a complicated man, to say the least. His trajectory as a successful British in the U.K. was stunted after a stint in prison. Following his release from prison, he hopes to return to a world that exists in the same way that he left it. However, the conundrum with re-establishing his career, the trauma that’s attached to being imprisoned, accepting his sister’s decision to break out from his shadow and establish her own music career, and fighting for his desires in his respective families as both a son and a father.

For Kamulete, his lead role Champion marks a return to the spotlight after nearly a decade following his appearance on Top Boy: Summerhouse. That return resulted in a new understanding of himself and the real-life world and people that inspired a character like Bosco Champion. Though it wasn’t clear to him in the Summerhouse days, today, acting is his undeniable passion and he couldn’t have found a better role to exhibit that.

Following the release of Champion on Netflix, which came six months after its original release on the U.K.’s BBC, Uproxx caught up with Malcolm Kamulete to discuss Bosco Champion, his growth as a result of being on Champion, and what he would love to see in a yet-to-be-confirmed season two.

What about Champion, its script, your character — everything — made it the perfect role for you to take on as the next step in your career?

What made Champion the perfect fit for me would ultimately be the fact that I was as multifaceted as the character. I did the music [and] I did the acting, I was juggling an innate sense of what his career situation was in terms of just wanting to be a musician of some kind and wanting to be in that fold. Having a role that allowed me to work on my two personal strengths was very endearing to me, [and] that was very attractive. Also, it was the element of being in something predominantly Black, telling a story that I truly understand in terms of the family dynamic and things of that nature.

Lastly, my biggest connector was that I had actually lost a very near and dear friend of mine, whose name was Champion Ganda. When the role like presented itself, I felt like it was my role to lose. From the beginning, it just felt like a calling more than a usual role.

There are so many ways to look at the show. There’s the rise of a young singer, Vita, who looks to get out of her brother’s shadow. There’s the return to form for Bosco as a rap artist after his prison release. There are the post-incarceration struggles for Bosco both for music and his mental health. There are the familial struggles of the Champion family and its dynamic. How do you best view the story of Champion from your or Bosco’s point of view?

If I’m talking from my character’s perspective, especially with the decisions he makes, his temperament, and things of that nature, I’d say it’s a very chaotic show. It’s very much of a roller coaster, we’re up and down, we’re happy then we’re sad, we go through all the emotions. I’ve said this before in a previous interview, but it’s an enigma. It’s one of its own kind. I’ve not seen a show with this many left turns you know. I’ve not seen a show with this many dislikable characters since like Game of Thrones or something. It has that very — oh, I can’t explain it, but it’s like a boomerang film and something keeps you hooked and something keeps you in that storyline. It’s amazing writing and amazing actors as well, so something keeps you in it. I think the shortest way I can describe it is crazy [and] chaotic.

Bosco fails to realize the value of his sister Vita as a collaborator in the early episodes. I see his ego and some insecurities as the root of that, but what do you think are the faults with Bosco that led to the split between him and Vita?

The fault is, well, my discovery of it when I was planning the character was to make it a thing where he is more so entitled, he’s more so comfortable. Because it’s his sister, he expects her to just do it whereas if it was somebody that he had on payroll or something or somebody that’s just a part of his team that’s not family, he wouldn’t probably feel that much comfort to throw his weight around or maybe make her feel small or not as good as she actually is. I feel like there is a naivety in him, like an ignorance, to be able to just expect Vita to turn out the goods for him. It’s like the end of episode one when he goes to her at the shop and he’s like, “Yeah, I need you to help me again. The label wants a single, help me write the single.” In his mind, this is such an easy ask because you do this all the time. So I think it’s just more entitlement in that sense.

It’s implied that Bosco had some connection to the streets and maybe gang life, but we never see anything worse than a fight. I feel like other shows would’ve showcased that, but why wasn’t it shown in this case?

We were so happy that we didn’t have that, that’s just the honest truth as an actor [and] as a performer. I didn’t want too many glorifying elements of life that we’re actually not writing about. It might remotely touch on it because we all come from these environments, but I was very happy that his story was he’s come out of jail and we’re not covering him inside there. I was happy that those little elements were left out. I was just happy that there was more of a positive ring to it and it almost even painted it as if he went to jail and it wasn’t really his fault. I liked how it was mapped out and put together, almost as if he shouldn’t have even been there in the first place. That gave it that strength and that power because if we had gone the opposite direction where it shows the flashbacks and we have the scenes of me being actually in the environment, then I think it’s harder to pull away from that and say this is a good guy. It plays hand in hand brilliantly.

Bosco’s growth and self-improvement are made clear when he returns to perform with Vita at the award show. As for you and your acting career, how do you feel like you’ve grown from the start of taking on this Bosco role to completing it and seeing the show be released to the world?

