When FX’s Snowfall premiered last week, co-creator John Singleton gave us a new show to add to our must-watch list and a new leading man named Damson Idris. The 25-year-old newcomer plays Franklin Saint, a teenage weed dealer eyeing the potential of crack cocaine as it begins hitting South Central L.A. in 1980s. In the ten episode series, Idris and his streetwise character match up in swagger and ambition but that’s where their similarities end.
1. He’s from South London, not South Central.
“I’m from Peckham, which is the South Central of London. Peckham, postcode SE15, it’s where I was born, and it’s a special place,” he shared. “At 12, we moved to Elephant Castle. It’s still the same, but they have all these new builds and fantastic buildings coming up. There’s a Pret a Manger and a Starbucks everywhere. You can’t really be a gangster. It’s a nice area to me because I feel a sense of community there, and everyone knows me. I don’t really see the crime there. It’s always smiles and congratulations, but underneath it, there are people who are on benefits, living in council houses, going through hard times right next door to me.”
2. He never wanted to be an actor.
“Growing up, I wanted to play football, and then I had a knee injury,” the actor admits. “And when I say football, I mean soccer. [laughs] After my knee injury, I went to University, and there someone said, ‘Oh you’re good at acting!’ And that’s how that cliché story goes, but I like to say it found me, so I want my roles to find me too.”
3. Although he nailed several auditions, Idris still had to win over Snowfall co-creator John Singleton.
“[My character Franklin Saint] is a really authentic character,” Idris says. “So they told me, ‘You know, [with John Singleton being from] South Central, and he’s not really sold on the British thing, so you just need to please him. We already like you. I was like, ‘Okay. What do I have to do?’ So I auditioned again, but John wasn’t there. So I went back to London, came back to L.A., and they were like, ‘We want you to spend a day with John in South Central but just stay in an American accent.’ I was like, “Okkkkaaaay.”
Finally with Singleton, he made sure to put his best foot forward.
“I’m with John Singleton in South Central L.A., where everyone is just being them[selves], but I’m doing a bit of acting to put on. And I remember, we walked to this park near his office. We were talking about Tupac and Boyz n the Hood and everything. And we became close. Just hanging with him was good enough. I didn’t even care if I didn’t get the role anymore.”
Adding, “The next day I auditioned again, I did a screen test. And then I went back to my hotel on Wilshire Boulevard. I was in the pool, the shallow section because I can’t swim. He called me then, ‘Can you hear me?’ I was like, Yeah, yeah. ‘Can you hear me?’ I can hear you! Wassup? ‘You got the part, man.’ And I immediately started drowning!”
4. Snowfall was clearly meant for him.
The role about a drug dealer in the ’80s may seem off for Idris, but he’s actually convincing in the role. “In 2015, when we did the pilot, the story wasn’t what we wanted it to be, so we recast everyone except for me. [But when I shooting the pilot,] it was best time. During one of the times I came into L.A., John Singleton introduced me to YG. And I was in accent because it was the day we auditioned. So I said, ‘Aw man, YG, I’m a big fan man! Aw, you came over to London right? You came over to the Wireless festival?!’ He replied, ‘Yeah’ to which I responded, ‘You coming again? I’m from London!’ To which he replied, ‘London? Nah man, you sound like you from the skid [row].’
5. The meaning behind his name, wait for it…
“Well, Damson … I think my mom wanted a girl and she was like, ‘Dam, I’ve got a son.’ [laughs] I have no idea where that name came from. It’s funny, a lot of people don’t know that my name was originally Adamson, and my mum changed it as soon as I was born. Adamson means, Father of all nations, and I was like I would like to be a father of all nations! But I grew up with my whole family kept calling me Damson, so it was just changed. And then Idris, I don’t know what it means but it has Muslim origins because cause my mum and dad are Muslim.”
6. He’s in a WhatsApp group with Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya and other young Black Brits breaking into Hollywood.
“We’re bringing the army! Malachi Kirby and I, we have the same agent, but we trained together. We’re from the same kind of background. He’s a leader to all of us. He’s been rapping in London for so long. Ashley Thomas because he’s too good at acting to just be called Bashy. But yeah, that’s his … he’s got amazing, amazing songs. He’s a great musician also. You’re gonna know about Tosin Cole. he a handsome, handsome lad. Nigerian boy, close friend of mine. He’s actually in Burning Sands. There’s loads of double threats, triple threats. I’m a single threat. Gotta be a strong threat.