BAFTA nominated actor Abubakar Salim has been enjoying critical acclaim for his role of ‘Father’ in the second series of Ridley Scott’s absorbing sci-fi drama series Raised By Wolves.
The series is about two androids, who are raising human children on a strange planet, and the production has received praise in the UK and the US.
Abubakar Salim’s interest in interactive media started early on, it motivated him to found Surgent Studios, a production studio that focuses on the exploration of human truth. With a genuine, deep-rooted passion for storytelling, Salim’s curiosity about human nature remains profound, he is dedicated to looking at it through the means of acting and technology. The founder of video games company Silver Rain, he puts his unique stamp on the games industry, injecting crisp ideas and new approaches to storytelling.
1883 Magazine caught up with the London-based actor for an intriguing chat about the his passion for technology and acting, learning lines, and why method acting isn’t the way forward.
It’s hard to sum up the entire Raised By Wolves experience in a couple of sentences, but what did you enjoy most about it?
Working with Ridley Scott was inspiring, not only was he the director, he’s someone who respects the craft, he respects people, he gave us space and freedom to be creative. It’s just sometimes when someone has an idea or a thought, a lot of the time you’re there to serve that, but to actually feel like you’re part of that world is a rare, beautiful feeling that has been present throughout the experience. It was a creative environment, a safe environment. To have a say and be heard was brilliant, being able to unapologetically tell your story, without censoring yourself was amazing.
That does sound like the perfect environment. In terms of your preparation for the character, how did you go about it?
It was an interesting one, because Ridley is known for his androids, so it was a lot of watching his previous work again, titles like Alien and Blade Runner. But I’m a massive nerd, and a massive gamer, so that was fine. There’s a game called Detroit: Become Human, which looks at the idea of AI, I took a lot from that game and from reading, but specifically games that had some cool AI exploration, character choices there helped influence the choices I made as Father.
That’s a fair amount of research and ground work..
The beauty of discovering the character on set was that we had permission. Ridley would say, ‘what is your character’s cadence?’ Because we all have some form of cadence within us. That helped, especially when it comes to playing robots or androids, with humans it’s more organic, you can change, you can become funny, you can become sad and morose. There’s something about androids that’s regimented, I found that cadence was helpful in regards to finding, not only the physicality of Father, but also the voice, the interactions, which he has with other people.
How did the work move on from that point?
You could arguably say that I’m still researching, and I’m still finding out stuff, because the character is evolving all the time. But there was a lot of preparation happening while I was auditioning for the actual role, we had almost nine rounds, it was a lot of research work during those nine rounds, a few months as a runway as we were getting the scripts, discovering new things about the character, learning, it was a constant process that was always evolving.
Is your approach to acting inspired by method acting?
No, to be I’ll be honest, method acting is a bunch of bollocks. It’s one of those things where I remember a teacher telling me at drama school that there’s no one more interesting, no one more fascinating, than yourself. Taking that on board, knowing that I have all this history, all these stories to tell in my own voice, mix that with the characters that I like, it works.
When it comes to dissecting a character, it’s about understanding their point of view, reacting to it as an artist, rather than trying to become that person, you can never become someone else, that’s what everyone holds dear to themselves, their own individuality. You can artistically reflect a version of that person, as an actor you can present it in a way, which tells a story. That’s why method acting is not real, you can never escape yourself.
How would you describe the approach you take then?
You’ve got to meet the character, you bring your element as an artist, as an actor. What you’re good at doing is telling stories, you bring that to the character and bring their colours to it. You find this marriage between both characters, that’s the synergy I feel is the most effective way of doing your art. It’s no good, if it’s too much one way, if a person is just playing themselves in every movie.
You have brought this up a couple of times; your passion for video games. What is it you love about the format?
The inception of the company came during the first season of Raised By Wolves. I was in South Africa, playing games to chill out. I’ve always wanted to make my own stuff, always wanted to tell my own stories. I’m a big believer in games being even more important to a degree than films or books, because as a medium, it actually involves the audience to partake in it. It’s interactive, rather than being passive, you can watch a TV show, you can be moved by it and learn from it, but you’re not actively partaking.
