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By Crash

The hit Netflix series Mortel and its group of superpowered teenagers proved that France is a major contender in fantasy. The show’s most promising revelation is Carl Malapa, who plays the lead character Sofiane on a desperate hunt for his vanished brother. After making a pact with a mysterious voodoo god, Sofiane and his two friends find themselves knee deep in a quest that threatens to take them under. Beyond superpowers, the series also centers on the real and relatable problems facing teenagers today. Let’s meet one of today’s top actors and music producers to watch.

Can you tell us about your career? How did you get into film?

I’ve been acting in theatre since I was twelve years old. A casting director came to one of my performances when I was fifteen and she spotted a few young actors. Shortly afterwards I went to a casting call and then I quickly got into the swing of filming. I was very lucky since I got a lot of work.

And what was your first experience on screen?

My first audition was for a series. I ended up in the same room as the director of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead when I was fourteen. I had to do a scene where I was crying and I was completely overwhelmed. (laughs) The next day I was told that I had been cast. The show was broadcast on Canal + and was called Panthers. I played a young Tahar Rahim.

Did that first experience make you want to become an actor?

Yes, even though I already knew I wanted to do this job for a long time. My mother is in the film business; she’s a production assistant. So I was visiting film sets since I was a little boy.

Did any particular actors give you a taste for the job?

Not by seeing them act, but one day I went to the set of the film In Harmony, with Cécile de France and Albert Dupontel, who played a physically disabled man rekindling his passion for riding horses. I was fourteen years old, and I had just been expelled from my school. I found myself on the port of Saint-Nazaire with Cécile de France. It was just the two of us on a lounge chair during a crew party. She told me about her background, how she got into drama school, what made her become an actress, etc. I was very happy to hear her story. And that discussion was a turning point. During the day I would watch her from behind the camera, next to the sound engineer. I noticed everything she brought to the set: her aura and work ethic. In the evening we would talk and she explained everything to me. That’s what made me want to follow in her footsteps. There was Tahar Rahim, too. I was so impressed by him on the set of Panthers set.

I imagine you’ve gone through quite a few castings. How do you handle it? Do you do a lot of prepping, or do you just let yourself get carried away in the moment?

A bit like this interview: the best preparation is not to prepare. You have to go in having learned the text and identified the character of course, but without necessarily having rehearsed your lines. It has to come out as naturally as possible. I am very instinctive person, so I don’t prepare for the castings like a show dog.

Many people recently discovered you in the series Mortel on Netflix. Tell me how that project came about.

It’s funny because I had the worst casting of my life with casting director David Bertrand for School Life, which came out recently. I was trying out for the lead. I felt terrible when I got out of there. He called me back a year later and told me he was doing a fantasy series, but he didn’t say any more. So I went in, it went well, he called me back, I met with the director and we started rehearsing with the other actors to see if it would be a good fit. Since it’s a series, all the actors have to work together. So we started doing the castings as a group. I met Manon Bresch and Nemo Schiffmann, the two other lead actors in Mortel. From there, we started coaching and then shooting.

So there was a coaching period?

Yes, because we didn’t have that much time to prepare the show and we were supposed to perform some pretty heavy stuff. So we had to get to know each other in order to connect. We did some coaching sessions where we pushed our limits.

What was your initial reaction when you got the script?

I just knew it was my dream to work on this kind of project. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always looked in the mirror and pretended to be someone with superpowers. (laughs) Plus I’d really like to direct one day and bring this kind of fantasy to France. I’d like us to reach the same level as British, American and Spanish filmmakers have in fantasy.

Why do you think it took so long for fantasy to be taken seriously in France?

Because people are afraid to spend money on French fantasy films, so we had to wait for Netflix to come to France. Of course it’s not just Netflix; there are other production companies. But people have to have the courage to come up with the ten mission euros it takes to finance a film with these kinds of challenges.

What kind of feedback have you heard since Mortel came out last November?

Frankly, I’ve had nothing but positive feedback. People loved the show. The thing we hear most often is that we should be proud of what we’ve done. We can feel as good about it as anything else in Europe and the United States.

Were you a Netflix fan before the show?

Yeah, I binged it all. I’m a big fan of TV shows, movies and manga and I know Netflix has a lot of anime. Some of the shows that have impressed me are The Originals, the spinoff of Vampire Diaries. I think it’s my favorite series. Otherwise there are the classics, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead… and in anime there are Death Note, Tokyo Ghoul, Parasite and Code Geass. Code Geass is incredible, it’s the story of a guy who is part of a royal family and treats people like pawns in a chess game to get his way. His whole life is strategy.

