Paapa Essiedu

  • Words Precious Adesina
  • Photography Phil Dunlop
  • Styling James Sleaford

The British stage star steps onto a new platform.

Issue 43

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Precious Adesina
  • Photography Phil Dunlop
  • Styling James Sleaford

There was a time when Paapa Essiedu’s talent was a secret known only to the British theater establishment. The actor, who was born in East London, joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2012 and played a string of roles both there and at the National Theatre. He played Hamlet in 2016 with “a priceless vitality,” according to The Guardian, and won best performance in a play at the UK Theatre Awards.1 In 2020, that all changed when Essiedu took up the role of Kwame in Michaela Coel’s revelatory HBO–BBC series I May Destroy You. He has been nominated for both a Bafta and an Emmy for the performance he gives of a gay man struggling with the justice system, trauma and his own sexuality in the aftermath of sexual assault. He also plays Alex, the son of a gangland boss, in Gangs of ...

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