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The Innocents actor Percelle Ascott talks about his Zimbabwean roots and teaches us some South London slang.
The Innocents is a new Netflix show about two teen lovers (Harry and June) who decide to run away from their repressive families. But their journey of self-discovery swerves to a new level of cray when they discover that June has the ability to shape-shift (spoiler alert: so does her mom). Harry is played by 25-year-old Zimbabwean actor Percelle Ascott who spoke to YR Media's Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Check out the full conversation on YR Media’s Adult ISH podcast (episode 1) and at yradultish.com.
Nyge: So I'm definitely trippin' out right now because earlier this week, I binge watched the whole show and then I'm hearing your voice. I'm like, "Oh shoot! Like it's Harry! Like wow!" The whole time I was watching I was like, "This dude can really act though!"
Percelle: Thank you bro...I feel like [playing a 16-year-old] I've got like this kind of Pharrell gene now.
Nyge: So clearly you know how to be a good boyfriend or at least act like one. What else did playing this role teach you about love?
Percelle: I think love is not just a feeling. It's the action that comes with it. Sometimes you wake up and you might not be feeling love, but you have to still choose to perform that action. Also, I played a 16-year-old character where I had to strip my own instincts [because] as you get older, I feel like we lose our purity and our vulnerability to certain things. When you take yourself back to that time when you first fell in love and you see a message from a person that you like and your heart's racing — that is the kind of feeling that we want to take people back to.
Merk: You've had a diverse set of roles and diversity in Hollywood has always been an issue. But what about across the pond? Do you think that the film industry is moving in the right direction or are a lot of roles still ‘Hoodie #1’ and ‘Hoodie #2’?
Percelle: Change has definitely happened. What I liked about when I picked up [The Innocents] script was that [Harry] didn't identify to any particular race. Across the pond, I feel like we have the same diversity issues. But for me and my friends, that was the reason why we created the company Wall of Comedy -- because we were birthed from a lack of opportunities.
Merk: Where do you find the balance to do all of these things? It sounds like you have a lot on your plate.
Percelle: I don't think I've probably found the balance if I'm completely honest with you. [But] I just go back to my roots — being first generation Zimbabwean, coming to London, you have that conversation with your mom or your dad and they say to you, "Son or daughter, you have to work twice as hard." So I guess it's your purpose.
Merk: So you're just very diverse with your roles. Could you please do an American accent for us? Maybe describe a nice walk on the beach.
Percelle: Look, producers might hear this and they'll be like, "No, we're not casting you. We heard a Jamaican accent. He ain't good enough right now." Give me a couple months and I'll hit you up with an American accent, I promise! Can you guys do a British accent?
Merk: (in British accent) Well sometimes I can try but then it kind of turns into an Aussie accent and then I'm like, "Oh hey, what's up? Thunder from Down Under."
Nyge: What are some keywords that I could just like put in there that are like, "Oh yeah, I mean he's official"?
Percelle: [For instance,] if you're telling a story and you're trying to get to that point quicker, you can say "tutusna". Yeah, it's almost like saying etcetera. [Or if] someone's good looking you might say "peng".
Nyge: It's just "peng"? Because I've got boys in London and they taught me wrong. They told me it was "pengting".
Percelle: It depends from what part of London you are. I’m from South London.
Nyge: They're from South London too. But I'm gonna just tell them, "My boy Harry from The Innocents told me that you are trash."
Percelle: Yeah. Tell them to get at me. I need to teach them something.