Dressed in a printed T-shirt and a black bomber jacket, not a million miles from those shown by Givenchy this season, the young actor Mr Malachi Kirby cuts a dash as he enters the photography studio for the MR PORTER shoot. His defined features only further the sharp impression, as do his intense eyes, which flash with a steely passion and determination whenever he talks about his work. At 22 years old, Mr Kirby, a born-and-bred Londoner, is already making waves both on stage and on screen. Having been shortlisted for Outstanding Newcomer at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards last year for his role in the critically acclaimed play Mogadishu, set in a failing London school, Mr Kirby also stars in two feature films set to be released later this year. In Offender, a crime thriller which comes out on 8 August in the UK, he plays Harry, a thoughtful prison inmate who was convicted for finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, while in My Brother the Devil (set for a November release), Mr Kirby portrays J-Boy, a young man who ends up falling in with the local gang. The latter feature won the World Cinema Cinematography Award at Sundance, and the Europa Cinema award for Best European Film. With a new agent in Los Angeles, an upcoming feature with Film4 and a burgeoning career as a writer too, we have a feeling that Mr Kirby's name will be one to look out for in the near future.
Are there any actors whose style you admire, both on screen and off screen?
I've always enjoyed Denzel Washington's work, and I really admire Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt's career choices. They could have easily gone down the road of being "pretty boys" but instead they chose to play characters with more depth. Generally though, I have learnt more from [normal] people than from famous actors.
You were training to be an athlete but decided to go with acting. Could you tell us a bit about that?
For about a year I was training six days a week for the 400m. I could train around acting, but when it came to competitions acting work got in the way. And because of what the training does to your body physically, I couldn't take doing that to myself and not being able to use it in races, so that's why I stopped.
It doesn't hurt to be in shape if you're an actor, though.
No, definitely not. And what that training did for me mentally, in terms of pushing myself beyond limits and building determination, I use for my acting.
As an actor, would you say there is pressure to look good? What is your approach to your personal style?
There's definitely pressure there... I'm not sure if I've conformed to it yet, though [laughs]. My wardrobe is a bit crazy; it's diverse. Sometimes it's nice to go to the barbers and get a shape-up, and scrub up and have the whole suit thing going on. When I was a kid I always used to wear tracksuits; back then wearing a suit was a myth... but now it's something that I've started doing for award ceremonies and shoots and things. I like it.
Is there anything you never leave the house without?
I always like having a pen and paper with me. I'm a bit old fashioned like that. When I get ideas for scripts or characters, I like to write things down with a pen as opposed to in my phone. I find it more creative and stimulating.
Have you played any characters whose on-stage or on-screen style you've liked?
Not so far, to be honest, but Checkpoint was interesting because I had a small part in choosing the costume. I like it when I get a say in what a character wears: it makes me feel as if I have more ownership of it, and it helps me to get into character more.
In Checkpoint you played a child soldier. How do you prepare mentally for a role like that?
The character was 13 and I was 19 when I played him, so partly it was about remembering how I was at that age, although this kid was meant to be a child soldier so he had a lot more responsibility. And it was a weird one, because although it had little to do with being on the streets or being a gangster, there were similarities in terms of peer pressure to be in a gang, and living up to expectations, and trying to be a man when you're not one, and trying to fit in... all of those things I could relate to, or I knew somebody else who lived that story, so that's the angle that I came from.
What would your tips be for other young actors?
Be passionate about it. I haven't had a holiday since I started and the money's not amazing yet, so the main reason I do it is because I love it. And you need to be an artist. "Actor" sounds glamorous, about being famous or whatever, but at the end of the day you're an artist, and without that element there's no point.
Any upcoming projects we should look out for?
My first two films are coming out this year: My Brother the Devil in November and Offender in August, and I've got a very ambitious short film project with Film4 coming up. It's called Jonah, and it's basically a story about Jonah and the whale, about these two friends who are like brothers growing up, and it follows their relationship and how fame affects it, and it goes into this epic battle at sea with the big fish.