Chaneil Kular has never been into being a one-trick pony. As a young boy making films with his cousins in the back garden of his Birmingham home, he was just as preoccupied with creating his own version of Diary of a Badmanas he was perfecting his ninja kick. “We were properly gassed by our fight scenes,” he tells me over the phone laughing. “We rushed to show our older cousins and they were so impressed that they told us to pursue drama school.” For Kular however, this wasn’t the moment that he decided to become an actor. In fact, he can’t remember a time when this wasn’t his main goal.
This firm belief in his thespian future, coupled with his expansive interest in a range of genres, was partially influenced by his childhood idol: Riz Ahmed. Kular grew up watching his hero on the big screen, marvelled by his portrayal of Nasir Khan in The Night Ofand Rick in Nightcrawler—an adoration that eventually set Kular’s own ambitions ablaze. “Back in the day you didn’t see many Asian actors on screen,” he explains. “But seeing people like Riz and Dev Patel doing the variety of roles that they did and breaking boundaries for South Asian actors was something really inspiring.”
After googling “How to become an actor?” and getting to grips with the basics, Kular prepared for his own entry into show business—a move he admits his family were not so keen on at first. Fashioning himself as the mediator between his family and his future, Kular explains how he was able to appease them: by brokering a compromise to study Theatre and Film at Bristol University. The degree, however, was something Kular admits he didn’t take too seriously—a fact amplified by his multiple run-ins at clubs with students who were under the impression he had dropped out. That’s not to say that he was sitting idle, but rather the contrary. Securing an agent within his first year of study, it wasn’t long before Kular got a call. One that determined his breakthrough role as Anwar Bakshi of Netflix’s critically acclaimed teen drama, Sex Education.
Given the series’ namesake, this also meant Kular’s parents had to endure watching him in a number of sex scenes. Despite the fact, he was relieved to find they were “really supportive”. Discussing this change in perspective, he explains, “It soothed all the worries they had about how volatile the industry was. Once they saw acting could offer stability they were really supportive. It helped that they loved the show.” And they weren’t alone. With over 40 million viewers streaming its debut series, Sex Education has since aroused a monumental fandom—securing an Emmy for Best Comedy Series by its third run. But the pinch-me moments don’t stop there for Kular. Another, he recalls, involved messing about on set driving bumper cars with his co-star Mimi Keane [Sex Education’s leader of “The Untouchables” crew, Ruby]. “I couldn’t believe that I was technically getting paid to drive around in this go-cart! I mean Oscars are okay, but if you’re not in a bumper car…what are you really doing?” He laughs.
Proving that the comedy was never restricted to set during filming, Kular recalls another highlight he shares with Aimee Gibbs’s Aimee Lou Wood, who bought the whole cast hats scribed with “WE’RE CHECKING SOCKS” following the multiple outbursts of laughter that interrupted the filming of the infamous poo scene of season two. Acting as the perfect memento for a series that sprung Kular to the spotlight, it’s safe to say his debut is one that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Shedding both comedy and community for his next starring role, however, Kular found himself in a totally new world on the set of his one-man thriller, Accused. Having always admired actors with a large ambit, I ask him whether this move was intentional. “Typecasting is an industry-wide problem,” he replies. “The roles I was getting offered after Sex Educationwere quite limiting and I wanted to show I had range.” This, along with the timely discussions surrounding xenophobia and the pervasive nature of social media that Accusedaddresses, meant Kular met his next match.
Playing a man wrongfully accused of a terrorist attack – unable to escape the online vigilantes incessantly plastering his face across social media – Kular is found front and centre of a witch-hunt that not only leaves his freedom but also his life in the balance. While the series sheds light on the dangers of digilantism, Kular notes his biggest takeaway was actually the power of perseverance. With his character prepared to do anything to prove his innocence, Kular learned, “If you apply yourself, you can do anything…even when you’re doing a task that makes you shit yourself at first.”
He soon realised this was a mantra that would come in handy while filming his next two projects: entering the DC comic book universe in Bodies and playing Arthur Hamilton in young adult fantasy, Silber und das Buch der Träume. The latter follows a group of friends as they discover they can make their dreams a reality. So, it seems only fair to pose the same question: what would Kular change if he could harness the same power? “Not that much,” he answers earnestly. “It’s a bit of a lame answer, but I’m so grateful to be doing the thing I’ve always wanted to do and that I’m able to enjoy the freedom that comes with it. The only thing that would make it better is if I could help other people pursue this career too. I’d love to have enough success to spread it around.”
For someone who is already pursuing the path of his passions, I wonder if there are any other roles lurking within his fantasies. A Mr Darcy figure, perhaps? Or Batman? “Batman?” He repeats, taken aback. “That would be funny, I think I’d be the world’s smallest Batman.” He ruminates on this a little more. “This is just pure fantasy, but being in Scarface would be pretty wild. I’d also love to do a Superbad remake”.
With this closing comment Kular proves once and for all that whatever his future holds, there’s likely to be a few curveballs waiting for us.
Photography by Brennan Bucannan
Styling by Lyla Cheng
Words by Erin Cobby
Grooming by Sandra Hahnel
Fashion assistant Amelia Connoll