Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù’s year in TV: ‘I watched a few bad things where the women are just victims’

The RSC actor on his lockdown hit Gangs of London, his love of football, and his dislike of isms, schisms and phobias

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, 31, trained with the RSC and the National Youth Theatre Rep company. He has appeared in series including Black Mirror, Utopia and His Dark Materials, and had a lead role in Sky Atlantic’s crime drama Gangs of London, which returns later this year.

We last saw you in Gangs of London, which was a big word-of-mouth hit during lockdown
It was – we had a lot of love on social media, and I got a lot of phone calls. I’m excited for the response to the next series – there are some physical sequences I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to.

Who would play you in the TV show of your life?
The person has not yet been born [laughs]. I have so many fantastic adventures to come that anyone alive would be too old to play me by the time the show is ready to come out. When I’m done with my adventures at 85, you can find a 30-year-old to play me.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and another actor having a very physical fight in Gangs of London
Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù in Gangs of London: ‘I’m excited for the response to the next series.’ Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing your job?
I was interested in mechanical engineering when I was younger, because I wanted to build my own Iron Man costume. So maybe I’d be doing that, or I’d be a geneticist trying to turn myself into Spider-Man.

What makes you happy?
Football. It sounds so cliched, a guy that likes football. But I really do find fulfilment in playing it and getting better at it. Who do I support? Arsenal … so my character has been developed by the disappointments of the last 18 years. I think it’s a great allegory for life – things aren’t always going to go the way you want them to.

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The TV show you can’t wait to watch in 2022?
The Lazarus Project with Paapa Essiedu [Sky Max/Now] is going to be excellent – it feels like a grounded take on Edge of Tomorrow, with a bit of Groundhog Day, but I’m sure there’s going to be much more to it than what we’ve seen in the trailers, too.

What makes you reach for the remote (to turn the TV off)?
Isms, schisms and something-phobia, whether that’s transphobia, homophobia or anything like that. Also just bad content; I’ve watched a few things recently where the female characters are really underdeveloped or made out to be victims.

Your TV guilty pleasure
South Park. It reminds me of being at university with my housemates, when we were young and carefree.

Series one of Gangs of London is available on Sky Atlantic/Now; series two airs later in the year. For more information about the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards, visit bafta.org


Hannah J Davies

The GuardianTramp

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