Friday, 23 March 2018

HIS TIME NOW: Sprinter star Kadeem Wilson steps up to leading-man status

STAR FROM BIRTH: "I live, breathe and walk being an artist," says Wilson.

THERE he is playing a peddler of female underwear. Another skit introduces him as a no-nonsense landlord jostling with a delinquent female tenant (played by Shanique Brown) for the rent. Yet another sketch has him giving live television commentary on West Indies cricket (opposite Chris McFarlane). Kadeem Wilson shines, playing a handful of vastly dissimilar characters in Dahlia Harris’ hit comedy revue Dat a Gwaan Jamaica Remix, proving that he can be a part of the ensemble without dimming his own wattage.

Wilson has been making a habit of stealing the spotlight, whether in stage productions or in one of those films appeared in – from Destiny to Home Again to Ghett’a Life. But we’ve seen him as the headliner. All that’s about to change.

The 27-year-old is the male lead in this summer’s well-anticipated big-screen feature Sprinter, the latest directorial effort from Storm Saulter, the man who brought us Better Mus’ Come. By all accounts, the film, set in the hypercompetitive world of athletics, is poised to reveal yet another dimension to Wilson’s talents as an actor fast-tracking in his career. Making the film was quite the learning process for him, he tells us.

“Looking back on the process, it was a challenge, but that was expected,” admits Wilson, who shot scenes for the movie last summer. The medium-built actor sports shoulder-length locks, and so he had some adjustments to make. “For most of my scenes I had to wear my hair in different styles to fit the particular moment the character was experiencing. I gave the hairstylist a lot of work,” he recalls, laughing.

As for the tougher stuff, like disappearing into the meaty role, he approached the work as something to challenge him in new and exciting ways. Wilson plays Jermaine, a super-talented athlete who has risen to become Jamaica’s national sprint record holder. He describes the young man as a conflicted soul. “He’s a good guy, but he has a dark side. He’s trying not to give in to the dark side, but it’s not that easy,” says Wilson, who was attached to the project for quite a few years when it was still in pre-development. “So the movie shows how he went from his humble beginnings to becoming a giant in [sprinting].”

But the movie dives deeper. “Without giving away too much,” Wilson notes, “the story also tackles some serious real-life issues, things that are going on in Jamaica right now. It looks at track-and-field, dancehall, the Rasta culture. So it really is an organic Jamaican story. And it really taps into our culture.”

He has nothing but high praises for his director. “Storm is the greatest director I’ve ever worked with. He knows what he wants to see on-screen,” the actor says fondly. “He’s very insightful, and it was a pleasure working with him.”

In case you haven’t heard, Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment is a producing partner on the project, whose cast is made up of talents hailing from the contemporary Jamaican showbiz scene (Sakina Deer, Rodney Campbell and Shantol Jackson, to name a few) and Black Hollywood (Lorraine Toussaint, David Alan Grier and Bryshere ‘Yazz’ Gray). So Wilson is in great company. 

Kadeem Wilson knows all about making the leap from nothing to something, from humble beginnings to evolving success. He came of age in and around the areas of Rollington Town and Bull Bay and also spent formative years in Dunkirk and Franklin Town. Alma maters Mona High and Excelsior helped prepare him for the big times, by nurturing his performing arts instincts.

Fast-forward a decade, and Wilson has not only been earning respect and making a name for himself in film and theatre but also in dance and the recording studio, taking on the musical alter ego, Kenzic, and laying down tracks for labels like Keerob Records and Rags-to-Riches Productions. In fact, he just released the video for “Lion Heart” and visuals for the singles ‘Star from Birth” and “Brand New” are on the way.

Even though “people are interested” in taking his music to the next level, acting remains his first love. “I’m pleased with what I’ve been able to accomplish so far. I’m about the work,” he says, sounding serious. “I like to play roles that will have an impact and working with people who are enthusiastic about doing the work.”

Fellow screen gem Shantol Jackson sees great things ahead for Wilson. “He’s a great young actor and he has a lot of experience in film and theatre, and I see a great future for him as a long as he stays professional and humble,” she says. “He can only go up from here.”

After Sprinter, Wilson (Who took home a Prime Minister’s Youth Award in 2014) has another full-length feature film to work on, but at present it’s shrouded in secrecy. “It’s at the germinal stage, so I can’t disclose any details,” he admits.

But he’s more certain and confident when it comes to what the future holds. “By the next 10 years I’d love to be on par with the elites of the craft. I’d love to see my music on all the major platforms and having my own space in the industry,” says the versatile performer, who occasionally exudes the swagger of a young Stephen Marley. “I live, breathe, and walk being an artist, so one day I hope to see my contributions to the arts and culture properly honoured.”

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