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Lawyer-turned-actor Sule Rimi: ‘I hope to get a job that will call on my drum’n’bass skills’

Sule Rimi in Desire Under the Elms. Photo: Marc Brenner Sule Rimi in Desire Under the Elms. Photo: Marc Brenner

Sule Rimi originally trained as a lawyer but decided to switch to acting. He tells Xena Hussain about his latest role in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms at Sheffield Theatres…

You initially trained in law, and you were previously also a drum’n’bass emcee. So how did you make the move into acting?

Acting was always something that I enjoyed alongside my everyday life, and it started out as a hobby. I was always into plays and literature when I was younger, I used to do extra work on films and TV programmes, and I did the odd play, but I really got involved at the drama department at university while doing my law degree. I would sneak off and audition, then one day I decided to make the jump while I was sitting in a law office.

Has your experience as a drum’n’bass emcee influenced your acting career?

It’s definitely a skill I’ve got on my Spotlight CV. I haven’t needed to use it quite yet, but hopefully that BAFTA-winning job will call on it in the future. It helps when it comes to improvising, writing couplets and things like that.

What was your first professional theatre role?

Othello. While I was at university, I played an abridged version of it, so knew it well. When I was a lawyer, I was signed up with an extra agency, my agent got contacted by a director who was putting on a production of Othello in the studio at the Swansea Grand. I feel like I’ve had quite a few lucky breaks in my career, which I’m very aware and thankful for.

Tell me about playing the role of Simeon in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms.

Simeon is in the first four scenes in the play with his younger brother Peter, who’s been left in charge of the farm while their father is away. He is in two minds – one, staying and looking after the farm, but also hoping that after their father passes, he and his two brothers would be entitled to a share of the land; the other side that’s pulling him is the lure of the gold rush, as it’s set in the 1870s in Massachusetts. His younger brother Peter, who’s more impulsive, is trying to get Simeon to go off in search of gold, but Simeon is torn between his desires and familial duty.

You’ve been working with Sam Yates, who told Exeunt magazine: “It’s all about casting people from all walks of life.” What is it like being a black British actor?

As non-representative as things might seem, I think it’s evident that British theatre at the moment is probably flying the flag better than a lot of places. The last show that I did was an all-black cast, at the Dorfman, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a phase. I think it’s genuinely a good indicator of the direction that British theatre is going in. That’s my stance. I think Sam [Yates, director] is doing a good job of making that a big theme; not just in this production, but the way he works in general.

CV: Sule Rimi

Training: None
First professional role: Mr Byron in The Story of Tracy Beaker (2003)
Agent: Sam Boyd at Creative Artists Management

Desire Under the Elms is running at Sheffield Theatres until October 14

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