Set to star in Voyagers alongside Lily-Rose Depp, Colin Farrell and Tye Sheridan, the actor talks working with the cast and leaving his mark on the world.
All clothing by DIOR
All clothing by DIOR
Have you ever felt the need to question your existence? Like you’re hurtling through time without any real purpose? It may sound bleak, but these are questions the Voyagers cast asked themselves every day. Not because they had all coincidentally hit a low point in their lives or embarked on some nihilistic journey. But because the film is rooted in these 3.A.M, staring-at-the-ceiling types of questions. And for actor Archie Madekwe, the semantics of the film’s premise couldn’t have come along at a more suitable time.
“I don’t think we realised we were making something so topical,” muses the 26-year-old actor. “Simply put, [Voyagers] is a space thriller. But at its core, it asks some big questions: what is it that makes us human? Why do we choose good over evil?” Madekwe muses. Alongside a star-studded cast including Lily-Rose Depp, Tye Sheridan, Fionn Whitehead, and Colin Farrell, Madekwe plays Kai, an intelligent, self-serving character who is always on the look-out for trouble. “He’s devious and he’s mischievous and he’s cunning, and really out for himself. I say that without any judgement,” he shares. “I don’t know what it would be like to live my entire life trapped on one spaceship!”
Voyagers swallows the savage plot of Lord of the Flies and spits it back out into space. Set in the near future, the film follows a crew of genius teens stuck on a spaceship as they navigate the impulses of love, lust, revenge, and everything in-between. Meanwhile, unravelling the truth behind their mission: repopulating a new planet. “The way that the mission plays out, is that the characters’ grandchildren will be the first people to see the planet they’re hurtling towards. But they’ll never see it. They’re just a link, a kind of experiment,” Madekwe explains. After discovering this is just the beginning of their troubles – and they’re actually being drugged– his character is one of the first to stop taking his dose of ‘The Blue’. “It’s a sedative that the kids are given throughout their lives to suppress their natural human urges,” the actor continues. Realising that life does exist beyond the spaceship, the rules start to be broken, the foundations of the crew’s hierarchy begin to crumble, and the rapports begin to fracture. Paranoia, power struggles, and raging hormones fill the cracks.
(LEFT) All clothing by DIOR (RIGHT) Jacket by BIANCA SAUNDERS and rings by ALIGHIERI
All clothing by DIOR Jacket by BIANCA SAUNDERS and rings by ALIGHIERI
But despite the cast’s on-screen troubles, their off-screen relationships could not have been more amicable. “We watched a lot of Love Island,” Madekwe stresses. “We all got on so well, it was lovely. We had breakfast together every morning, we rode to work together, we had dinner together every night. We were a family, such a unit.” Not only did the cast have to cultivate a tangible sense of chemistry to make their on-screen performances as authentic as possible, they all had to be trained – even conditioned – into sharing a similar headspace. “The first half of the film, when you see all of the characters on ‘The Blue’…it’s a very particular state of being. It was really important that we all had to be in the same place and existing in the same world,” the actor reveals. “Often we’d wake up in the morning and go in to do these boring tasks of gluing wires to batteries and planting seeds.” And whilst carrying out mundane tasks in fictional space was a very alien thing for Madekwe, what may have been more of a shock was the need to suppress the actor’s booming creativity. “I’m always reading, learning to play the guitar. I’m doing a lot of pottery at the moment, which is something I’ve weirdly taken up during lockdown,” he says. “I would say that being an actor, you have to remind yourself to tap into the things that aren’t just acting sometimes, that also give you enjoyment and fulfilment, because it’s so easy to neglect all of the other things.”
Madekwe is certainly not an actor who neglects his passions. Although acting has taken up most of his life, with his career starting at the Brit School and then appearing in productions such as Edward Albee’s The Goat, and in hit shows like Fresh Meat, See, and A24’s Midsommar, he has always made time for what he believes in. During our call, the actor is on his way to meet Lavinya Stennett from the Black Curriculum to discuss the social enterprise’s actions for the year. Involving himself in the Black Curriculum’s vital work is just the beginning for Madekwe, whose ambitions are great – and rightly so. Through “showing people of colour in all the varieties of humanity that they fall under, not just the very minute way that they are sometimes represented,” the rising star explains, he wants to “blow up the weird idea that Black people, people of colour, didn’t exist within Britain until the Windrush.” By exploring narratives and championing neglected stories, the actor wants to make the world a better place. But he modestly overlooks that he’s already started to make the mark he’s so eager to leave behind. “Hopefully, the work that I do, whether it’s acting, philanthropic or activism stuff… all of it, in the end, falls under the same umbrella,” shares Madekwe. “I hope that can change the world. And, when I’m dead and gone, people will be able to see that.”