To mark the premiere of the second season of Netflix TOP BOY series (not forgetting the legendary Summerhouse seasons from Channel 4 days) and our involvement in the show - styling and dressing many of the characters, we felt it was time to shine the light on KING affiliate and main star Ashley Walters (Dushane) to explore everything Top Boy, acting, directing, music and a whole lot more.
Our involvement in Top Boy came about through campaigns and work we had done with Ashley before talk of the new show had even begun. When the show got the green light back in 2018 we came together to put the plan in place on how KING would play a pivotal role in adding authenticity and a realism to the wardrobe and the outfits being worn.
With ‘Dris’ played by Shone Romulus (read the interview here) being the main KING protagonist in season one, through Ashley we have continued the Top Boy project into the new season - but there is a whole lot more we have worked on besides, as well other work and directions that Ashley has followed.
In between the Top Boy seasons, Ashley embarked on his directorial debut in the short film ‘Boys’ which premiered last year on SKY. A project that we contributed to and one that affirmed Ashley’s talent behind the camera as well as in front. A journey of two friends into manhood, this was a story in which Ashley was determined to demonstrate that young men need to be guided in life and that you should never judge a book by its cover.
“The main aim of the short film BOYS was to show that family comes first. There is a representation in the media, especially in the age groups of 15 and 16-year old kids, that they’re out there robbing, stealing and stabbing. That’s not the reality of the world that I see and it can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we gave them the opportunity to just be boys, then they would just be boys - they shouldn’t be reprimand for that and I wanted to show that in the movie. Their exterior may be hard but deep down, they’re just kids trying to find their way, they’re going to make mistakes and we have to guide them - they need a little bit of time.”
A major success, this went hand in hand with even more accolades for ‘Bulletproof’ on Sky One. A buddy-cop action comedy that debuted with a record audience for its first episode and three successful series thereafter. Unfortunately the scandal around co-actor ‘Noel Clarke’ put paid to the series continuation, yet Ashley continued to move in an upward trajectory.
Ashley’s Kingdom School Of Arts continued to expand. A drama school established by Ashley and award-winning film producer, Nagajan Modhwadia, classes are consistently sold out with Ashley involved personally in delivering actor training and opportunities to help prepare the students and bridge the gap between training and the industry - an invaluable resource for anyone serious about acting.
With toes dipped into both sides of the industry, 2021 also saw Ashley spread his directing wings on the fifth season of Channel 4 drama - Ackley Bridge. With 10 new episodes for 2022, Ashley relocated to Halifax in Yorkshire for several months, with five of the ten episodes under his directorial control, all the while finishing off the highly anticipated Top Boy season two.
As he puts it “the anticipation for Top Boy is crazy. People love it because it was that small show that had that realism and authenticity. We want to make sure we maintain that.” A value borne out when on an early episode the crew prepared a squat ’trap house’ set, and when Ashley and Kane Robinson (Sully) turned up for filming, everything was neat and tidy and in place. The two actors refused to film until an air of realism was introduced to the set with things turned upside down, litter, temporary bedding etc. - exactly how it would have been in real life.
These kind of values are imperative to Ashley and the show in general. “What i’m proudest of is that Top Boy is creating careers for people who wouldn’t otherwise have had that opportunity. You get to see new actors coming into the show and watch the flourish. That’s always been important to us.”
This line between real life and art however can be very narrow, especially on a show like this. “When shooting we’re at locations where in real life this stuff goes down. We were filming on an estate where the local guys that were dealing couldn’t deal because we were shooting - so they were asking for money etc.” An incredible amount of research and understanding the life they portray goes into the show, as Shone Romulus explained in his interview with KING which you can read here.
And what of Dushane and playing a character that is continually plotting a way out of street life but finding himself sucked back in?
“In season two Dushane grows as a character. He wants more and is trying to find a route out of his current lifestyle without losing all the benefits from it. He’s also a character that needs to finish what he starts and it’s a trait that i share with him. Work ethic is such a huge part of my success and Dushane never gives up and neither do I.”
“The most important thing is that i get the character right. I ask myself ‘will the real Dushane’s of this world believe this? If i can achieve that then the rest will follow.”
The 18th March will once again see Ashley’s career propelled to another level as the show launches in one hit across Netflix globally, and not one to sit idle he also has new music dropping as of 17th March with his new single SURGEON exclusive with DJ Target on 1Xtra - which you can stream here.
Keep your eyes peeled on the show and look out for all the KING cameos and also check out our other actor/character showcases with Joshua Blissett (Kieron) and Nyshai Caynes (Romy). All of the items featured in Top Boy as well as a whole lot more can be purchased on our special Top Boy section right here.