How would you describe your character Dean? Well, he’s quite wild. What you see is what you get, really. He’s not malicious, as such, but he’s sort of devious and just very, very open and honest – which makes him fun and likeable, but also makes him irresponsible. He has no notion of responsibility at all. In the first episode of Banana, it’s all about him trying to get the rent, and it’s not actually a big deal for him at all. Whereas Freddie [Fox] is slightly old enough to know that if we don’t pay up, the landlord may actually kill us. But Dean just doesn’t see that as a problem! Was there anything you found particularly challenging or difficult? Asides from having your bits locked in a chastity belt, of course! Well I won’t be doing that again, that’s for sure! [Laughs] It was painful and just uncomfortable. Like having someone with a plastic hand holding onto your parts – it was very weird. I just had a blast, though. I know that’s a boring answer and I’m sorry – but I had a blast. The thing that scared me the most was, you know, you audition and you get the part, so you’re really excited, and then you’re like ‘Fuck, I actually have to do this now. I have to carry a whole episode of Banana. The first episode of the series.’ That was intimidating a bit. One of the big talking points – and the big elements getting people excited about Cucumber et al – is showing the different attitudes towards sex and relationships between different generations of gay men. It seems like there’s something for everyone to relate to. I can’t remember when I’ve seen older gay men represented on TV – apart from Vicious. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen men in their 40s who’re just going about and living their lives, really. I don’t think anyone’s really seen that. And then It takes a lot of balls to stand with your meat and two veg in a chastity belt in your first major starring telly role, but Fisayo Akinade, who plays Freddie and Vincent’s flatmate and work colleague Dean, is letting it all hang out in Cucumber. In more ways than one. He’s also the star of the premier episode of Banana, too. So trust us, you’ll be seeing a lot more of this rising star in the weeks to come to have it be interracial and all those things is wonderful. I related to Dean sort of instantly because I can understand why he’s lying, and I can understand how you can just open an app now and have sex whenever you want. I think there’ll be people watching it and going, ‘Oh yeah, I did that last week! I met someone in a hotel for sex!’ There’s a lovely resonance to all the stories. It’s just very representative of gay characters, but it doesn’t say, you know, all 40-year-olds want younger men and all 19-yearolds are wild and want sex all the time. It leaves it open for people to take away what they want from it. How did it feel to be working with Russell T Davies on such a sureto-be iconic show? He’s insane. It’s unbelievable how good he is. And he’s like, a genius, but lovely. You sort of go, ‘I don’t know how you’re being so brilliant and nice.’ My big intro to Russell was Doctor Who and The Second Coming. And I remember watching and thinking, ‘You wrote this?!’ And then I watched Queer as Folk. Funnily enough, one of my first-ever roles as an extra while I was still in high school was in Russell’s Bob and Rose. And now, ten years later, I’m working on one of his dramas! You mentioned the interracial elements to the story, too. Was that important to you as a black actor to represent the often-overlooked black LGBT community? The weird thing was, I remember reading it and going, ‘Oh shit, that’s an interracial gay couple.’ I’ve never seen that on British TV! The thing I love though is it’s not actually spoken about, you know? With Cucumber, it just feels much more inclusive without making a point of it. These people exist – black, gay teenagers exist – and they should be on our TVs and they should be represented on our screens without it feeling preachy. Russell has done that effortlessly.
Cucumber episode three Banana episode one