Toussaint is an English actor who played Walter Deveraux from December 2018 to November 2022 in Hollyoaks, He has also appeared in Death in Paradise. He recently shot a Warner Bros film as well as a new TV series for the BBC.
You mentioned being a survivor of a stroke, how does that make you feel knowing you were able to return to work?
It feels good knowing I can survive a stroke and I can go back to work. Once I’ve done a job, it’s a fantastic feeling. I was affected cognitively as well as physically. My pathways are repairing themselves and physically, slowly but surely, I’m getting better. I can now walk 150m without sitting down whereas it was 100m before. I feel vindicated, joyful, and grateful that I can get back to work. Gratitude is the main one.
What was the main thing that aided your recovery?
My partner Bliss. Without her support, my recovery would be nothing. Knowing the support and love that was there – reminding me to take my tablets on time, to look after myself, to get to bed early, eat and to stay on the path of recovery. She also looked after my appointments, helped me get there on time and greatly helped me in my work being an ‘unofficial PA’ – haha! Without her input, I’d be in a worse place. Her, and a mindset of ‘I want to get better’. If it wasn’t for Bliss, I wouldn’t even have that mindset.
Your children have followed in your footsteps, did you always encourage them?
Yes, I have always encouraged my kids, but I have also told them about the pitfalls of the business as it can be risky. You can go a long time without work. I’ve said, “if you decide to go into it, go into it with your eyes wide open”. I believe there’s no point in discouraging your kids from doing what they want to do as long as they’re not harming themselves. My mother always encouraged me and would say, “if that’s what you want to do son, go and do it”. Who am I to say anything different to my kids? It’s about encouragement. My kids are doing well, especially Nina who recently appeared in BBC’s The Bodyguard and Channel 5’s Witness Number 3 and hopefully Roan will follow in her footsteps. Sejus, the youngest child, says he wants to do the same thing so watch this space.
Seeing their success, how does that make you feel?
Proud. What more can I feel but proud of my children? You want your children to do better than you’re doing. I have to say Nina is doing immensely well. When I see her in something, it brings a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, I think ‘ahh that’s my little girl and look how well she is doing’. I can’t be anything else but proud of her. It’s in the genes, haha! It’s lovely to have someone that close to you that you can talk to about the business.
You mentioned wardrobe, do you think dreadlocks was a hindrance to getting jobs?
I didn’t at the time but in hindsight, definitely. When I look back, I can see that people couldn’t see past the locks. A doctor couldn’t have locks, a judge couldn’t have locks, people could not see past that. When I cut off my locks, my cast-ability suddenly changed and that was quite a realisation. I can see that my locks hindered my success in lots of ways and that shouldn’t be the case but unfortunately it is. For one particular job, they suggested I cut my locks off to get the part which wasn’t something I was open to at the time. After disclosing that the project happened to be a prominent series, I think they were expecting me to change my mind. They had no clue why my locks were on my head and what it meant to me. Was it a religious thing? Was it a spiritual thing? Was it cultural? They just wanted me to cut my locks off. It’s not about the number of lines, it’s about the lack of care and compassion and support. When I did cut them, it was because I chose to do so. Inclusion is an ethos that has been championed by my agent, Kelle Bryan.
When you started out who did you look to as role models?
When I started out, there weren’t many black role models that I looked up to. Definitely Sidney Poitier – a fine and very under-appreciated actor. I suppose I looked at Marlon Brando, Yaphet Kotto, Forest Whittaker, obviously Denzel (Washington), Viola Davis. I started looking towards those people thinking they’ve got something I admire, and I would like to have. Not just their careers but what they bring to a role. You can see that they work at it, that’s why I’ve loved Sidney Poitier right from the offset as you can see that he really worked on each character he played. Although a lot of his characters look the same, if one looks deeper, we see that there is a lot more depth and difference between each character he played.
Why do you think labelling something a ‘black’ film, theatre etc is not the way forward?
It’s very unhelpful. Nobody calls Coronation Street a ‘white show’, it’s just a show. Basically, let a show be a show. The fact it may be guided, directed and a black cast, does not make it a ‘black’ show. Once we start labelling things according to the race or ethnicity of the people working behind it, people come to the show with massive preconceptions of what the show is and going to be like. No matter how much we try to pretend, people still have this perception of black-led and black run shows are never quite as good. The word ‘shambolic’ comes up quite a lot – it’s a word I hate and despise. What does it mean? It basically means it’s not good enough. It’s not helpful for the industry nor to an audience. We should just approach a show as a show and just enjoy it for what it is.
How important was it that Thabo – interviewed in Alt-A summer – wrote DeMarcus and Felix’s issue storyline?
It’s incredibly importable because he is writing from a cultural reference that a writer who is not of colour would not be able to understand or have the nuances to explain the storyline in a more sympathetic way. Let me put it this way… growing up in this country, I’ve had to learn how to communicate with different people in a way that they can understand; I communicate differently depending on whom I speaking to. If it’s a Nigerian, I kind of slip into the Nigerian sensibilities… or Scotland or Manchester, each place has a different point of reference.
It’s important that we tell our narrative.