Enoch Frost

Donal O’Donoghue chats to the Taken Down ac­tor about work­ing on the dis­turb­ing crime drama

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“I’m hard pushed to find any re­deem­ing fea­tures about this dude,” says Enoch Frost of his Taken Down al­ter ego. “You might se­cretly like Ben­jamin when he first comes on screen be­cause he’s a nut­ter but there’s noth­ing nice about him. Did you watch The So­pra­nos? Did you like Tony So­prano? You prob­a­bly did se­cretly be­cause he cared about his fam­ily. So maybe that’s what is in my char­ac­ter too. Although he is cal­lous, he has his com­pas­sion­ate mo­ments, but usu­ally, he is be­ing com­pas­sion­ate be­cause he wants some­thing from some­body and be­ing a fa­ther my­self has given me an­other di­men­sion to at least fake that Ben­jamin cares. So fa­ther­hood has been use­ful in that re­spect.”

It’s press day on Taken Down. Enoch Frost has flown in from his home in Bris­tol to talk about the voodoo-spout­ing brothel boss, Ben­jamin. He talks softly, de­lib­er­ately, telling me that af­ter he be­came a fa­ther for the first time (his daugh­ter is Quincy), he took a sab­bat­i­cal from act­ing. By that stage, the Lon­doner had notched up an im­pres­sive act­ing CV on stage and screen, most no­tably as a bad guy in the 007 movie, Sky­fall. He says he doesn’t watch much TV and had never seen Love/Hate, the Dublin gang­ster drama from the same pro­duc­tion sta­ble as Taken Down. “This job is like a dream be­cause you re­ally don’t know if your next job is go­ing to be a pan­tomime or what­ever, so I think I have struck gold with Taken Down.” He was cast by di­rec­tor David (Caffo) Caffrey from a self-tape and im­mersed him­self in the part of the Nige­rian bad guy. “I re­mem­ber read­ing the orig­i­nal syn­op­sis which said that he wasn’t phys­i­cally im­pos­ing. So he’s dan­ger­ous but de­cep­tively so. It was kind of nice that he didn’t have to take over the room when he walked in with his pres­ence alone. His threat is a lot more cere­bral than sim­ply brute force. That’s a great op­por­tu­nity to flex my act­ing mus­cles and as an ac­tor you want to play as many colours of the spec­trum as pos­si­ble. So one minute this guy is be­ing com­pas­sion­ate, the next mo­ment he is sell­ing coke to East­ern Euro­peans and then he’s talk­ing about his wife and fam­ily. So the char­ac­ter has all these lay­ers: a bit like Iago. In other words he’s a proper dick­head.”

Frost, who is of Ghana­ian an­ces­try, was born in Bal­ham in south Lon­don. “I was adopted at the age of seven and lived in Som­er­set, so that gave me a taste for the coun­try af­ter liv­ing those early years in Lon­don,” he says. “Later I would go back to Lon­don to study (Guild­ford School of Act­ing), but I couldn’t wait to get out. So I spent the years pay­ing my dues be­fore go­ing back to live in the coun­try­side.” Af­ter early years on stage, he notched up bit parts in small-screen dra­mas like Holby City, Rome and The Bill be­fore bag­ging small parts in big movies like Sky­fall and Guardians of the Gal­axy. Taken Down is his first time work­ing in Ire­land. “I’m a bit of a coun­try boy at heart,” he says. “So if I knew where to go, I’d be up in the moun­tains look­ing down on Dublin or else down by the coast.”

“As for his de­ci­sion to take time away from act­ing when Quincy was born, Enoch ex­plains. “I knew that I would be able to do act­ing into my 80s, if I live that long, but my daugh­ter is a one-o as I won’t be hav­ing any more chil­dren. So I wanted to get as much time with my child as pos­si­ble.” How was it to go back to work and leave Quincy? “ e only thing that made it doable was that she was more than ready for me not to be part of her daily life. It’s the lit­tle things like when you leave a child and they don’t look back, you know then. She’s now two years and eight months and I al­ways said to her mother that when she is trained and can wipe her own ass I’m o to work. So when that hap­pened, her mother was like, ‘Now she’s trained so what’s your ex­cuse?’

With his West African roots and his early years in Lon­don be­fore be­ing adopted, the Di­rect Pro­vi­sion nar­ra­tive of Taken Down has a res­o­nance for Frost. “We drama­tise it but I don’t think what we are do­ing is that far from the truth,” he says. “It’s timely and ac­cu­rate and shock­ing and by beam­ing it into liv­ing-rooms, hope­fully, peo­ple will sit up and take no­tice. I think that noth­ing else has come close to broach­ing this is­sue in Ir­ish TV drama, so I feel that I’ve won the lot­tery in get­ting the role. ere’s a so­cial mes­sage, there’s loads of ac­tion for me as an ac­tor and I usu­ally don’t get to act so much with women, as I’m usu­ally cast as mer­ce­nar­ies or gang­sters.”

For his role in Sky­fall, Frost trained with ex-SAS op­er­a­tives. Taken Down’s Ben­jamin was more straight­for­ward. “I guess my re­search was life,” he says. “I spent a lot of time in Ghana over the past decade re­trac­ing my fam­ily. at helped me mas­sively with the ac­cent be­cause ob­vi­ously I don’t sound a bit like Ben­jamin. So I only spoke as Ben­jamin on the au­di­tion tape and when I did even­tu­ally meet the di­rec­tor he was quite shocked as he thought I was ac­tu­ally Nige­rian. For me, the main as­pect of this role is his ac­cent. Spend­ing time in Ghana ev­ery year for ten years meant that I’ve been able to dial in the West African ac­cent for years. As far as the rest of Ben­jamin’s lifestyle, let’s just say that I have led a colour­ful ex­is­tence so there are quite a few things I can use in play­ing this char­ac­ter.”

ere is one dis­turb­ing scene in Taken Down, in which Ben­jamin threat­ens a young girl with voodoo and vi­o­lence, that had an im­pact on him. “ ere is this grey area in act­ing be­tween real life and you cre­at­ing this fan­tasy,” he says. “ at girl was so young and I was so aware that when you’re that young you can be trau­ma­tised by things that as an adult might be no big deal. Maybe years down the line, she might be think­ing I made her cry by be­ing so hor­ri­ble to her. I just hope she can tell the di er­ence be­tween the drama and the re­al­ity. Maybe that’s fa­ther­hood com­ing through in me as well, as I can’t imag­ine some­one do­ing such a thing to Quincy.”

Yet Frost loves what he does and makes no bones about it. “I love watch­ing my­self,” he says with a wry smile. “Yeah, be­cause you get to see what works and what doesn’t. I love dis­sect­ing and analysing what I have done and have no is­sues with that no­tion of van­ity and what’s weird with watch­ing your­self on screen? How else do you get to hone your­self? So I love it. And yes, I have al­ways played dodgy bad guys so I’m like prop­erly typecast (laughs). Oc­ca­sion­ally I get a lit­tle snip­pet of play­ing some­one who has a univer­sity de­gree and I did play a priest in Vera. And it wasn’t a bad priest, it was a good priest. In e Miss­ing, I was a doc­tor but all those parts were small ones, so maybe some­day I will play the good guy with more than a few lines.”

You re­ally don’t know if your next job is go­ing to be a pan­tomime or what­ever, so I think I have struck gold with Taken Down

Enoch with Reomy D Mpeho (Toby) in Taken Down

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