Over the past eight years, Percelle Ascott has a built veritable comedy empire. First he joined Joivan Wade and Dee Kartier to create the hit Youtube comedy series, Mandem on the Wall, while attending the prestigious BRIT School in London.
After racking up millions of views with their original skits, Ascott and Wade branched out to create Europe’s largest online media network (and one of the top 20 viewing platforms in the world), The Wall of Comedy, commissioning a multitude of their own Youtube series and bringing in an audience of more than 7.5 million viewers.
This summer, Ascott has branched out starring opposite Guy Pearce in Netflix’s supernatural thriller, The Innocents. We caught up with him just as the new show dropped on the network…
What was your journey into acting?
My first acting role was at the age 11 in a primary school play, playing Mowgli from The Jungle Book. Apparently I recited everyone else’s lines when they forgot them. I sound really annoying, don’t I?
At Woodcote High School I met a drama teacher called Mrs Beattie who brought out the best of my acting ability. She allowed us to express ourselves and instilled confidence in me as a person and not just a performer.
At 16, Mrs Beattie helped me get into Brit School, I’ll be forever grateful to her for seeing something in me that others didn’t. Shout out, Mrs Beattie.
You’ve led and been a part of a number of different projects with The Wall of Comedy, Mandem on the Wall, and The Weekend. Which would you say you’re most proud of?
Erm that’s hard to answer… All of it because everything I’ve done has had its own story and had a significant importance in my life. It’s not about what we achieved but what I have learnt and have been able to take onto other projects. The Wall of Comedy requires the most work. I do acting jobs while running the company.
As a jobbing actor, I constantly face rejection; it’s part and parcel of the job
What’s the hardest role you’ve ever had to play?
Anything comedic. Comedy is not my natural forte. It’s been years of learning and watching stand-up comedy, going to live shows, and constant mistakes.
And what’s the part that you’ve enjoyed playing the most?
Younger Baby Tiny Whiny because he was our creation that ended up been on Channel 4’s Youngers and a live show at Hackney Empire. He became part of pop culture at the time. So to see a character I have personally created from scratch is extremely rewarding and satisfying to play.
What was the motivation behind Mandem on the Wall?
The fact that no one would give us work. The lack of opportunities forced us to create the solution to the problem. We used comedy as a tool to discuss political and taboo issues that were happening at the time via Youtube which was up and coming.
What did you enjoy most about filming The Innocents?
I think the opportunity of being an up-and-coming actor co-leading a show on this scale with amazing actors like Nadine Marshall. A show called Random with Nadine in it is was one of the most significant reasons why I wanted to become an actor; and now she’s playing my Mum. I loved working with all the actors and both directors Farren Blackburn and Jamie Donoghue, who brought out something different in me.
How did you identify with your character?
The first part of the process was Farren making us understand the emotional complexities of the characters but mainly the vulnerability and their purity. To relate to this, I had to take myself back to my younger days and question my intentions and motivations. I had to question feelings, like what it felt like to be in love for the first time, and then layer all these findings into my character work on Harry.
Do you prefer filming a series or a film?
They both offer different challenges. Even now after filming has finished, I’m back doing another short film. Which I love as you have only a select few opportunities to portray your character and for the audience to connect with the history of the character. I think for me, a series is a bit more challenging as you have to present this character arc; every scene is a piece of the puzzle.
You still have close friendships with your co-stars of The Wall of Comedy – for example Jovian Wade. What’s it like to see him in Hollywood? Is there any sense of competition?
From working together from the age of 16, I’m happy to see his path manifest from all the things we dreamt about doing as kids. It’s also nice having another person understand the journey. There’s no sense of competition; he’s my brother. The only competition we have is the gym reps we hold!
Acting is famously hard profession to get into. Have you ever had to face rejection, and how did you deal with that?
As a jobbing actor, I constantly face rejection; it’s part and parcel of the job. After a few years of rejection, I’ve learnt how to separate myself and my career and that means not to define my happiness on my success. Bryan Cranston once said something like; the only thing we can do as actors is go into an audition room and showcase our talent and after that point it’s no longer in our hands; you have to let go.
Do you have any advice for people starting out with a YouTube channel?
Lots! So come down to the next ‘Chit Chat’ event at The Wall of Comedy: an evening for creatives, entertainers and content creators to learn, educate, talk, collaborate and network.
Percelle Ascott stars in The Innocents, available on Netflix now.