The Mercury Prize-winning grime artist born Joseph Olaitan Adenuga Jr, who rose to fame with singles including “Shutdown” and “That’s Not Me”, is making his debut as a director, actor and producer with Tribal Mark.
The short film follows a Nigerian immigrant, Mark (played by Skepta), who struggles to fit in after moving to London as a child, until he finds work as a hitman after a stint in prison.
Skepta – who was born to Nigerian parents and raised in Tottenham, north London – told the BBC that the story was about the “dissociation of an immigrant living in the UK”, which is something he was able to relate to.
He described Tribal Mark as “an anti-hero character similar to James Bond… but more complex”, and compared the project to director Todd Phillips’ 2019 villain origin story, Joker.
Addressing the ongoing speculation that a Black actor could take on Ian Fleming’s character, with Luther star Idris Elba emerging as one of the favourites, Skepta appeared to suggest it was better to create new characters instead.
“It wouldn’t make sense if loads of white actors kept asking to play Black Panther, because he is Black,” Skepta said.
Daniel Craig stepped down from the role after the most recent Bond outing, No Time to Die, and a new actor has yet to be cast.
Elba recently told the SmartLess podcast that he was put off the role due to the racist backlash he received in response to the casting rumours, branding “the whole thing disgusting”.
While describing the offer to play the role as “the pinnacle”, he said he would never have accepted the opportunity as it “became about race”.
“Those that weren’t happy about the idea made the whole thing disgusting and off-putting, because it became about race,” he said, adding: “It became about nonsense and I got the brunt of it.”
Elba previously said of the rumours: “You know, a lot of people talk about another character that begins with ‘J’ and ends with ‘B,’ but I’m not going to be that guy. I’m going to be John Luther. That’s who I am.”
Other actors rumoured to be in contention to play 007 include Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Tom Hardy, Regé-Jean Page, and Richard Madden.
Tribal Mark is released in cinemas from 26 January.