The Habits of Successful Men: Kadiff Kirwan, actor
Author: Nick Carvell
Chewing Gum. Black Mirror. Fleabag. I May Destroy You. Since arriving on small screens with his first role in Call The Midwife in 2015, actor Kadiff Kirwan has been a part of some of the most talked-about TV of the past five years. “My agents have pretty good taste!” he says when I ask him how he got so good at picking his roles. "They’ve formed excellent relationships within the industry so they get great scripts through - so when a brilliant one lands in your lap, it’s often pretty clear. Shows like Chewing Gum and Fleabag come along once in a lifetime. I constantly pinch myself that I got to be a part of them.”
Having relocated from the Caribbean to the UK with his family aged after a volcanic eruption on his then-home island of Montserrat, Kadiff grew up in Preston, Lancashire before moving to London to study at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Since then, he not only achieved that impressive list of TV credits, but also prominent roles in productions at the Old Vic, Donmar Warehouse and National Theatre, as well as starring in his first feature film, Mary Queen of Scots (2018), alongside Saoirse Roana and Margot Robbie. Having helmed his first Netflix series, crime thriller The Stranger, last year, you’ll be seeing him next on BBC prison drama Time - which, judging by his previous choices, is set to be kick-starting all our (virtual) water-cooler conversations in 2021.
We caught up with Kadiff in between takes to talk about his success, the stories he’d love to see told on stage and screen soon, and his frankly spectacular skincare regime.
Follow Kadiff on Instagram @kadiffkirwan
Where did you grow up?
A tiny Caribbean Island called Montserrat, then my family relocated to Preston in Lancashire when I was 9.
Who were your big influences as a kid?
Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence reigned supreme in my household growing up. Also Destiny's child and B2K deserve an honourable mention.
What was your definition of success when you were a child?
Having a bomber jacket and a new pair of Timberland boots.
What was your first acting role?
The cowardly lion in my primary school production of The Wizard of Oz.
You played basketball when you were younger. When did you decide to pursue acting over sport?
Sport was never a thing I wanted to pursue was just something I happened to be good at. Acting was the thing I could not stop thinking about – it stayed in my brain from that first moment of audience applause.
Who have you met through your career that you don't think you'd have met if you'd done something different?
Most of the people I count as my closest friends I met whilst training at drama school. Had I not gone to drama school I wouldn’t have met them and I wouldn’t be an actor today, so for that I am extremely thankful.
What's a great piece of advice you've been given about your career?
“Save your money and pay your taxes” - Mark Gatiss
If you could reboot any film/TV series or re-stage any play, which character would you love to portray?
Oh, that’s such a good question. I’d probably say something like a remake of Sugar Rush. I was obsessed with that show as a teenager. Also a remake of Big Momma’s House – with me as the house.
Whose story hasn't been told yet that you think should be told on stage/screen?
There are so many brilliant black and queer stories that have yet to be told. I’d love more opportunities for marginalised voices in the mainstream. It’s getting better but we can’t afford to continue at a glacial pace. We need progress and we need it quick.
When it comes to your grooming regime, is there something you practise on a daily basis that you'd recommend to others?
I’m crazy about skincare. I have a whole night time routine that takes about 10-15 minutes. Most men think a bit of soap and water on the face will do, but I say continue doing that if you’re willing to age like a prune. A serum, a cleanser, a skin scrub, a day and night time moisturiser and a cheeky face mask a few times a week will have you ageing like Benjamin Button.
What is the definition of success to you?
Wonderful friends and family, and buckets of laughter. Also a few bob in the bank wouldn’t go amiss. Oh, and USB ports in every room.
What will we be seeing you in next?
I recently shot a new BBC prison drama called TIME alongside Stephen Graham, Sean Bean and Siobhan Finneran. That’ll be out at some point this year. I’m currently filming the second series of This Way Up for Channel 4 with Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan.
Do you have any habits as a part of your morning routine that help you get ready for the day ahead?
I wish. Every morning is a struggle!
What’s one habit that helps you relax in the evening?
Wine, a face mask, and a decent book.
What’s a habit you can’t give up?
Buying fresh flowers for my house weekly.
What’s a habit you’re proud to have given up?
Facebook. I’m 11 years free of that.
What habit would you like to cultivate?
Bursting into French at any given opportunity. I’ve just gotta learn French first.