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We knew we had someone special here, says Daniel Kaluuya’s former drama teacher

Bafta-winning star of Get Out thanked WAC Arts from stage of Royal Albert Hall

23 February, 2018

Daniel Kaluuya collects his Bafta on Sunday

A DRAMA teacher who worked with Bafta-winning Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya says the actor’s success shows the importance of arts funding.

The 28-year-old, who grew up on the Camelot House estate in Camden Town, collected the Rising Star award at the Baftas ceremony on Sunday when he name-checked two north London arts centres which helped get him started. He thanked Weekend Arts College, known as WAC, in Haverstock Hill, Belsize Park, and the Anna Scher Theatre School, in Islington, as he flagged up the import­ance of “grassroots” funding during his acceptance speech at the Royal Albert Hall.

“I am a product of arts funding within the UK,” he told the star-studded audience. “I’d like to thank people who financially support that, obviously in the mainstream arts but also at grassroots level.”

Steve Medlin, head of drama at WAC Arts, said: “I remember him distinctly. He did a solo piece from Hamlet and it was amazing. He blew the socks off everyone. We suddenly went: ‘Ooh – we have someone special here.’ He held the room with fury and power. And that only happens every now and again.”

Mr Kaluuya went on to star in Skins, Black Mirror, the crime thriller Sicario and Black Panther. He is up for best actor at next week’s Oscars for his role in Get Out, an eye-catching, horror movie competing for an Academy Award for best picture.

Mr Medlin told the New Journal: “Danny was a sparky young man who was generously selfish – looking to see how he could promote himself and draw on skills. He knew there was something we had to offer him. He would take what we would serve him and move on and that’s the right thing to do.”

Steve Medlin

He added: “He clearly knew what he wanted to do. He clearly wanted to be seen on stage and wanted to improve. His heart was clearly in drama. If you come from a traditional financial background, you have got much more opportunity to succeed and survive financially. Funding and access is forever thinning in the creative industry. We [WAC] can’t solve all of those problems but what we can do is create access. Danny is a prime example of that. It’s great he gave us a shout-out.”

Mr Kaluuya attended acting classes at WAC 10 years ago when the rate for 14-26-year-olds for Sunday classes was £2.50. WAC provides drama classes with a professional approach for people seeking a career in the arts or looking to get into full-time training. Its illustrious alumni include Naomie Harris and Ms Dynamite.

Meanwhile, the Anna Scher Theatre School said in a statement: “It is very kind of Daniel to remember the teachers that taught him the Anna Scher Theatre method and values when he was starting out – one of these values is precisely returning thanks.”

Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out

Mr Kaluuya has previously talked about how drama helped him stay out of trouble.

“Camden can be quite a dark place. There are loads of drugs and all the drugs went into homes,” he once said. “My mum got me into it [acting] to get me off the streets. I loved it. There were people in class who were on TV and I thought: ‘This could be possible’, so I kept at it. “I thought I had found my tribe, people who were from the estates who loved being creative but weren’t flowery or luvvie. That really resonated.”

The actor dedicated Sunday’s Bafta award to his mother, Damalie Namusoke, who works with special needs children. “I’d like to thank my mum. My mum is the reason – levels – why I started, the reason why I’m here and the reason I keep going,” he said. “Thank you for everything. This is yours. Love, peace, let’s get it.”


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