Lost in Soho with Michael Ajao

Lost in Soho with Michael Ajao

As the crow flies, it’s about 5,464 miles to the iconic Hollywood sign in Los Angeles if you happen to be standing just outside the Pimlico Academy in South London. There is no shortcut, no fast track, but the 24-year-old actor Michael Ajao - who stars in the newly released Last Night in Soho directed by Edgar Wright and starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith - is not easily deterred. The academy is where Michael first began to follow his passion for acting, before he enrolled in the BRIT school in 2013, but he had already tasted the spoils of the actor's life after landing the role of Mayhem alongside John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker in the 2011 whip-smart sci-fi comedy Attack the Block, in which a South London teenage gang attempt to thwart an alien invasion.

If Attack the Block was the film to set him off on that 5000-odd mile journey to the Mecca of filmmaking, then Last Night in Soho looks set to be the jet propulsion required to launch Ajao across the Atlantic and onto a brilliant career that befits his hard-working, humble and insatiably enthusiastic attitude. 

The twin worlds of Soho

A departure from his signature comedies such as Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, Last Night in Soho was a worm in director Edgar Wright’s ear for over a decade before the British director was finally able to fully conceptualise it. The story revolves, somewhat dizzyingly, around the character of Eloise “Ellie” Turner, a bright-eyed fashion wannabe played by Thomasin McKenzie. Ellie moves to the fervour of London from the quietude of Cornwall to follow her dreams of becoming a fashion designer, only she brings with her some additional baggage by way of her mother’s ghost.

We learn that her mother had followed the same path when she was younger, only to commit suicide. Influenced by the memory of her mother’s passions, Ellie is infatuated by the culture of the 60s, and feeling somewhat alone in the vast faceless city, begins to dream herself into the past where she fantasises about becoming a performer called Sandy, played by Anya Taylor-Joy.

As Sandy’s life unravels and the seedier side of ‘60s Soho emerges, Ellie becomes increasingly unable to separate fact from fiction. Throughout this ordeal, Michael plays the role of John, who in many ways is the conduit between the audience and Ellie herself as she tries to repair the tragic disconnection from her mother and attempt to decipher her increasingly blurred nightmares.

Michael, being the absolute gem that he is, recently modelled our Winter 21 collection around the very same streets in Soho, albeit no longer a den of iniquity (depending on how hard you look), so we picked his brains about his experience filming Last Night in Soho... 

Talbot Roll Neck Jumper Ferne Oatmeal

Talbot Roll Neck
Jumper Ferne Oatmeal

Buffalo Jacket Rhodes Black

Buffalo Jacket
Rhodes Black

Drawstring Trousers Rhodes Black

Drawstring Trousers
Rhodes Black

Hey Michael, so what was it like working with Edgar Wright? I've heard you talk about his directing style as really dynamic, he goes with the flow, nothing is necessarily fixed. That must be really liberating as an actor?

Honestly it was a huge honour for me to work with a national treasure like Edgar. Especially as he is someone who lives and breathes film. Working with him has certainly given me confidence  and the belief that I can take up any space in Hollywood.

Hockney Shirt Jacket Penton Cord Light Rust

Hockney Shirt Jacket
Penton Cord Light Rust

Pleated Trousers Penton Cord Light Rust

Pleated Trousers Penton
Cord Light Rust

Oli's T-Shirt Conway White

Oli's T-Shirt
Conway White

When you got the part in Last Night in Soho, did you already know who made up the other leading members of the cast?

Everything was quite secretive in the early stages but I heard rumours about Anya and Matt Smith being attached and I was really excited at the prospect of working with them!

Grandpa Coat Rogers Navy

Grandpa Coat
Rogers Navy

Pablo Knitted Polo Shirt Alves Navy

Pablo Knitted Polo
Shirt Alves Navy

Drawstring Trousers Elsden Cream

Drawstring Trousers
Elsden Cream

How did you go about preparing for your character John?

Well the process of preparing for John was definitely different as he is a fashion student. So I had to learn how to use a sewing machine, how to use needle and thread and pattern cutting via our lovely tutor Phoebe English. Also I watched a lot of fashion documentaries, the most notable being the Ozwald Boateng documentary.

A lot of the film is set in the ‘60s as Ellie’s mind becomes inextricably entwined with Sandy - is there a decade or time you'd love to go back or perhaps forward to?

Ooh love this question! I’d say the early 80s because of the music. I love bands like The Midnight Star, The Whispers & The Isley Brothers! Those guys were smooth.

If you could experience in your dreams the life of someone else, who would it be?

Thierry Henry because he is a football icon and a living legend.

The Venice film festival looked fun - or was it all work and no pleasure?

It was such a magical experience. From the boats, hotels, press conferences and premiere. I was doing a lot of social media stuff at the time but still managed to soak in the experience!

Moorland Gilet Heston Sand

Moorland Gilet
Heston Sand

Clemson Sweatshirt Harris Teal Green

Clemson Sweatshirt
Harris Teal Green

Fatigue Trousers Eden Tobacco

Fatigue Trousers
Eden Tobacco

And finally what's next for you? Any projects in the pipeline that we can look forward to?

I can’t really say much…. but I think everyone should keep their ears to the ground for an exciting 2022!

Last Night in Soho is in cinemas now so go check it out!

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