That’s how I got into storytelling, through games, so what essentially ended up happening was that I wanted to tell a story close to my heart. In relation to my exploration of grief, which is what we’re tackling through the current game that we’re making, the emotion has driven me to express and find ways of how to interactively communicate that through the medium of games.
Tell me about Silver Rain. You have a full team working there with you, what’s it been like to start your own company?
I’ve learned so much about business. I’ve been used to working as just an actor, as an individual, but to then be in this world where you have to be a businessman, it’s been pretty interesting. The games industry is such a beautiful space, people are driven to be creative and be innovative. Everyone here wants to see your dream come true.
There’s been some real challenges, working remotely has had its challenges in regards to that human connection of talking to one another, we were only talking through zoom at one point. However, the brilliance of working from home is that you’re home in a space, which you feel safe in, you can express yourself and that has been lovely to discover, as we’ve built the business and got along.
Remote working is reminding what makes us human, it’s integral and brilliant within all the stories that we’re being told, it’s something that I look for whenever I’m doing the work that I do. Because it reminds you of the beauty of life, the many facets of it, the hardships, and the horrors. Ultimately it’s about the human truth.
As a child at what point did you start connecting with gaming? Do you want to talk about a key moment?
I grew up in Welwyn Garden City, in Hertfordshire, a predominantly white neighbourhood. It wasn’t necessarily great. But my father wanted me to read as many books as possible, my mum wanted me to watch films and TV. I was dyslexic, reading was an absolute pain, watching film and TV there wasn’t any characters or people who looked like me, I didn’t feel I could share their stories. With cartoons, I could escape in that world, with games it was playing story games and pick stuff apart, I was actively playing, as these characters went through their journeys, I was getting their stories.
So was that when you discovered your passion for storytelling?
It wasn’t until drama school found that love of storytelling. Then also getting an agent and then doing an Assassin’s Creed voiceover that was where I realised that games aren’t these magic things that are made by elves, people actually make these things and they told these stories. It was only then I realised that I could potentially partake in the creation, it all comes back to me playing games as a kid and later realising that my passion is storytelling, it came through games.
You went to LAMDA, in what way has it helped to become an actor?
There’s something to be said about going into a space that specialises in learning the craft. I went too early, I went straight from school to LAMDA, I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to go there for three years. It taught me that it isn’t just about reading the lines or looking cool. There’s a lot about the body, the voice, singing and dancing, all these other elements that are part of performance, there’s much more to being an actor. The first year, we barely did any acting.
What are some of your top tips for learning lines, how do you approach it?
You never get used to line learning, you have to keep doing it over and over again. You can get annoyed at people, who can read a script once and learn it in a day, because the thing about line learning is that you’ve got to learn it to the point where it comes naturally. Truthfully, it’s that weird balance, it comes down to the writing as, if you get a script that’s badly written, it’s much harder to learn the lines because it doesn’t sound natural. Whereas, sometimes, you get scripts that just run off the page, it becomes easier to connect with. I do wish I had this photographic memory, where I could just read it once, it would make my life so much easier.
Sometimes, you have to learn by the heart, the hard way..
It can become more ingrained. There’s a feeling of this is my bones, I’m hearing the words. It’s another love for words, at drama school I used to hearing Shakespeare, I didn’t get Shakespeare at school, when I was growing up. But drama school taught me the beauty of the language that Shakespeare used, the emotions and things he was conveying, because of that I began to love words. Shakespeare says I love you in different ways, and I can say it, but the feeling, the thought and the drive behind is always the same.
Last but not least, tell me about your future aspirations..
My aim is to continue telling good stories, be part of good stories and share them in more ways than just being an actor. It could be as a game designer, a producer or a writer, that’s part of my drive. My passion is to tell stories, I’m gonna try and explore and see how many ways I can do that, through performance, and through technology.
Raised By Wolves can be seen on HBO Max
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