I think the biggest thing I’ve come away with is patience. I’ve always felt like I’m a person who carries a lot of humility, but since doing this role, I’ve had a lot more humility [and] a lot more awareness. These are the main things I’ve taken from this because also, it opens your eyes to a world you might not understand or know about. It opens your eyes to certain things — things as little as just telling myself, “People are all going through their own sh*t,” and having the patience, the understanding, and the awareness to say, “Don’t jump the gun with anybody.”

It can be something as small as me arguing with my sister, my actual sister in real life or something, and we fall out about, I don’t know, who ate the last chocolate bar or something. In reality, that could just be a projection of me having a bad day or her having a bad day. People actually go through things outside of you and bring that energy from the outside, inward. So yeah, just taking the example of being Bosco and having to be in those environments and understanding his headspaces. Even with his impulsive nature, some of his decisions are crazy, but if you put yourself in his shoes and give yourself some empathy in that moment, you start to kind of come around and say to yourself, “Oh, well, maybe he’s already going through that because of this, or maybe this is only happening because of that. Oh, it’s not personal.” That would be the main thing, just not taking anything personally. I’ve learned a lot, I’d say I’ve grown with Bosco.

The show recently premiered here in the States, how has the perception of the show and your role been different considering that it’s also an introduction to a new culture?

It’s been very good. Honestly, I’ve been very, very impressed by how people have taken to the series. A lot of people want a second series, [and] so do we. [Laughs] No disclaimers, but so do we. We’re getting a lot of like 8 Mile comparisons and Empire comparisons. A lot of people say we’re like Rap Sh!t, I haven’t seen it, but I’ll give it a watch. But we’re getting good reviews, good benchmarks, good comparisons, and a lot of people are actually gunning for a second season. So it seems like it has made a good connection, it seems like it made the translation that we were hoping for in the beginning because it did come out on BBC nearly a year ago and it just didn’t translate as well as it’s translating now. We had high hopes for it from the beginning and I personally believe it’s not only until now that it’s done the Netflix one that it’s getting the flowers that it deserves.

I read that you made music prior to your role on Champion and that you even submitted two original raps for your audition. How did your work on the show, and working with Ghetts who wrote music for Bosco, influence your approach or thought process around the music you make?

It influenced me massively because Ghetts just took me under his wing. He treated me like a little brother from the beginning and it was nothing short of organic to just be in a setting and see how he works. We were working on Bosco’s songs [and] I was finishing Bosco’s songs quite quickly, they set a time for a session, maybe 2-3 hours, to get two songs done or something and I’d finished the songs in maybe like 30-40 minutes. So [they’d say], “Oh we’ve got a lot of time, you can chill if you want or wherever.” I’d just chill and watch him go into his own process because he was in his album mode at that. Seeing him in his element, how he created, how quickly he made songs, and the type of ways he makes songs, his routine if you like, in the studio, soaking it up and being a part of that readied me to be an artist. It readied me to be in those environments, it readied me to understand what it takes to be good [and] consistently good as well.

This is your first big moment since Top Boy. Coming off the success of Champion, how are things different for you in terms of what you want to do next in your acting career and the certainty you have towards this passion?

It’s never been different, to be honest. I’ve locked in with acting to a sole purpose level where it feels like I’ve put all my eggs in this basket and I’ve really gone to this wholeheartedly. When you’re younger, you dibble and dabble with a lot of things. I wanted to be a footballer, I was following a lot of other things, obviously music and things of that nature. So acting was never really a sole decision. From when I’ve made the sole decision, I’ve not faltered from it. The goal is to build notoriety as well as I can just to be a great every time you mention my name. That’s literally what I’ve been on and how I felt about it. My personal goals or my personal drive towards this hasn’t faltered because this was all part of the plan for me.

What is something you would like to see in a potential storyline for season two of Champion? Whether it be about your character Bosco or someone else.

I’ve brought my long list! [Laughs] For Bosco, I’d like to see him get some good revenge on his dad, that would be greatly needed. I’d like to see it be made clear that he writes something, that he writes some form of music for himself. I would like maybe his redemption story, maybe his arc to go up. I feel like he just goes through a lot of trials and tribulations. I’d love to see my father’s downfall after this, I’d love to see what comes from him. I’d love to see what happens with Bula and Rusty’s characters because I feel like they’ve got a lot to give. I feel like Junior in Jamaica as well, I’d love to see what happens with his character. There are so many! Vita, with her newfound panic attacks, I’d love to see how she navigates through the musical world with bigger platforms and elements, having now found out that you’re dealing with the same thing I’m dealing with. I’d love to see what happens with mom because I’m seeing online that a lot of people don’t like her character. There are so many things going on, I’d love to see how everyone’s story blossoms from here. Also, some new faces if needs be, it’d be nice to like freshen it up and just get a mixture of different storylines going on.

‘Champion’ streams on Netflix.