From Bayek to BAFTAs: Interview with Abubakar Salim

Kenyan-British actor, Abubakar Salim is known for his work in TV, Theatre, Film and Games. He peaked the attention of gamers for inhabiting the role of Bayek in Assassins Creed Origins which got him a BAFTA nomination and is currently playing the lead in Ridley Scott’s “Raised By Wolves” for HBO Max. He is currently working on a super exciting, but secret project within the games industry and he took some time to answer a few questions for GIA.

When and how did you get into acting?

I started doing small local theatre bit pieces here and there with my drama club where I grew up. I hadn’t decided to be an actor yet though until I got into a charity run theatre group called the National Youth Theatre. From there I decided that I wanted to take acting seriously and luckily landed my first acting role at 16. I would then go to drama school (LAMDA) to work on my craft and see where it would all take me! Mind you, my passion for acting came from games rather than film and TV.
No one looked like me in the shows I watched as a kid. My love for storytelling originated from the stories explored in games, mainly because I was going on the journey with the character themselves.

A strong sense of self and pride in your African heritage seems to permeate a lot of interviews you give as well as your wardrobe outside the set? How important is the need to acknowledge your African heritage in your work?

Incredibly important. My heritage, my sense of self, my upbringing FUELS my work and how I express myself. I’m a first-generation Brit, meaning my parents are both immigrants from Kenya. Even though I grew up in Britain, my parents instilled in me the importance of where we came from, and to me, I am so thankful for that connection and reminder. It’s definitely part of my identity and I feel blessed by it.

You’ve been quoted as being a huge fan of gaming from an early age, what were some of the titles that helped shape your career?

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Assassins Creed, Sonic Adventure 2, Kingdom Hearts, Pokemon….Yo, this list could seriously go on. Do you have time? 

Are you aware of and played any games from the continent (especially Kenya)?

I’ll be honest, I am not and have not. And what a shame that is. It is only until recently, through my own digging and looking back at home have I realised the innovative and incredible work that is coming from Africa. It brings me joy to know that there is a wealth of games and story worlds to dive into which will be coming from people like me.

What do you think it would take for a game from the continent to reach the level of titles such as Diablo and Assassin’s Creed?

I honestly believe that the direction the industry is going, by creating the work through passion and purpose, that it will naturally rise and reach levels of that height. People crave new stories and new voices, it’s in part of our nature. With healthy collaboration internationally as well, I truly believe that it won’t be long until we begin seeing fresh original story worlds from Africa and being explored at a scale similar to that of God of War and Assassins Creed.

Got any tips for anyone looking to break into the world of voice acting within the games industry?

Just do it. Have fun, be open to explore and just play.

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