Melan Magazine interviews actor Shaun Parkes about his portrayal of Britain’s historic ‘Godfather of Black Radicalism’ Frank Crichlow in Steve McQueen’s Mangrove.
Actor Shaun Parkes stars as Frank Crichlow, the legendary community activist and civil rights campaigner in Oscar-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen’s Mangrove, the first of the five feature-length films in McQueen’s Small Axe miniseries, which focuses on the stories of West Indian immigrants in London during the 1960s and 1970s.
“We’ve come so far. Have we got so far to go? Maybe, yeah. Of course, we do.”
The film portrays the story of The Mangrove Nine, a group of British black activists who led a march of 150 people against unjust police treatment in August 1970, which culminated in a highly publicised trial in which they were tried for inciting a riot. Ultimately being acquitted, the trial of The Mangrove Nine was a landmark ruling against systemic racism within the Metropolitan Police and was the first judicial acknowledgement of behaviour motivated by racial hatred by the Police in British history.
Along with the film itself, Shaun Parkes’ performance in the film attracted rave reviews, with film critic Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com, stating, “The heart of ’Mangrove’ beats in Shaun Parkes’ performance. As a man, older than his activist cohorts, he carries the weight of extra years of battle fatigue’, adding that ‘Parkes’ performance is harrowing and heart-breaking’.
In an exclusive interview with Melan, Shaun Parkes opens up about his standout role and much more.
Here are some highlights from the interview:
On working with an all-Black cast…
“There’s an element of ‘you know’. You know what certain looks are, you know what the feeling is. You know when someone is giving you respect, and you know when someone isn’t. The long and the short of it is, when you work with someone that you know – let’s say, on a DNA level – there’s a lot of stuff that’s unsaid. And that’s not just from a Black British point-of-view, that’s everybody – everybody understands their own. What I’m saying is very obvious, but that said, in this country I don’t think we’ve had much of a chance to explore that publicly”.
On progress made towards racial equality in the 50 years since the trial of The Mangrove Nine…
“Things have changed. There were no British Black people affecting people on a worldwide level. I don’t remember that when I was growing up”. He expanded by saying, “We’ve come so far. Have we got so far to go? Maybe, yeah. Of course, we do.”
On the importance of portraying British immigrant stories like ‘Mangrove’ on-screen…
“I think it’s important for many, many reasons to show these types of stories in mainstream media. I think, more often than not, you know, understanding can be a route to love, in a way. It can be an avenue. It’s not the only avenue. What does that mean? Well, once we understand each other, when we see each other, we see each other from that angle of ‘I know what that is’, or ‘even though I don’t know what that is, I’m not afraid of it, it doesn’t put me off’. So, I think the more that we see stuff, the more that we see things that we’re not really used to, the more we come to an understanding. And if knowledge is power, then, the more we know about ourselves, the better. The more we know about each other, the better. Because then maybe we can elevate and move onto the next level of existence. And I know that may seem a bit ‘Neo’ in ‘Matrix’ or something – but, more often than not in a relationship, when you overcome certain truths, you can be stronger than ever when you come through the hard times – when you’ve looked at each other with resentment and fear, and then as time’s gone on you start to look at each other with understanding and empathy, you find that then thoughts can be elevated – you think on another level. The brainpower that was used for fear can now be used for love.
Watch the full interview with Shaun Parkes below
Mangrove is part of the Small Axe miniseries, now available to stream on BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video.