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Me and my London: Ben Bailey Smith

The multi-talented Ben Bailey-Smith - aka Doc Brown – gives us a glimpse into his life and his London

Ben Bailey Smith has already enjoyed a career you couldn't make up. 

Under the stage name Doc Brown, Bailey-Smith hosted open mic nights at Deal Real record store, attracting a host of talent both local and international. 

He's performed with Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, released several albums, and also established himself as a successful comedian. 

And then there's the screen work, with appearances in everything from Law & Order: UK to David Brent: Life on the Road (our man likes a colon). 

Just to rub in his talent, Bailey-Smith is following the path of his sister Zadie by publishing a novel next year. 

Don't Cha just hate him? (Nah: he's a really sound guy.)  

What upcoming project(s) are you most excited about?

I’m stupidly excited about my first novel for Bloomsbury but it doesn’t come out til spring 2021 so I should probably calm down. Much closer is the second series of The Split for BBC1 in February, it’s a big role for me and very different from anything I’ve done before so I’m excited for people to see that.

I’m definitely hyped about this drama I’ve just finished shooting with David Tenant and Daniel Mays – it’s the true story of the apprehension of Denis Nilsen set in 1983. The Split is first though!

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I’ve had a few moments when I’ve had to pinch myself, but probably hosting the Baftas in Beverly Hill in 2016, I can’t remember ever being so nervous and still succeeding. Samuel L Jackson and Tom Hanks both sought me out to say well done and I was like, well, my career could end tomorrow now and I’ll always have that.

If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be? 

Probably my name. I’m still not sure why I held onto my old rap name when I got into comedy. I really just want to be Ben. 

What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?

Voice a Pixar movie. I do a lot of voicework, and have recently done some stuff for Disney but I would sell a body part to voice a Pixar character. I mean, maybe not my larynx or anything voice related but most other parts.

Outside of your family, who is / was your biggest inspiration?

Either Richard Pryor or Steven Spielberg, because they both this incredible way of making massive, universal work appear intimate, like it was just me and them.

Tell us something nobody knows about you…

I’m a pretty decent juggler. So if all else fails…

My London

What do you love most about London?

The energy, the communities within communities, the diversity, the history, the nonsensical geography and the quiet streets behind the busy streets that everyone avoids except me. And the other thing I love is that because I was born and grew up here, every step I take has some essence of nostalgia.

What would you change about London?

Affordability. I bought a flat in Dalston in 2005 when I was a part time charity youth worker in my early 20s on the key worker scheme – it was so easy. That would be impossible now and it’s the real Londoners who are suffering. Other than that, I still love everything about my city and I hate all the bad press it gets.

What is your favourite London pub / bar?

Hard to pick one so I’d say Paradise by way of Kensal Green, Coach & Horses on Greek Street, The North London Tavern on Kilburn High Road and The Railway Tavern on Jude St. You’re pretty much guaranteed to find me in one of those most weeks.

What is your favourite London restaurant?

The Social Eating House on Poland Street. Phenomenal.

Where would you take someone on a London date?

Do a little West London job – always romantic. Walk up the canal from Little Venice, movie and a cocktail at the Everyman Maida Vale then head into Portobello, see what’s cracking. Maybe a dance at the Little Yellow Door on All Saints Road.

If you’re visiting London, what’s the one thing you MUST do?

Walk around the remains of St Dunstan’s in the East, the Christopher Wren church that was bombed in the war. It’s so beautiful.

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The Split premieres 11 February, BBC1