An Interview with Award Winning Playwright Ché Walker

We recently had award winning playwright Ché Walker work with some of our master’s students. We took the opportunity to have a short Q&A with him. This interview has been edited for length.

What drives you to be a part of drama schools – to come in and work with current students?

Well, the youth give us hope. They remind you why you’re doing the work. As you go through a career, you can start to become very compromised and a bit cynical. To come back to people who are grappling with why they want to do it – who are still doing it for the joy, for the sense of discovery, not just self-discovery but the discovery of all of us – is very invigorating; it hooks me back to why I wanted to do it. Young people are very inspiring.

What led you to write your first play?

Well, I have this childhood memory, which I think is true, when I wrote a little story. I was about seven or eight, in a class, and the teacher read it out and she said, “It’s really hard to predict what people are going to do when you’re teaching them when they’re seven, but I’m going to take a chance and say Ché is going to be a writer.” And I always remembered that. I actually wanted to be a basketball player, but I just wasn’t good enough. And so, then I decided I was going to be an actor.

You have built a career as an actor, playwright, and director. Can you talk about that journey for yourself?

After drama school, I did alright – I was playing a lot of cops and bouncers and thugs and stuff like that, and I was sort of slightly trapped by being above average height and comparatively well-built – it was just getting a bit boring. And I had a side gig which was doing security, and I used to sit in this pretty much empty building all night. And this was before mobiles – if you can imagine such a time as before mobiles, before the internet. There was nothing. It was silent. After a while I was going a bit crazy. I needed to express myself; so, I wrote my first play there, and those were perfect writing conditions. You were just there with your own thoughts, and you had hours of time to work.

So, I wrote my first play and sold it to the royal court and that took me on a writer’s journey. Then, I started directing about 20 years ago, and I’ve managed to keep all three bubbling along.

Sometimes young actors put a lot of pressure on themselves. How would you advise them?

The job of an actor is such a maddening position because you’re waiting for the audition. I would say look at Phoebe Waller-Bridge, look at Michaela Coel, look at Arinze Kene, and look at any number of people who have written themselves great parts and just pushed forward! I think that is a big change. They didn’t wait.