Elijah Baker has already come from an strong arts background, with a career expanding across television, theatre and film. Credits include 'The Phoneshop', 'New Tricks', 'Babylon' and 'The Bill', but it his immediate branch out into film that has got him noticed.
Both his leading roles in 'Signs of Silence' and 'Book Trader' have become a breakthrough acclaims. He's now officially signed to an agent and has also OTHER amazing projects in the pipeline, such as 'Bluff' by Tom Dunham and 'The Booth' by King Zion (which he directs) as well as American coming-of-age prison project 'Amare' with Cyrus Trafford.
Make no mistake, Baker is one busy lad.
Apart from starring in 'The Weekend Movie' as Spencer, Baker gives us a little insight about his upcoming projects (even though some details were confidential). He even talks about his own struggles being of mixed-race descent when auditioning for roles, and the reason of branching into more film and television roles. Plus, he gives his thoughts about the recent racial division that exists on overdrive in America and how his role in 'Amare' is one of the most challenging one yet.
1. After all the mayhem, we're finally having an interview with you Elijah. How does it feel?
Now feels like the perfect time, as there's so much more to discuss than before. So let's get it cracking!
2. So you started acting at quite a young age, but we've recently seen how your lead roles in 'Signs of Silence' and 'Book Trader' have made you a hot demand. What exclusive updates would you like to share with us?
Yes the projects; both my own creations as well as others are plentiful now, which is the result of me taking acting more serious in the last few years than I ever did before. I recently got signed to a new agency 'The Narrow Road Company', which I'm very pleased about. They are a solid agent and I'm looking forward to a prosperous partnership with them. I'm currently working on several projects at the moment 'Dim Squad', 'The Booth', 'Bluff', 'Amare' and 'Mujo', to name a few.
3. You're also featured in 'The Weekend Movie' alongside other young emerging and upcoming talent. Do you think that the film, being an 'indie movie', will set the next chapter for British Cinema?
'The Weekend Movie' is certainly a part of the change that is taking place within our industry. A change that is seeing a whole new wave of homegrown talent come through; emerging from online success via platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Performers who have created their own material, and are doing big things based off their own moves rather than the more traditional route of merely waiting for the agent to acquire meetings. Tonnes of performers are doing great things; stemming from projects they have constructed themselves and It's a beautiful thing. It was fun to cameo in Kojo's film. I look forward to seeing it do well, which I'm sure it will.
4. Describe your personality as a movie title.
Well being a Gemini, naturally I have split personalities. So let's go with The Magnificent 7.
5. We've been hearing that you're putting your talent behind the camera (as well as on screen) with upcoming films such as 'Dim Squad' and 'The Booth'.
a) 'Dim Squad' has a diverse cast. How important is diversity to you after the backlash it has had over the years, with the issue reaching its breaking point at the Oscars?
Yes, I've written several scripts now, 'Dim Squad' is my creation whereas 'The Booth' was created by my good friend King Zion, but they are both pilots which I'm directing as well as acting in. They're both near completion and will be screened early next year, before being pitched to various companies, NWD will of course be getting tickets to these screenings.
'Dim Squad' is a representation of London, which is one of the most diverse cities in the world. Naturally we had to have a cast that mirrored the environment it is set in. I'm sure we can all agree that big changes have already and are continuing to take place, as there is a lot more leading men and women of all backgrounds in TV and film in the UK (along with the US )than ever before.
b) What is the synopsis behind 'The Booth' and what can viewers expect from these shows?
'The Booth' is a dramedy (drama-comedy) series that takes place in a music studio and is based on creator 'King Zions' experiences as a sound engineer. Expect natural comedy from both 'The Booth' and 'Dim Squad', with realistic tonnes, familiar faces and a whole army of fresh talent, who are going to have big careers in this exciting Industry of ours. Too Many names to mention!
6. Many people don't know that you were in 'Vendetta' and 'Tango One'. Therefore, we'd like to give you the opportunity to reflect on the experience appearing in these films.
both films fall under the 'British Gangster' genre. One of the coolest perks was that I didn't have to audition for either roles. I also starred in 'We Still Kill The Old Way'; another feature I was in. Directed the legend (that he is), Sacha Bennett.
It's a testament to the saying that if you do a great job and gel well with people, you will be brought back. That's what happened with me. I'm not going to give away too much about my role in 'Tango One' but it was a pretty awesome ride. I got to work with some great people. This film stars the acting veteran Vincent Regan, and I also had a wicked character to play.
