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Ted Lasso star Kola Bokinni on inspiring next generation of London acting talent

Ted Lasso star Kola Bokinni (Etsy)
Ted Lasso star Kola Bokinni (Etsy)

Ted Lasso star Kola Bokinni has said he’s happy to be a role model for young Londoners hoping to break into acting, confessing he was told to get “a proper job” many times before getting his big break.

Peckham-born Bokinni, 31, is perhaps best known for playing Isaac McAdoo, the captain of AFC Richmond, in the hugely popular Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso.

He has also starred in London-based drama Top Boy and an episode of Charlie Brooker’s acclaimed series Black Mirror.

Speaking to the Standard, the star said he would love to be seen as a role model for other young Londoners from non-performance backgrounds hoping to make a name for themselves in the arts.

He attributed his success to being “too stubborn to listen” to those who told him to pursue a more stable career.

He said: “When I started out acting, I was told many many times to get a proper job, and then I did and I was miserable.

"I was working at [fashion brand] Abercrombie and then I went back into acting and I found my spark again.

"If I can be an example to any kids growing up in areas like I did, and to be a poster boy to following your dreams then all be it. If it makes people be creative and think bigger, great. I will take that.”

Kola Bokinni (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)
Kola Bokinni (Ian West/PA) (PA Wire)

He continued: “I don’t think of myself that way, I think of myself as someone who had a dream and was too stubborn to listen.”

Ted Lasso - which also stars Jason Sudeikis, who wrote the comedy, and Hannah Waddingham - came to an end in May last year after three seasons.

Its first season was nominated for 20 Emmys, the most for a season debut of a show in history. It has also been nominated for Golden Globes and SAG Awards.

Bokinni said the show coming to an end was “surreal” - admitting it ending around the time of the SAG strikes had been a difficult time for him.

"The whole way through the third season - time runs away from you," he said. "Then afterwards you start press so it didn’t really hit too much until the SAG strikes.

"That is when the uncertainty crept in. We didn’t know when the strike was going to end. Although it was going to be good for us long term… in the short term I had gone from the comfort and the knowing I am in a show that everyone has received well to… I don't know what my next move is."

Cristo Fernández, Kola Bokinni, Toheeb Jimoh and Billy Harris in Ted Lasso (AppleTV+)
Cristo Fernández, Kola Bokinni, Toheeb Jimoh and Billy Harris in Ted Lasso (AppleTV+)

He continued: "But as an actor, it comes with the territory a bit. I am very grateful for what it [Ted Lasso] did for me and my career and wherever I go next, it will always be with me."

The actor is the face of a new campaign by online retailer Etsy encouraging men to celebrate "Ladentine's Day" by buying their male friends a gift to celebrate their friendship on February 12, two days before Valentine's Day.

Research by the brand found that over half (51 per cent) of men polled said they had never received a random gift from a male friend, with 35 per cent saying they’d feel touched if they did.

Bokinni said his Ted Lasso co-star Sudeikis once gifted him a coat after the cast made a trip to The White House to discuss mental health, a theme of the show.

"I was wearing this coat and Jason overheard me talking about it and saying I would never buy this coat as it was a ridiculous amount of money and I came back to my room and the coat was hanging in the wardrobe.

"And Jason bought it for me because he thought I looked nice in it. And that is the perfect example of how nice it is to receive a random gift."