Steve Schofield
September 14, 2020
In The Mix

His Planetary Place

Abubakar Salim works to control his own narrative.

Mara Reinstein

"There's no way it's going to me."

Actor Abubakar Salim admits this self-doubting thought pervaded his mind after he learned that the cool sci-fi pilot script he'd just read was to be produced and directed by the legendary Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator). "I knew everyone under the sun would be trying for it," he says. "When I finally got that call and heard, 'Yep, you're in,' it blew my mind. It's still so crazy!"

Considering that Raised by Wolves — now streaming on HBO Max — takes place on a distant planet in the year 2154, Salim doesn't have to come down to Earth anytime soon.

He plays "Father," one of two androids tasked with caring for human children in a colony where residents are torn apart by religious differences. Though the character is enigmatic at the outset of the 10 episodes, "He's a flawed, loving comedian who wears his heart on his sleeve," Salim explains. "He wants to bring joy to people."

Growing up in Hertfordshire, not far from London, Salim found his own joy in video games such as The Legend of Zelda and Kingdom Hearts. No passive player, he viewed himself as a participant in the narrative. "I felt a part of the character's journey in a way that I didn't get with film or a TV show," he says.

Intrigued by storytelling, he decided to pursue acting. Never mind that no one in his family — including his parents, both Kenyan immigrants — was artistic, or that he couldn't afford training. Salim attended the National Youth Theatre at age 16, then received a scholarship to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Several theater and TV parts followed, including a role in the acclaimed 2017–19 British drama series Jamestown.

His dream-come-true gig? Doing stop-motion acting and audio recordings for the video game Assassin's Creed: Origins.

He's controlling the narrative now too, having created the video game studio Silver Rain Games in March; its tagline is "Creating Narratives to Empower Players." He also plays games every day in his London flat. That is, when he's not geeking out about Raised by Wolves.

"I'm a massive sci-fi nerd, so you can't surprise me," he says. "But everything changed when I got to be a part of this show. This is something I've never even seen."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2020

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