Do you have an insight into why the harfoots have Irish accents?
The Elven people were very much Shakespearean RP, posh kind of people. But they wanted everybody else to feel like they’re part of a community. They could have made them Jamaican or they could have made them Scottish or Northern. But they wanted an identifiably Celtic-rooted dialect for the harfoots. [The harfoots] are a nomadic, very earthy, hard-handed, hard-working people. My dad came to this country and worked with Irish people, and they worked with a lot of Jamaicans and there was a real sense of we’re all in this together. And I think [that’s the case] with the harfoots. We care about each other. We protect each other.
You’ve got roles in three gigantic fantasy TV franchises (Rings of Power, The Sandman and Witcher: Blood Origins). Does this feel like a game-changing moment in your career?
I’m very grateful. It’s such an extraordinary experience and to be involved in The Witcher franchise and Doctor Who and work with Russell T. Davies on [Henry’s upcoming self-penned series] Three Little Birds. This is a moment, and I’m very, very grateful to the gods for allowing me to participate. I’m 60-whatever-it-is and I’m loving it. I’ve never had this before.
Have you thought about the impact that being the only Black person in the room throughout the early days of your career had on you?
Well, it just made me think about it a lot. Whenever you walk into a room, and you’re the only black person or the only woman or the only gay person or the only person that has a disability or the only working-class person, you really have an introspective moment of ‘Okay, I’m here again’. It’s just me, right? So you feel like you have to defend yourself, you have to kind of stand up for what you believe in and where you’re from. So you spend a lot of time putting forward your point of view, or interpreting your point of view for people who don’t know what you’re talking about. And what’s great about the last five years, is that people are slowly beginning to understand what we’ve been going on about it for the last 20.
Turning attention to the British comedy scene at the moment. Do you pay any attention to the furore around controversial comedians like Ricky Gervais’ stand-up specials?
I love comedy. I’m a huge Richard Pryor fan. I’ve done the rodeo of a person that I admire saying transgressive things. Comedy is about pushing boundaries, you know, and I think that some people are very comfortable with where they’re at. And if anything pushes them out of their comfort zone, whether it’s a joke about your wife, or a joke about your friend, or a joke about your gender. It’s okay to feel a way about it.
Charlie Williams once said to me, ‘You’re not everybody’s cup of tea lad’. I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. And so does Jerry Sadowitz and so does Ricky Gervais. Everybody has a point of view. And what’s great about the freedom of speech in the free world, is that, theoretically, as long as you show some taste and are good at self-editing, you pretty much are allowed to say what you like. And you know you’ve overstepped the mark when there’s an uproar, because an uproar only comes when you’ve gone past that boundary. But how do you test boundaries? You go past them.