This year, Jerry Iwu was seen as his first regular on-screen character, playing DS Felix Livingstone in the BritBox Original series Sister Boniface Mysteries, for which he worked alongside a cast including Lorna Watson (Sister Boniface), Max Brown (DI Sam Gillespie) and Ami Metcalf (WPC Peggy Button), with a Series 2 announced for a future release. In 2021, Jerry played Oba in an episode of Sex Education on Netflix, working with Ncuti Gatwa and Doreene Blackstock, and he previously filmed episodes of Innocent and Intruder, as well as working on the 2017 feature film Halal Daddy as Neville. Jerry trained at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama and graduated during the pandemic, and with his love of making music and writing poetry/rap, he goes under the name of Blacklily. Recently chatting with us, Jerry talks about playing DS Felix Livingstone in Sister Boniface Mysteries, filming an episode of Sex Education and his training at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.
Can you tell us about your character DS Felix Livingstone in Sister Boniface Mysteries and what is he like to play?
Yes, so the show is set in the 1960s. Felix is a Bermudian police officer, who is meant to be on secondment at the The Metropolitan Police in Scotland Yard. Due to a mix up, he finds himself in Great Slaughter.
Felix is funny, he’s very straight edge, everything must be done by the rules, followed to the last letter. In Great Slaughter, procedure is the last thing on people’s minds so seeing those two worlds coming together is funny. He’s equally an outsider coming from Bermuda and having to adjust to English culture. I’m Nigerian and I grew up in Ireland, now living in London. Being an outsider is something I can wholeheartedly relate to.
Won’t lie, playing Felix is making me a little more organised/tidy in my own life!
What is it like having Felix as your first regular on-screen character and do you remember how you felt finding out you’d booked the role?
I was ecstatic and a little scared because of the magnitude of the role. Felix has a special place in my heart. He’s so far removed from myself but that gives way for more respect for him because of our differences.
How do you find the experience being on set of the show and what’s it like working with the rest of the cast?
Beautiful, utterly beautiful. Most times when we have guest artists coming to the show. The thing that’s said without fail is how nice of an environment it is to work in. I’ve had the privilege to be part of it for two years and I can’t agree with it more. Lorna (Watson), Max (Brown) and Ami (Metcalf) have become a family away from home to me, not only them, but every member of the crew brings a special energy, charisma, joy and love to their job that each day is a delight to work on.
How has it been seeing the viewers’ response to the series and having it renewed for a Series 2?
It’s a metaphorical “pat on the back”. I think we all felt as though we were onto something but it’s hard to tell at times. You’re in a cocoon when you’re filming and we’d only see some little clips here and there so we didn’t know what “fully” to expect, but once it was released we were commissioned for a second series. It’s like all the hard work pays off and best of all, we get to go again.
Why would you recommend watching Sister Boniface Mysteries and who do you think the series will appeal to?
I find that the show is a great mix of everything. It has a thriller element to keep folks on their toes, it’s not excessively gory but there are some gruesome moments. Generally, at the heart of the show, it’s about the community and the assortment of characters we find there. We love seeking what challenges and comical situations they find themselves in each episode. It has a very heart-warming family element to it too so I would say again, anyone really.
Last year, you played Oba in an episode of Sex Education for Netflix, what was the show like to be part of?
It was an experience, Runyararo (Mapfumo), the director, was incredible and working alongside Ncuti (Gatwa) and Doreene (Blackstock) was so special.
The whole experience had a buzz to it, you couldn’t describe it but there was definitely something electric in the air.
How much did you know about Sex Education before auditioning and can you tell us about your episode and character?
I love the show, I watched the first two seasons in awe, so when I got the audition for it, I literally said to my friend Eleanor at the time, “I’m getting this”. Manifestation is a powerful thing.
The episode saw Eric (played by Ncuti Gatwa) go home to Nigeria for a wedding ceremony. Eric’s gay but his family in Nigeria don’t know. He’s warned of the danger of being gay or of publicly being part of the LGBTIQA communities. He then meets Oba, a photographer, at the wedding, who is also queer. He takes him to an underground location with other members of the queer community in Nigeria. Revoking the previous fears Eric had. Not only do they exist, they thrive.
All I can say is being part of this episode is one of the most important/soulfully rewarding things I’ve been in.
How was it filming for episodes of Innocent and Intruder?
It was incredible, the cast and crew were so nice and thoughtful, checking in and making sure you were all settled and working together to bring the best out of the scenes.
Early in your career, you played Neville in the 2017 feature film Halal Daddy, what are some of your favourite memories from your time filming this project?
Being in the water and learning to surf, I nearly died.
You started training at the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in 2017, how was your time there and what was it like graduating during the pandemic?
Drama school was a very impactful time in my life/mental cycle. It decoded a lot of the preconceived notions I had about myself, acting, art and humanity. A lot of these things still ring true in my ear as I live my daily life outside of drama school and I’m aware it’ll probably be the same years down the line. It’s hard to quantify my experience at Central but know it was some of the toughest but best times of my life.
COVID was shocking and I think for all 2020 grads it was an unfortunate time to be leaving university, but the world pooled together and a lot of people showed ample amount of love and support.
How did you get into acting and is it something you always wanted to do?
No, it wasn’t at all, I didn’t have any inclinations towards it at first. I joined a dance group when I was 14. Where we rehearsed our dance routines was the same space where Kildare Youth Theatre held workshops. Peter Hussey, artistic director of Crooked House Theatre Company, invited me to one of the workshops and I fell in love with it.
Do you have any favourite films and TV shows to watch?
Oooohh tough question, I’d have to say: Peaky Blinders, Fight Club, Eternal Sunshine (kills me every time I watch it!), Shoplifters… (too sad but beautiful)…
How do you like to spend your time away from acting?
I love making music, I write poetry/rap. My artist name is Blacklily.
What are you hoping the upcoming year brings for your career?
More work, lol. Nah jokes aside, I’d like more opportunities to play diverse, more contemporary stories.
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