Interview: Josh Tedeku On Starring In BBC's New Comedy, Boarders
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Interview: Josh Tedeku On Starring In BBC’s New Comedy, Boarders

Boarders is streaming now on BBC iPlayer

Streaming on BBC iPlayer from today, Boarders is a brand new comedy drama from the award-winning Daniel Lawrence Taylor, centering on five talented but under privileged Black students from London who gain scholarships to attend an elite boarding school. One of the boys, Jaheim, is played by rising star Josh Tedeku, who you might recognise from A Town Called Malice. We sat down with Josh to get the inside scoop on the series, plus hear all about his upcoming projects.

Interview: Josh Tedeku On Boarders

JOSH TEDEKU

© YellowBelly

Hi Josh, how’s life going at the moment?

It’s good! Thankfully, I can’t complain with anything. My show is coming out, I’m back auditioning – family and friends are good, we thank God!

You’re about to star in Boarders on BBC Three – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

It’s a story about five intelligent and excellent black students from South London who have to try and find themselves, discover new parts of themselves in a place way outside of their comfort zones. A prestigious, majority white boarding school. It’s very real!

You play Jaheim – how would you describe him?

He’s a kid who has been brought up in an environment where he has been moulded into this tough person. He solves most problems with anger and violence by default, but also is so intelligent, with a vulnerable side. He buries these qualities because he feels that they do him no good within the life that he leads. Jaheim only allows this side to truly shine with his family. This is challenged when he gains the chance to elevate and attend the elite St Gilbert’s. That’s where I’ll leave it… You’ll have to tune in to see how all of that blossoms – or descends into chaos!

What was it like playing him?

It was a turbulent journey – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s the beauty of taking on the challenge of an in-depth, emotionally conflicted and vulnerable character like Jaheim and doing him justice. There’s so much to play with, so much to consider. Others might see him as your simple tough guy, coming of age character, but when I first read the script all I saw was this opportunity to really dive in – to build this 3D character who goes well beyond the page. These are often the characters I connect with and want to follow the most. The ones who feel like real human beings, not just puppets telling a story!

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

A lot of thinking. A lot of thinking. Asking myself and Jaheim as the character question after question until I fully understood him. That’s how I do it. A lot of Jaheim’s struggle is made up of these internal battles, so I spent a lot of time building that consciousness within my mind.

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

There are more than I can count! We used to play a shadow boxing game on set – you had to guess which way your opponent’s head was going at the same time that they move it.  Any time, any place – you would choose a person, walk up to them and challenge them – then it’s on. We even got some of the crew onto it. The most heated battle was probably between Myles (Kamwendo) and I. I ended up victorious and with video evidence, too. I shall never let him live it down!

You’ve also got Supacell coming up on Netflix – what is that about?

Supacell is about a group of five young people, also from South London, who all gain superpowers and are connected in a certain way. That’s all that I can tell you at the moment…

You play Tazer. How does he differ from Jaheim?

Again, I can’t say much, but I can say they are very similar in some ways, and very different in others. Take that as you wish.

Any standout moments from filming?

I’d have to have a think about this one. We shot Supacell a year and a half ago now! It was the best experience – the whole thing was incredible.

What has been your favourite project to date?

Definitely Festival of Slaps, and I think that’s obvious. It was the first ever professional, paid job I had done. I did it straight after scraping through my A levels and it’s gone on to do amazing things like win a BIFA and be nominated for a BAFTA. But most of all because it’s such a refreshing story for my community which has, in my opinion, been stuck in the same place storytelling wise for a while now, so to be able to tell this great story with an amazing band of people was amazing and one of the things I’m most proud of in my life.

JOSH TEDEKU

© YellowBelly

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

Unfortunately not just yet but all in God’s timing.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

There have been so many, including my four other co leads turned brothers and sister on Boarders! But this time I’ll highlight two: one from the past and one from the very recent. Firstly, Tahirah Sharif on A Town Called Malice. She was my third on screen mum but the bond we developed was deeper – especially as we shot abroad for months and I was younger, living alone. She helped me so much out there, on and off set, and I couldn’t imagine doing it with anyone else! Love you, T.

Secondly, Mohammed Mansaray from the cast of Boarders. His talent and mind for acting is just insane. Sharing the scene and screen with him was just such a mad and enjoyable experience the way we bounced off each other and dissected the scenes. Also, he’s an amazing person and big brother to me, too. He’s going places, it’s undeniable.

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

I learn so much from every person I work with – one of these is Aruna (Jalloh) from Boarders. He helped me tap into my emotions more, look inwards and start to heal myself better and less abrasively. He also managed to get me hugging people more, and saying I love you without adding ‘bro’ on the end! You need these connections more than you think you do.

What’s your dream role?

Where to begin! It used to be Miles Morales, but I’m probably too old for it now, so just I pray my brother Gabriel gets it now. He just made his big screen debut in Skepta’s short film Tribal Mark, so he’s on the way.

I have four. One is Aaron Burr in Hamilton, another is any character in a Guillermo Del Toro animation film, Lenny in a live action movie of Red Dead Redemption 2, and the last is the biopic I would want to do more than any other… The greatest UFC fighter of all time, Jon ‘Bones’ Jones. (I’m definitely too short to play him, though, hence why it’s a dream role, ha!.)

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

I love independent films – I’d love to do more of those. I want to be as versatile as possible, do things that are the total opposite of what I have done so far. Right now, I’m craving a romance or a musical.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

Yes and no. I spend a lot of time at home, being the introvert I am. I live with my two oldest brothers – but my two other brothers and parents live up north. That’s technically the main home and I’m barely there because of work’s unpredictable schedule!

Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?

Town and I think I prefer the town. I live in a quiet town not far from the noise, so perfect balance. Love a country getaway, though.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

The lines do blur day by day, especially when you’re making friends at work – it’s inevitable!

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Keep listening to yourself and doing you and you’re going to end up right here, buddy. That’s a good thing, by the way!

How can we all live a little bit better?

Self love and recycling. Also for my Christians, strive to get closer to God everyday and happiness will follow.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

Welp, I’m going to the BAFTAs, so there’s that small thing…

JOSH TEDEKU

© YellowBelly

Josh Tedeku Recommends…

I’m currently watching… Any and every film possible when I can, Succession season two, and about to start Masters of the Air

What I’m reading… Zig-Zag Boy: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood by Tanya Frank

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… The Iron Claw, The Big Short and Succession

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, A Real Pain and Exhibiting Forgiveness.

Favourite film of all time… Best: City of God. Comfort: Dodgeball, A True Underdog Story

Favourite song of all time… Too many, but three for you that never leave the loop: ‘Heard em say’ by Ye, ‘Change’ by J Cole, ‘Champion’ by The Chevin

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Last years was Daniel Caesar, this year I’m guessing a five way fight between J Cole, Rex Orange County, SiR, Jacob Collier and Ghetts since they’re all mean to be dropping albums this year.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Hogwarts Legacy

Cultural guilty pleasure… Judging Met Gala fits or watching Bridgerton on my ones.

WATCH

Josh Tedeku stars in Boarders, available in full on BBC iPlayer from 6am on Tuesday 20 February with episodes airing weekly on BBC Three from 9pm that night. bbc.co.uk