Ever since his international breakout role in Sally El Hosaini’s “My Brother The Devil” (2012), where he played the role of a teenager facing prejudice on the streets of gangland London, actor James Krishna Floyd has made a mark with an astonishing diversity of roles.
For “My Brother The Devil,” Floyd won most promising newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards, was selected as a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and won best actor at the Milan International Film Festival.
Of mixed English and Indian Tamil heritage, Floyd began with a solid grounding in theater and landed his first starring role in “Everywhere and Nowhere” (2011), where he played a British-Pakistani torn between honoring his family traditions and a love for music.
Floyd is one of the leads in Fremantle’s acclaimed Hulu and Arte series “No Man’s Land,” where he plays a London-born British-Egyptian who joins ISIS and the war in Syria.
“You have two kinds of actors,” Floyd tells Variety. “You have actors who are very good at playing themselves, or at least a variation of themselves, and you have other actors who — which is what I sort of aspire to be — want to play something that’s totally different to your own experience.”
“I just get bored if I’m just playing myself,” adds Floyd. “I don’t want to always play kind of a half-Tamil, half-English guy.”
“No Man’s Land” was a physically demanding role for Floyd, who went on a prescribed diet and bulked up. He also had to learn Arabic. “I have a decent hair for languages and accents, but I didn’t speak Arabic before this.”
He took on a smattering of Arabic words for his role in “My Brother The Devil,” but not to this extent, where the very first scene he shot was five pages of Arabic dialogue, playing off co-stars who were native speakers.
“It was really important for me to not only perfect the words and get intonations and all that, but more importantly, to understand what I’m saying and understand what they’re saying,” says Floyd. “And that was really tough. That was harder than physical prep. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done actually, but that’s why I became an actor.”
Floyd won a whole new fan base with ITV series “The Good Karma Hospital,” where he played an Indian doctor over three seasons from 2017 to 2019. The actor likens getting back to playing a South Asian character after years away as an opportunity to play himself.
“For me, it was very important when taking on that role that I was going to be giving it what I felt was a reality, getting heavy inspiration from my family,” says Floyd. “We are Tamil Indians. A lot of them are doctors. So it was very important to me to get that right.”
Next up is something totally different, in keeping with Floyd’s eclectic career graph. In Paula van der Oest’s “Love In A Bottle,” he plays a damaged British man who falls for a woman over Facetime during lockdown. Meanwhile, in “Unicorns,” which Floyd has also written, he will play a British Pakistani drag queen.
“It’s not a trans character at all,” says Floyd of the role. “It’s basically about this gay, British Pakistani man who is a realistic drag queen.” Floyd based the character and the setting upon real life after two years of research. “They are incredible, they are these transformational artists; these chameleons with an extraordinary amount of authenticity to their drag personas.”
Floyd is a keen observer of the massive disruption caused by the pandemic in 2020 but is optimistic about the future, though he’s not sure what that’s going to look like exactly. “If you just take away the hoopla and don’t get too emotional over the headlines, I actually think a new generation is now coming through of filmmakers and actors and writers, and we are forced to think creatively and outside of the box,” says Floyd.
“We’re so hungry and so bored of the same old shit getting made that I think, now, it’s just lit a fire under anyone my age and younger,” says Floyd. “And I think that’s a good thing.”
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