Idris Elba Led His Young Cast “By Example” on ‘Beasts of No Nation’ Set
Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation was just nominated for two SAG Awards today: Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for its star, Idris Elba.
In the film, Elba stars as Commandant and by his side is a young orphaned boy named Agu, who’s played by first-timer, Abraham Attah. The both of them sat down with the LA Times to talk about working together and how Elba helped Attah and the other young actors in their first acting roles.
Attah started out by telling his tale of how he landed the role, “People are saying I was a street child before I was cast, but I was not a street child. I was in school on Friday, and a white man came to ask, ‘We need boys for a movie.’ So he told us to come for an audition, and I was chosen. When the white man came, he didn’t explain to us that it was a movie. We thought it was a football team, so I wanted to join before I had an idea that it was for a movie.”
With that, the former Luther star revealed how he managed to work with the younger, first timers. “When you say, ‘Lead by example,’ that really worked in this scenario. It was a small budget and we didn’t have much time, we had a lot to shoot, so my approach working with the kids was just to be a pro. Working with Abraham, I didn’t change anything. In my eyes, he was a professional coming to do this job. There were times when we’d just talk and chat, and that was sort of connective tissue because we have such a big relationship in the film, but we’re not actually in that many scenes.”
While he didn’t treat the newcomers any differently than when he’s on the set of other films, he also didn’t take up a lot of time talking about his craft. “We didn’t talk about acting at all, really. From my perspective, Abraham came in having learned lines and read stories, but what he offered the most was his gut. The lines went out the window. The scene when I first met [his character] Agu, I nearly cried because I’m looking at a boy that’s lost in a jungle and is crying his eyes out. There was no acting there. I think that’s what Abraham is amazing at. He doesn’t even know it, perhaps, but he’s got an instinct that is right in there. It was really a joy to watch. You’re watching an actor that is fearless and is trusting his gut. It was great.”