'Role Call'

WHEN the Virgin Media British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and British Academy Television Craft Awards nominations were announced on April 28, a Jamaican was among the nominees.

Spanish Town-born Micheal Ward earned a nomination as Supporting Actor for his role in the anthology mini-series Small Axe.

This is the second BAFTA nomination for Ward, who last year won its EE Rising Star Award. The Jamaica Observer caught up with him on the weekend, and he spoke about his latest nomination.

“I mean, it was a big surprise for me. I felt very appreciated and recognised. It’s just a blessing to receive another nomination because I never expected anything more to come from this role other than being involved in Small Axe/Lovers Rock, so to get recognised for my performance even though we filmed it in a week was a huge surprise, but a blessing to say the very least,” said Ward.

Small Axe was created, written and directed by Steve McQueen, best known for similar roles in the Golden Globe and Academy Award-winning film, 12 Years A Slave. It comprises five films about West Indian immigrants in London from the 1960s to the 1980s.

One of them is Lovers Rock, which stars Ward and Amarah-Jae St Aubyn as lovers who meet at a reggae house party in 1980 in West London. It aired on BBC One early last November and on Amazon Prime Video in late November. Lovers Rock premiered at the 58th New York Film Festival last September.

Ward plays the role of Franklyn Cooper.

“Franklyn is a young man who knows his stuff when it comes to lovers rock music and is very much in tune with his cultural background even though he was raised in London. His character is a smooth, earnest young man who can turn up the charm, when needs be, to get what he wants. In the film, he meets a young woman called Martha who he really likes and whom he attempts to romance,” said Ward.

“To me the role wasn’t too challenging because I have Jamaican heritage. Even during filming, the characters felt very familiar to me. I drew to my uncle for inspiration, as I have him down as a lover [ladies man], so I adopted some of his characteristics for the role. I looked at how intense he is, which was just one of many things that I examined,” he continued.

Ward said working with McQueen was special.

“Working with Steve was an amazing experience. He really knows what he wants, and he’s just a great artiste. Steve just believed in me and allowed me to believe in myself, which gave me the confidence to perform and do what I had to do, and that is always a great feeling when you’re on set,” Ward recalled.

The other nominees in the Supporting Actor category are Kunal Nayyar ( Criminal UK), Malachi Kirby ( Small Axe), Michael Sheen ( Quiz) and Rupert Everett ( Adult Material).

Small Axe leads the nominations with 15.

Ward was raised at St John’s Road in Spanish Town. He migrated with his family to the United Kingdom at age four.

He has appeared in several British films and television series, such as Blue Story (as Marco), Top Boy (as Jamie), The A List (as Brendan) and The Old Guard (as Lykon). He worked as a model before pursuing acting.

The BAFTA Awards reward the best in British television. The Virgin Media British Academy Television Awards ceremony takes place on June 6 on BBC One and BBC One HD.

The British Academy Television Craft Awards will be streamed on BAFTA’s social channels on May 24.

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