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Kwame Is A Real and Authentic Character Says Paapa Essiedu

23 September 2020
Kwame's own drugging and rape ordeal pushes him to a deeper realisation.
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Kwame, portrayed by Paapa Essiedu, is Arabella’s close friend who supports her as she starts processing her traumatic drugging and subsequent rape. However, a few episodes into the series, he is faced with his own ordeal. He hooks up with a man he’s met after an exercise class. The two meet at an apartment of a third guy who ends up holding down and raping Kwame.

At first, Kwame is unable to fully process his experience as assault until later. However, the difference between him and Arabella’s experience is whereas the police take Arabella’s case seriously, Kwame experiences an indifferent scepticism.

Talking to Vulture about the portrayal of this specific experience, Essiedu said that for Kwame the process is happening in real-time. “From the moment of what happens to him in episode four, he’s knocked off his center point. Because in the first four episodes, you see a version of him that’s actually very grounded and centered and assured. From that point onwards, he loses it.

“He’s trying to figure out what’s happened to him, and what his response will be, and even trying to put a name to the act,” explained Essiedu.

What throws Kwame off as well is the manner in which the police deal with his rape case compared to Arabella. “t’s mad that what we’re seeing in this show doesn’t fit the mainstream portrayal of that situation,” Essiedu told Vulture. “We’re not used to seeing it. We’re not used to reading about it in any of the media that we consume. It’s no wonder that certain structures are not made to support such things.”

Touching on the actual filming of the assault, Kwame suggested that although intense, it was fun to work with Ita O’Brien – an intimacy coordinator. Ita O’Brien’s hilarious and hands-on. She’s really into using animals as examples. She’ll be showing you an example of a bonobo having sex or a video of cats or dogs having sex and will be like, “In this part of the scene, you’re a bonobo, and then in this part, you’re a horse.” It’s one of those moments where you take a step out of your consciousness and go, “Wow, is this really a job?”

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However, this doesn’t mean that the act didn’t stay with Essiedu post-shooting. In addition to having mental-health professionals on-site at all times, Essiedu said he came up with his own structures to help him let go of everything. “I do a lot of self-care in its various forms, from meditation and yoga to having a pint in a pub after a shoot.

“It’s about making sure there’s a separation between reality and fiction,” he concluded.

I May Destroy You airs Wednesdays at 22:00 on 1 Magic.