How do you feel about the future? Are you an anxious person or do you take life one day at a time?

Anxious yes, but it’s positive anxiety. I’m usually stressed and thinking about a thousand things. My future is the future of my artists, my brothers and the projects we’re developing.

And how do you see the future of film?

This is going to sound corporate, but for me the future of film is on Netflix and the internet. People today can watch a movie in the shower, at the dinner table or on the bus… That’s the future of film. But that doesn’t mean we have to sacrifice quality. On the contrary, the content has to be even better to keep people watching. Beyond that, I have no idea what the future of film may hold. I think Netflix and other major producers can also encourage people to go back to movie theaters. Netflix works with an algorithm and each person’s interface is different. It’s all designed to correspond exactly to each person’s personal taste. That’s the future: tailor-made content.

Do you think algorithms are a sign of progress or do they scare you?

That’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Deliveroo, Uber, Netflix… We no longer know what to eat, what to watch, what to wear or what to listen to. There’s so much choice everywhere. Now people just listen to playlists, without giving a whole album a chance. We go from rumba to soul to rap to techno. This is the age of over-consumption. But that’s just fine because I’m an over-consumer. (laughs)

And YouTube, which is the second most popular search engine after Google and produces just as many stars as movies. What do you think about it? Do you know anyone who has made it big on YouTube?

I turned twenty just three weeks ago, and the more I keep working, the more I meet people who are famous thanks to YouTube, Netflix or Tik Tok. There are some YouTubers who really have something to say. Like Sindy or Shera who go way beyond product placement. Today, people need a huge range of people representing them. That’s why a new generation of stars are blowing up all over the place: actors, rappers, singers, influencers…

You’re also a music producer in addition to your job as an actor?

Yes, I’m a producer, manager, editor and director of music videos. I work with a lot of really different artists, from modern reggaeton to trap to cloud rap and more pop stuff. I’m currently setting up an independent label called Global Records, which includes La Dirty, a drill group who are releasing a new sound this month. There’s also Omran, who’s doing a more pop kind of cloud. I’m planning to shoot seven videos with him this month, which will be released every week starting at the end of March. And then there’s my brother, King Luis. I work with my family a lot. I even started my label with my parents, who were rap producers in the 90s. They set up the first rap label in France, Labelle Noir, and produced the first rap compilation in France with IAM and NTM. My parents helped launch their careers. They stopped working in the 2000s and so this year I’m picking up where they left off. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got to make sure this new generation of Parisian artists get their voices heard. The 2000s generation has a ton of potential, whether it’s in acting, music, graphic design, influence or art in general. We’re also producing a show with young artists – graphic artists, rappers, directors – so that they can share their experiences. We want to do a show without a specific format. And we’re going to make desserts while we chat, a bit like in 93, Faubourg Saint-Honoré with Ardisson.

Will it be a podcast or videos?

It will be a live show on Twitch. It’s mainly a gaming platform, but our goal is to bring all kinds of culture to Twitch. Anyway, there are a lot of projects underway and everything will be released very soon.

Are you filming season two of Mortel right now?

Yes, we’re starting to film now. This season is going to be amazing with some wild things to film. We’re kicking things up a notch.

Do you have any other projects you want to talk about?

Yes, I recently appeared in the series Call My Agent. I’m in the second episode with Frank Dubosc, in the role of a young actor who is discovered on the street and ends up causing him a lot of problems. I loved the experience and I had an important role in the episode. I also realized what a great actor Frank Dubosc is. When you film with him, you see right away why he has this status and why he is so well known.

Were you a fan of Call My Agent before you appeared in season four?

Yeah, I’ve seen every episode, of course. It’s the actor’s dream. There’s nothing but sharks and people trying to trip you up, but you still dream about getting into the business. (laughs)

Jacket – Fendi
Burgundy Sweater – Homme plissé Issey Miyake
Light Blue Pants – Junya Watanabe Man, Comme des Garçons
Watch RM 07-01 LADIES Black Zirconium TZP – Richard Mille

Beige Trench Coat Beige, Black Pants – Junya Watanabe Man, Comme Des Garçons

White and green patterned jacket and pants – Homme Plissé Issey Miyake
Sneakers – Nike


Photographer: Corentin Leroux
Stylist: Armelle Leturcq
Make up: Megumi Itano @Calliste Agency
Hair: Yumiko Hikage @Agence Saint Germain
Photographer Assistant: Felix Demy

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