Mosquito Coast actor, Ariyon Bakare, opens up to DDW about the causes he cares about, meditation and things that happened on set.
Ariyon Bakare was excited when he first found out he would be filming Apple+’s Mosquito Coast in Mexico, a place he used to travel around a lot. The excitement however, was short lived. Finding himself in the middle of the jungle, he suddenly had people walking in front of him banging the floor in search of (or, more accurately said, scaring away) snakes.
Unfortunately Bakare was quick to find out this was no Tulum, Oaxaca, or the Yucatán peninsula. As some sort of twisted birthday gift from nature, the actor was bitten by a poisonous spider, causing his legs and neck to alarmingly swell up. “I never had a phobia about spiders until that happened.” he tells me.
Somehow animals, particularly the kind people tend to be afraid of, have been quite present in the actor’s career. He spent most of his filming for BBC/HBO production of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials with a snake wrapped around his neck, and is voicing Darktan for The Amazing Maurice, an animated family film about a rat, Bakare’s biggest phobia. It could very well be cockroaches next.
In a way, Bakare being working on an animated film of his least favourite animal comes to show the actor’s dedication to his craft. This also becomes apparent in his pursuit of varying roles, something which attests to Bakare’s depth. “you can easily get to a point where people think you play the same, you know, you play a stereotypical type,” the actor observes. “I’ve done a lot of fantasy shows, and I decided during the pandemic that I wanted to just be a bit more open.”
Bakare went on to take roles in varying genres, challenging his own perceptions of self. “Acting’s all about finding the extinction of yourself and I wanna find out how far can I go to find myself. So it’s kind of like therapeutic. If I’m constantly trying out new things, then I’m finding out more and more about who I am.”
And who exactly is Ariyon Bakare? For one, he’s not the rather unorthodox activist he plays in Mosquito Coast, but both aren’t too dissimilar in their concern for the environment, albeit Bakare claims to be a lot more pacifistic about it. He talks about not flying back and forth from Mexico during the filming, or not owning a car because of his carbon footprint, but Bakare’s activist stance also reflects in the causes he supports.
WaterAid and homelessness happen to be two of the causes Bakare is most passionate about. During his time in America the actor performed for a company called SRO (acronym for Single Room Occupancy), that would go around to homeless shelters to perform. “I just loved it. It was just beautiful.” he reminisces.
I find myself intrigued by Bakare’s optimism, which leads me on to asking him about utopias – a theme also quite present in Mosquito Coast. For him, it would be somewhere where “no one’s looking at colour, no one’s looking at gender,” he explains. “It would be us looking after the environment, looking after the young and respecting our elders and looking after them as well. And not be so ageist.”
It’s intriguing to find out Bakare is off social media, something quite unfrequent nowadays. The fact comes up when asked about his go-to place for some peace of mind, to which Bakare replies quite poetically with: “Myself”. He apparently likes to spend days without distractions, no technology or music, in a somewhat conscious and meditative state. “So you clear the voices in your mind.” he tells me. “Those are the kind of ways I kind of ground myself, by being with people, being with me, being with nature.”
This awareness the actor exhibits has also translated into how he sees the world creatively. Had he not become an actor, Bakare claims he would’ve pursued portrait photography, something he seems particularly apt for. “I see the world in pictures, everything is a picture or a film to me” he explains, pointing out the colour of my jumper matches the Zoom tab’s red dot. Contrary to my personal belief, he isn’t sure that is a particularly useful skill as an actor – perhaps more so for a director – which isn’t something Bakare has expressed any interest in, at least not yet.
What we can expect from the actor at some point however, is his very own animation, which he has in development and has written himself. For the time being though, we were left with one burning question. What does the actor not want to die wondering about?
“Not to have loved fully and not to be loved fully.” He replied.