Fans of the chart-bothering hip hoppers Rizzle Kicks would not necessarily expect to see one half of the band starring in a gritty British gangland movie shot in Thamesmead.
That is exactly what 22-year-old Harley Sylvester wanted when he signed up to play one of the leads in The Guvnors, which hits cinemas on Friday (August 29).
It is a violent thriller about Mitch (Doug Allen), a former South East London firm leader who turned his back on his violent past to live in the Chislehurst suburbs but is dragged back in by young upstart Adam (Harley).
The pop star told News Shopper: “It would have been more obvious to play a happier role and a version of myself and people would have been accepting but I think when people see this they will be like ‘wow, he can really change himself’.”
Before he formed Rizzle Kicks with fellow Brighton pal Jordan Stephens, Harley studied theatre at the Brit School in Croydon and had been keen to break into acting.
He said: “Acting was my first passion growing up. I was always prepared for that jump. I was always going to get into it at some point. This role came at the right time.”
Harley’s character Adam is a scarred and ruthless gang leader who is quietly terrifying.
Picture by Craig Sugden Photography
Harley explained: “When I read the role, I didn’t see it any other way.
“A lot of people could have read it and put on a more brut-like performance, a more boisterous character who is louder but I think what is more powerful in cinema is when the villain is more calm and calculating.”
Aside from exuding menace, Harley brings nuance to Adam.
He said: “What’s good about my character is there are times where you very much dislike him but there are times where you sympathise with him too.
“You see the reasons why he is how he is.”
While the film does have many superficial similarities to others within the British gangland genre, one thing that appealed to Harley was director Gabe Turner’s approach.
He said: “I think what this film does exceptionally well is completely deglamourise violence, which in this genre of film is extremely rare.
“It shows the cycle of violence and how if you don’t end that violence then things don’t end well for you, which I think is a very important message.”
When it came to choosing a location for the shoot, producer Danny Potts, from Mottingham, knew straight away that Thamesmead should be where the action happens.
Danny said: “We looked at east London and we looked at north London but I knew Thamesmead was the place.”
While it’s not the glamour you might expect for some film shoots, Harley was impressed by the area.
He said: “It is picturesque. It’s an amazing place to film. Every backdrop and little corner you turn there is something visually exciting.
“As an atmosphere to get into the role, it was perfect.
He added: “Everyone around when we were filming was very accommodating to us.”
With this film in the can, Harley hopes to expand his acting career while still making music with Jordan as Rizzle Kicks.
He said: “It’s just working out how to balance it. There are so many things I want to do and there are so many things I am doing. It has been pretty chilled so far so hopefully I can continue.”
Professionally at least, Harley is not used to working without Jordan but said he got on just fine on the shoot and got plenty of support from his buddy.
He said: “Music was more Jordan’s thing and acting was more mine, so I immediately felt more comfortable.
“Jordan was always very supportive – he knew how passionately I felt about it so he was very supportive along the way.
“It was nice, there was no bitterness or animosity at all. He was happy for me to go off and do my own thing, like he has done now.
“He’s in a new E4 drama coming out in September. It’s nice we can support each other.”
The Guvnors is out Friday, August 29, at cinemas including Bluewater’s Showcase.