All Stars - Theo Stevenson and Akai Osei-Mansfield interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
THEO Stevenson and Akai Osei-Mansfield talk about some of their experiences of making new British dance movie All Stars and why they feel flattered to have had so much of the film tailored around them.
They also discuss their careers to date, some of their influences and why they’re happy to balance school work with stardom.
Q. What was the appeal of All Stars for you both?
Theo Stevenson: For me, it was definitely the dancing. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do professionally. Also, the script was really good and the cast was great. It really appealed to me for many different reasons.
Q. And Akai?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: For me, it was the acting part of it. In my previous films [Streetdance 2, Horrid Henry] I’ve mostly been dancing. So, to have something that took me out of my comfort zone really appealed to me.
Q. How did you relate to your characters on a personal level?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: Well, Jaden is a very shy kid. His parents are not very supportive of him and his dancing. But he’s also a very lovable character. It was quite hard to get into the character of Jaden at first. But as we went on it got easier.
Q. Have your parents been supportive?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: My parents have been very supportive since the very beginning… since I was a small little kid. They’ve been supportive all the way, which I’m very grateful for.
Q. And Theo, how did you relate to Ethan?
Theo Stevenson: Ethan is quite an outgoing individual. But as the film unfolds, you find out that he’s just a normal kid trying to fit in like everyone else. There’s a lot going on in his head. So, as you find out more about his home life, you find out that he has got a lot of heart and is going through a tough time at home because his parents are getting divorced. I couldn’t relate to that because I’ve had a stable upbringing, which I’m thankful for, but I’ve seen enough of that kind of thing to understand what kind of effect it can have.
Q. Theo, you mentioned always wanting to dance. How come?
Theo Stevenson: Well, I’m not a dancer but it’s something I’ve always admired and loved watching and doing occasionally. I thought it was something that I could really get my teeth into. So, having the support of Akai and a great crew on this film really spurred me on to finally do it.
Q. And Akai, same question really. What was it about dance that first inspired you?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: I was really inspired by the movie You Got Served. I always wanted to be exactly like all of the characters in that film. There was something about them that appealed to me since I was seven. And the freedom of dancing gave me a way to express myself in a way I wasn’t able to before.
Q. How helpful was it to be friends going into the film, especially in Akai’s case when it came to having someone to turn to for acting tips whenever you needed them? You first met on Horrid Henry, didn’t you?
Theo Stevenson: We did.
Akai Osei-Mansfield: It was great to have Theo’s support towards my acting. It was something I felt like I needed to work on at the time because it was definitely out of my comfort zone, so I needed his support.
Q. And Theo?
Theo Stevenson: Likewise, it was brilliant to be able to do this with Akai. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to do the film. It was written around us, which is obviously an honour, because they saw how well we got on three years ago. I like to think I was there if he wanted help with his acting, which he didn’t very often. And when it came to dancing, maybe we’d go through a routine or something prior to shooting it.
Q. What was the most difficult routine for you both?
Theo Stevenson: Well, they changed it around so much. We did a lot of training and rehearsal but when it came to the day, things changed. But the final routine was really tough. We were filming it for a few days, so it was tiring too. But you can’t show that on-screen, which makes it even harder. But I think the results look terrific.
Q. And Akai?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: For me, the space invader scene was definitely the most challenging. The lights on the costumes kept on malfunctioning midway though a take and they would randomly turn off. It was really frustrating. Also, I was dancing in the dark so it was really hard for me to see where I was going. I didn’t know if I was going to fall over in the middle of a take and have to start again. So, that was definitely tough.
Q. How was having room to bring something of yourself to each of your dance scenes? Director Ben Gregor said the frameworks were always constructed to enable you to be able to add something of yourself…
Akai Osei-Mansfield: It wasn’t too challenging at all, to be honest. Ben and I have a similar sense of humour. In fact, he worked so hard and did most of the script himself. So, he knew what he wanted, so we had to trust him a lot. There’s a lot of team work. I’ve seen the film a few times now and I think what we’ve done looks really great.
Q. Akai, how do you view your career to this point?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: It’s going really well. This is where I want to be at this point in my life. It’s working out surprisingly well. And this has given me even more of a taste for things, so hopefully I will get to do even more.
Q. And Theo? You must also be happy with the way things are going? You already have a strong body of work behind you…
Theo Stevenson: Thank you, that means a lot. It’s been great. It’s an honour to be involved with something like this, particularly as they’ve asked me to do this without auditioning. That normally only happens to a few actors. So, it’s perfect. I love being on a film set. I’ve grown and changed and adapted a lot as an actor.
Q. How are you finding balancing acting with school life and everyday life?
Theo Stevenson: It’s fun. We had a tutor on set who came and visited for three hours a day, which I think we handled really well. It can be challenging finishing off a difficult scene, such as when Ethan goes and sees his dad, and then doing homework. It can be hard to get into a different frame of mind. But I don’t mind doing it. And there’s not much school left for me.
Q. Will you to go on to further education, college or university? Or just concentrate on acting?
Theo Stevenson: I’m definitely going to college so that I can keep my options open. I know acting is what I want to do and is a priority but I want to study further as well just in case things don’t turn out as planned.
Q. And Akai?
Akai Osei-Mansfield: It’s the same for me. I want to go to college and get good grades, just as a back-up… just in case this doesn’t work out.