Definitely look out for this one; dropping sometime next year.
7. Your career expands across television, theatre and film. What made you decide to pursue a career in filming instead of television or theatre?
I have love for all three but I'm more into doing TV and film over theatre. For me, it's about the roles; more so than anything. I would rather have a career in screen over the stage. However, I wouldn't turn down a quality stage production.
8. Has being of mixed heritage caused a conflict of opportunities when auditioning for roles? Vin Diesel stated during his early career how he was 'too Black' for white roles and 'too white' for Black roles.
Certainly. I've found myself not landing certain roles based on my multi-ethnic appearance -- I don't fit into a category. I don't look like most people of my mixed heritage and many people assume that we all are meant to look like Alicia Keys or Drake. When in reality, that's far from accurate. You'd think looking and passing for all different types of people would be a benefit as an actor (and it should be) but ignorance can be quite plentiful in this industry. Much like Vin Diesel, who I have definitely taken inspiration from, he struggled to get work due to his. I believe he coined the phrase 'multi-facial' appearance and decided early on to create his own material, which then got him noticed. I struggle to get roles based on my look, so I then proceeded to create my own material too, and it's working out exceptionally well. I'm grateful that my road has been tough as it's made me a stronger performer.
9. You've placed your role to the extreme by starring in 'Amare', which a 'coming of age prison film' is surrounding the life of a young mixed male. With America having the highest prison population in the Western hemisphere, as well as a history of racial disparities towards certain groups of people:
a) Do you think that the issue surrounding race has caused a sense of ignorance and discrimination that has denied certain groups of people the human right to control their own destiny?
Race is such an old issue which has caused so much segregation, pain and ignorance. Personally I feel there is only one race on this planet, which is the human race. It's so ridiculous to regard ourselves as different races based on colour and background. The diversity amongst the human race is wonderful and should be celebrated, but I fear we will never truly grow as a species until we can all except that we are all connected. There are definitely rules and systems set in place that allow certain groups to benefit more than others and that's unacceptable. Change takes time and I feel film can be such a powerful tool to Inspire and educate people on human morality.
People educating themselves on their rights, true history and sticking together to create change is the way forward. I will certainly do my part as a performer and creator to spread positive realness; encouraging people to see the bigger picture.
b) How is this film different from television shows such as 'Prison Break' and film such as 'Camp X-Ray' & 'Starred Up'.
I know 'Amare' is going to make a huge impact and certainly be my most challenging role to date. Mentor, good friend and legend Cyrus Trafford is among my favourite film directors, and I can't wait to shoot this coming of age film with Trafford at the Helm.The film deals with identity and adapting to prison life. What separates 'Amare' is the exploration of the racial division that exists within US Prisons.
The character Amare is biracial being African American and Hispanic. So naturally, this time in prison is going to be far from typical.
Before we shoot this coming-of-age US prison film, we are aiming to shoot 'Mujo'; a film set in Japan that follows the lives of two young Westerners who must adapt and find themselves in this wondrous, challenging but beautiful country.
c) What attracted you to the role and how do you relate to the character?
I enjoy playing roles that require me to dig deep and immerse myself into the individual I must become for the part. I prefer playing a complex character who finds himself in a dangerous and terrifying environment. I have a gigantic amount of respect for Cyrus and I know we always produce fantastic work when collaborating.
10. Were you surprised when you were on the IDMB's Top British Actors to watch out for?
It wasn't an official list by IMDB -- it's a user list. So anyone who has signed up to IMDB can create lists like that. Although, it's still flattering and I certainly agree that many on the list are definitely actors to look out for, some are very good friends of mine.
11. Who else do you recommend that we should look out for that will break the mold in the film and television industry?
Aside from Cyrus Trafford, also look out for another good friend and great filmmaker Tim Porter. He has already had success with his short films 'Haven' and 'Soldier', both starring good friends of mine Kadeem Boyce and Maia Watkins. Tim and I are working on a project that I can't say to much about right now, but that is going to be another powerful film when it drops. We begin shooting in December.
I could list so many names of talented people, ranging from actors to filmmakers I'm collaborating with and have met, but I wouldn't want to forget anyone. So I'll say that anyone you see me working with, is adept and will be apart of the change that is happening and is still yet to come.
12. How can people find out about you? You can use this opportunity to say whatever you want to say.