Sheyi Cole appeared on our screens, fully formed, aged 21, as the lead of Alex Wheatle, the fourth chapter of Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Small Axe series in 2020. Plucked out of thousands for the role, Cole embodied Wheatle, the infamous Black British author, in his youth: he’s first anxiously entering a prison cell after the 1981 Brixton riots, then flashbacks reveal the origins of his activism. Cole was instantly heralded a major talent – not bad considering he was in his first year of drama school upon auditioning.
As a teenager, Cole was a keen performer, taking part in the National Youth Theatre and RADA’s Youth Theatre Company among others. Through Open Call, a scheme designed to help working-class actors, he honed his craft at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. A year after graduating, Cole’s already established himself as a favourite among auteurs. Along with a supporting role in the crowd-pleasing comedy Boxing Day, Cole had a supremely memorable cameo in season 3 of Atlanta as TJ, an influencer masquerading as an artist. Next up is Netflix’s Bill Nighy-starring The Beautiful Game and a lead role in Steven Soderbergh’s highly anticipated miniseries Full Circle.
Text Nick Chen