‘My Mum’s Always Telling Me Off For Not Seeing Anybody When Filming!’ – Interview With Stephen Odubola

By Tessa Dunthorne

9 months ago

Chatting to this actor turned chef (for the screen)

Stephen Odubola is a new face in the kitchen in the BBC’s Boiling Point… Find out what heat is rising in this follow-up to the original stressed-chef film, as the actor talks to C&TH. 

Interview: Actor Stephen Odubola

Stephen Odubola

Photographer: Kirk Truman @kirktruman; Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison @sarahroseharrison; Grooming: Lauraine Bailey @laurainebailey. Full look by Tod’s

Hi Stephen, how’s life been lately?

Life is good, yeah. I’m just chilling, trying to find the positives in this whole strike business. Focusing on Boiling Point’s press campaign right now. 

How’s that with the strike?

There’s just a lot of uncertainty. Everybody’s just waiting, really. So it’s good to be busy with Boiling Point’s press, you know [because it’s a UK production and not subject to the same strike rules].

Are you involved in any creative projects outside of acting? 

Yeah, I’m definitely not only an actor – I love writing. During COVID I obviously had a lot of time on my hands so started writing short films and scripts. A lot of ideas just came to my head. I’m trying to direct a bit, too. 

That sounds really interesting, tell me about the projects you’re making? 

The stories?

Yeah! Whichever story is occupying your brain at the moment. 

I started a piece in 2020 in response to the George Floyd situation. I remember seeing a picture, at the time, of two houses – one was on fire. And the caption said: ‘all houses matter’. The short film follows two houses. It’s a Black Lives Matter short film. We’ve shot it but it’s not out yet because obviously I’m a perfectionist and still working on it! 

That’s really fascinating – will we be able to see it on the festival circuit?

In the near future, I hope so. 

It’s cool you’re making your own work, outside of all the exciting stuff you’re doing with others, too. Obviously we’re here to talk about Boiling Point in particular: can you tell us a bit about the show? 

So it follows on from the movie. In the series, you see life after the original film and it gives you more of an insight into the characters’ lives in the kitchen. One thing I like about Boiling Point is that it highlights how everyone has to put on a sort of ‘face’ in their working lives. And that you often do hit a Boiling Point (I love the play on words). Also, because it’s set in a kitchen, everything is very fast paced – it will get really, really tense. 

You’re playing Johnny Bell. Tell me more about him – in a nutshell. 

Johnny in a nutshell: Johnny is new to the kitchen. He’s trying to find his way and is very reserved. I think he’s very observant; he likes to take a backseat and watch what’s going on around him. He’s not too great in the kitchen at the beginning. You’ll see him level up and improve his skills. Oh, and he’s got a backstory, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to say much more than that… 

Carly (Vinette Robinson) in Boiling Point

One of the first peeks into the kitchen… Carly (castmate Vinette Robinson) in Boiling Point

Are you good at cooking yourself? 

Haha, occasionally I try to go into God mode with cooking. Boiling Point was a completely different thing, though, because it’s more professional. We actually had a chef consultant on it, Ellis Barrie – who is brilliant, he does TV shows and has his own restaurant. So he told us how to place our hands, cut certain things, what trays to use, the chopping boards for vegetables, meat, etcetera. So I actually ended up learning a lot. It’s kinda stuck with me, even at home. 

If you ever wanted a complete change, you could probably open your own restaurant now. 

Yeah, definitely. I think I’ve got it figured out. 

And are you a foodie in general? 

I’m a little bit of a foodie. I don’t think I’ve changed my level of bougie-ness with food, but the preparation has gotten better. 

Beyond the lessons in cheffing, how did you get into character? 

Most of it came down to script analysis – and then talking to the director, getting a sense of the longer plans for the character, thinking of how to hint the wider story. I can’t say much more, though, about the character. 

I’ll patiently wait to see! Obviously the OG film was filmed in a one shot [take]? Is the series filmed the same?

I don’t know what I’m allowed to say! But the style is pretty similar. The film feels a lot like theatre, in the way you rehearse. You bounce off of other actors, find a way to make it feel more natural. And this feels a lot like theatre, too. 

Do you think you’d want to do some theatre, on that note? What does the next chapter of your career look like? 

I’m open to a lot of things. I’m definitely hoping that projects I’m doing now are being well received. The one thing I do want is to try to act different characters – versus the ones I’ve had before. Boiling Point’s Johnny is my most different to date, so I want to keep doing that and keep challenging myself. 

I’ve noticed you’ve done a lot of gritty crime drama to date – what kinds of characters would you like to play in the future?  

Really, I just want to be challenged – whether I’m a carpenter, or a police officer, or a teacher or something completely different. 

Ever fancy playing the romantic lead in a cheesy romcom? 

That’d be very difficult because I’m not a cheesy kind of guy! But I guess, why not? If the story it’s coming from makes senses, and the character has good range, why not!

With all the projects you’re juggling, I wondered how you balance your work and life? 

The thing with acting is that when you’re in production, life gets really busy. And then when you’re not, it’s very, very chill. In production, there’s no time to do anything. You might wake up at five AM, leave home, and then get back home around seven, eight PM. There’s no time for your personal life. So I like to just focus on my work at that point. My mum’s always telling me off, like, you don’t see anybody when you’re filming! But I say – I’ve got to get in the zone. But then when I’m out of production, I just focus on my personal life. It’s a nice balance. 

Haha, ‘just let me get into character, mum’. What do you do for fun, when you’re off set – how do you let loose? 

I like to travel, you know. I literally just come back from a holiday two days ago. It’s something that keeps me grounded. It’s a reset. As soon as Boiling Point was done, I went off on a solo trip to Barcelona, because I just wanted to soak in the sun and be in a completely different environment. 

That sounds lush – how was Barcelona? 

It was my second time there. I just went for a weekend for my friend’s birthday. It’s got nice beaches, nice weather. I love soaking in new experiences and new places. What’s life if you just stay in London, you know? Anyway, I went over to get some sun, and not do too much. And that’s exactly what I did. 

Stephen Oduwola

Photographer: Kirk Truman @kirktruman; Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison @sarahroseharrison; Grooming: Lauraine Bailey @laurainebailey. Full look by Tod’s

Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… Silo, [Apple TV], is very, very interesting. 

What I’m reading… The Power of Ambition. Books like that keep me motivated, on my game. 

The last thing I watched was… Hijack with Idris Elba. Loving a lot of Apple TV series at the moment. Great quality.

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… I’m seeing my friend [Michael Ward]’s play tonight. A Mirror at the Almeida (runs until 23 September, almeida.co.uk). I’m really excited – it’s his theatre debut. I can’t wait to see how he’s pulled it off. 

Favourite film of all time… Apocalypto. If you haven’t seen it, just go watch it.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… The London Film Festival (4-15 October). Gassed Up is being shown at the BFI for it.

What’s next for me is… Literally just enjoying the downtime!