Photography by Christopher Sherman
Styling by Corey Ng
While the Peckham-raised British actor Damson Idris had to travel to LA for what is perhaps his most well-known role to date as Franklin Saint, the up-and-coming crack-dealing kingpin in the narco-drama Snowfall set in 1980s South Central, his role as Enitan in Farming—a complex drama about race in England during the ’70s—found the actor drawing inspiration from much closer to home. Written and directed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Farming is the autobiographical tale of his youth and the experience of being “farmed” to a British family—a practice in which young Nigerians were, and continue to be, sent by their parents to live with white foster families. Dislocated socially and culturally, Akinnuoye-Agbaje joined a local skinhead gang—often with violent results—before being sent to a boarding school and attempting suicide at 16.
For Idris, who is also of Nigerian descent, the role of Enitan was especially resonant. “I called up my mum, and I said, ‘Hey, mum. I'm doing this movie. I'm playing a Nigerian,’” Damson says. When he revealed the plot involved the practice of “farming,” he continues, “she was like, ‘Oh, wow. That happened to my best friend's son.’” However, when pressed on how he prepared to play a self-hating black skinhead, Idris reveals that the preparation was far more intensive. “In order to really immerse myself in the habit of being a black skinhead,” he notes, “I looked in the mirror and I constantly taught myself self-hate.” Idris even went so far as to isolate himself from the rest of the cast, spending time alone in his trailer and demonstrating the same vitriol towards his black cast members on and off set. Asked whether playing such a demanding role is worth the anguish, Idris is resolute: “This movie is going to let everyone know that no matter what the world throws at you, you could always triumph over the adversity.”
Casting: Ian Monroe