By Rashad D. Grove
(AllHipHop Features) Damson Idris is one of the young actors that’s on the rise. Hailing from Great Britain, he burst on the scene as the breakout star of John Singleton’s critically acclaimed FX drama Snowfall. Now Idris, appears in Jordan Peele’s reboot of the classic series Twilight Zone, exclusively on CBS Interactive. I spoke with Damson about what drew him newest role, growing up in the U.K., how the legendary West Coast rapper W.C. helped with his South Central accent, and his Top 5 MC’s.
AllHipHop: Were you already familiar with the classic Twilight Zone series at all?
Damson Idris: Actually I was. I only watched one episode. It was called, “Eye of the Beholder,” because everyone was saying that it was the best episode ever. But the way the universe works is shortly thereafter, I had the opportunity to be in the reboot.
AllHipHop: How did you come across this role?
Damson Idris: Gerard McMurray directed our episode “Replay” and he also directed The First Purge. He really enjoys working with British actors. He reached out to my team after seeing me on Snowfall and he thought I'd be a great fit. Thank God he did, because I really needed to work. HAHA!
AllHipHop: How was it working with veteran actors such Sanaa Lathan and Glenn Fleshler (***Billions*)**?
Damson Idris: Obviously, I loved the film Love and Basketball. And, you know, I’m a huge fan of Sanaa Lathan. The best thing about working with her was that she is so giving as an actress. She has so much patience for the choices you want to make as an actor and she's willing to go in many different directions. And, you know, it really was a pleasure to work with her.
With regards to Glenn Flesher, I learned so much from him. When I'm on set, I rarely talk to anyone that my character doesn't like. The thing about this show is that we get to go back in time a lot so, it's not always, that I don't like the cop. Glen taught me a lot about you know, being a young actor and, and the journey that I'm on right now and some of the experiences I'm going to face.
AllHipHop: When you read the script about the replay concept, what came across your mind as, as an actor of how you could really make that concept come to life on screen?
Damson Idris: I was instantly hooked man! This is one of the first scripts I read where I was just on the edge of my seat the whole time. I didn’t want the script to end. The scenes in our episode is definitely based around policing, American society, American culture, and how we deal with police. And after reading this script, I instantly knew that it was going to resonate with young people and young people are going to see themselves in Dorian. So I knew as long as I stayed true to the character. Stay true to you know, many of the people I know in the states and many of friends I have, I knew that people will definitely would relate to it.
AllHipHop: That's what’s so interesting about Dorian’s his character, Sanaa as his mother, and their relationship. Throughout the episode, she's really, really trying to make sure that Dorian gets an opportunity. That’s how it comes across the screen. Did you feel that as well?
Damson Idris: Hundred percent, hundred percent, you know. That’s what’s so incredible about Sanaa. She really does have this amazing motherly quality in this role and our method with working with each other was exactly that. She really cared about me throughout filming. The biggest theme to me from this episode of “Replay” is motherhood. This mother wanted the best for her son and she wanted her son to have opportunities that she didn't have. Through this episode, we see how resonant this is to American society in particular, and how many mothers wish the best for their children.
AllHipHop: Did you see any parallels between where you grew up in London and in America with the themes addressed in your episode of Twilight Zone?
Damson Idris: Definitely, I'd say the biggest would be the relationship between Africans in the U.K. and the police and that dialogue between the two. I didn't know if the police are out of touch or I don't know if they just can't communicate well with young people. But it's definitely a topic that we need to focus on, as it's been something that’s been going on for hundreds of years. I believe it's universal, it’s a universal discussion. It’s in America, in Brazil, and in Africa.
AllHipHop: Most definitely. The issues that you're tackling are so timely. And it's just a great way through the lens of ***Twilight Zon*****e to really give a voice to those issues on a major platform.**
Damson Idris: Yes, yes, it really is beautiful, because this show is unlike any other and the first of its kind. I think Jordan Peele a genius in a way that he tackles many cultural issues and many themes that we face in society, but then he puts a twist on it. The great thing about our episode is after you watch it, you could walk away and say, “I need to watch that again to see what I missed.”
AllHipHop: He's on fire right now. And you know what? I'm scared of him. Because in the diner scene, when he pulled that newspaper back, with his voice, he scared me. He’s like the Black Alfred Hitchcock.
Damson Idris: Haha! What’s funny is that our episode was the first one that was shot. So, that was the first time Peele was doing that voice and experimenting with how he wanted it go.
AllHipHop: I was reading about how you prepared for your starring role on Snowfall and you had to nail not only the American accent, but the Los Angeles South Central accent. How was it to be mentored by the legendary W.C?
Damon Idris: He tied me to a chair and slapped anytime I sounded British**.** HAHA! Nah, I couldn’t ask for a better dialect coach. Obviously, I listened to the music of the time as well. And, you know, I used it to kind of find Franklin’s voice. But the interesting thing about, Snowfall is that it was the first time I used an American accent as an actor, then switching from a South Central accent, to Dorian, who is a lot more general, on the first day, I had to patients to kind of, you know, put a bit of Franklin and Doris voice.
So I had to find the 17 year-old kid who isn't like Franklin. Yes, he loves rap music but he also has a good head on his shoulders. He’s focusing on school and he's very articulate. So it was beautiful and I’d say W.C. had a hand in how I transitioned into Dorian too.
AllHipHop: What music was you listening to as you prepped to play Franklin?
Damson Idris: I was definitely listening to Snoop Dogg. Kendrick Lamar’s albums. Tupac, NWA, and W.C. they all really helped me prepare. I listened to B.I.G. which is East Coast but I just kind of felt like, you know, the NAS’ and the Jay Z's got me into that entrepreneurial state of mind.
AllHipHop: Lastly, I gotta ask you this one. Give me your Top 5 MC’s.
Damson Idris: My favorite? In no particular order. Jay-Z, Meek Mill, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Drake.
AllHipHop: Great list. What future projects should we be on the lookout for that you have in the works?
Damson Idris: I can’t wait for you guys to see my new movie Farming, which will be out in the UK in July. I play a Black skinhead who's the leader of an all-Black skinhead gang. I think it's going to be an issue that's going to shed a light on a lot of this dark secrets of English history that have been swept under the carpet.