Hi Seb. Thank you for the opportunity! I recently saw your FB post regarding your thoughts on your role in James Bond. Below is a short summary, please correct me if needed:
You view the role you played critically as it portraits a black terrorist who at the end of a long (and amazing) chase scene get´s shot by James Bond, the white main character.
James Bond is a great character but it just happened that my sequence particularly remind me the cliché of “the bad black guy who is running away from the good white cops!” And it is hard to unsee that for me.
What was the trigger that made you look back and question your role in James Bond?
After I watched on Netflix the documentary 13th and understood that there are people in this world who really want us to be seen as bad and want to portray the colour of my skin as a sign low value. I realised it is important and crucial for black kids to get representatives and inspiring model who portray a positive image to break this deeply unbalanced narrative.
Would you go back and make something different if you could?
I wouldn’t change anything. What is done is done and I’m still proud of my work.
I can remember a situation in Austria. We picked you up from the Vienna airport and went by train to central Vienna. In the main hall of the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) we were controlled by 2 police men. This had never happened before and I did not see the police controlling anyone else. Sadly, that´s why I dare assume that you probably have had a variety of experiences of discrimination:
Have you ever experienced/witnessed discrimination from parkour/freerunning/add practicioners or in the parkour environment in general?
I remember this moment very well and this is exactly what people of my colour experience disproportionately. I’m glad you were there to experience it because it allows you to witness and feel first hand how having a different colour skin can make you a target. My way of practicing Parkour has always been influenced by that. I don’t do anything that can give an excuse for someone or any authorities to over exercise their power on me. It is almost a second nature. My rules: practice in public places with friends, don’t go on rooftops unless you are invited or unless it is a professional situation.
Is there anything we as parkour practicioners could do or need to change in the discipline?
There is nothing to do really to be honest. The energy in the Parkour community is really good. It is a big, open minded place and really welcoming. It is just the case that Parkour is not really popular in the black community and it is understandable. When you are targeted, jumping over walls can be the reason that can lead you into trouble.
When looking at the history of parkour/freerunning/add diversity plays a huge role. The former Yamakasi (incl. you) and original practicioners came from so many different backgrounds.
When you all started what became this movement: how was the attitude from outsiders towards you and the group in the beginning? – In the recent podcast with John Hall you mentioned there was rarely to none interactions with outsiders in the beginning. Were you faced with difficulties in your practice due to the diversity of the group? How did the group approach diversity? How did it make you stronger?
First of all I started with David Belle, who was doing it before me. Our town Lisses is pretty small and almost everyone knew each other from children to parents. Only a handful of kids jumping around no one really cared. The Yamakasi story is a myth as far as it involves me. I was Yamakasi for the period of the creation of the group only. But I never really practice with most of them. This question is more to them as they really have a lot of shared experiences. I was lucky to grow up in a diverse environment where racism was not a daily issue.
Coming back to your achievements in the sector of performance and entertainment. When looking back at the collaboration with Madonna (music videos and live show tour): obviously it´s very different from what you did in James Bond: what do you think of it now? Are similar thoughts crossing your mind as with the movie?
The thoughts that crossing my mind are different in all the work I’ve done. Now I have to think positively and be constructive but always be aware and alert to what my skin colour can project and to make sure the message I send will educate and change the negative perceptions.
Thank you a lot for the time and openness!
Below you will find some links mentioned in the interview:
- James Bond Chase Scene from Casino Royale – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZxNbAwY_rk
- Madonna: Jump – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx0mYN32Kps
- Madonna: Hung Up – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDwb9jOVRtU
- Madonna Confessions Tour – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIeP9aQqb0A
- Netflix: 13th Full Documentary – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8