Jamaica-born MetFilm School graduate Adjani Salmon was working in the art department at Pinewood Studios when, inspired by Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl (which mutated into HBO series Insecure), he co-created and starred in his own.
“I thought it would go viral, I’d be famous and I’d get a TV show,” laughs the 33-year-old writer, director and occasional actor with regard to 2018’s Dreaming Whilst Black, about an aspiring filmmaker’s attempt to crack the industry. “We got something like 10,000 views on the first episode, which is good, but virality is, minimum, 100,000, so we missed the mark.”
Yet every time Salmon went to a meeting, he discovered all the office juniors — the runners, PAs and receptionists — had seen it. “It became this cult thing within the industry.” Eventually, their bosses took note, and Big Deal Films picked it up. The pilot, which Salmon co-wrote and starred in, aired on BBC Three in April, winning him a Royal Television Society Award for breakthrough talent. A series is now in the works.
Salmon trained as an architect before he and his cousin Henry Robinson started making online sketches for fun one summer, leading to Salmon running a successful production company in Jamaica. He now has in development DREAD, a live-action show based on The Dandy comic-book character Dreadlock Holmes for Emanata Studios; sitcom Gabby’s, about a Jamaican family that owns a Caribbean takeaway in Peckham, south London (BBC); and The Evangelist (Vertigo), centring on an aspiring pastor who is kicked out of Bible college for having sex.
All are comedies, but drama is equally in his wheelhouse: Salmon’s graduation film His Father’s Son, which played several festivals, was a drama, as is his Jamaica-set feature debut Woozie (set up at Film4, for which he has just directed short Mai Jeruom). “Because the web series did so well, I got funnelled into this comedy writer route,” Salmon reflects. “His Father’s Son was a drama so through my short, and hopefully this feature, I can repivot as not just a comedy writer. But regardless of genre, I pride myself as a storyteller.”