Sebastian de Souza is best known for his acting roles in the award winning television series; The Great, Normal People and Skins. This year is set to be an exciting one. He is starring in Fair Play alongside Phoebe Dynevor and Alden Ehrenreich. The film was bought by Netflix for a record $20+ million dollars at Sundance this year. Most recently, he appeared at The Bridge Theatre alongside Simon Russell-Beale in Nicholas Hytner’s critically acclaimed revival of Henrik Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman. And if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, his debut novel Kid: A History of the Future — the first in a series of time travelling adventure stories — quickly became a bestseller. We sat down with him to hear how the city we live in has influenced his writing…
As one of the oldest and most-loved enclaves of art and creativity in London, how do you think the people and places of Soho influenced your debut novel, Kid: A History of the Future?
Over the five years I spent writing it, its characters and the world they inhabited changed and evolved a lot. This was as a result of changes that were occurring in my own life; developments in my own personality; what I was interested in (or not) at any given moment during the period in which I was writing the book. In a much more significant way, though, it was down to changes happening around me in London. To my own physical environment. New buildings were constantly being built. Old ones were being demolished. Areas that were rundown and dilapidated when I began writing had become gentrified and upmarket by the time I finished. The book is set in London in the years 2078 and 2021 so, whilst I had to do my best to guess what the capital city would be like sixty years in the future, I also had to make sure that I was portraying it accurately in the present. Because the story is set for the most part in Soho, it was amazing to see how all the old haunts of this particular village in the 60s and 70s — particularly the sex shops and clubs — changed and moved with the time and the demand just in the time that I was writing.
When reading the book, we discover so many secret boltholes to London, with many of these located close to The Resident Soho. What was your research process?
I’m always really glad to hear that some of the locations I mention in the book are new discoveries to readers because they are all just places I love going to myself! In that sense, I guess my research process was rather spoiling: I went to all the little nooks and crannies in the city that interest me. In Soho specifically, these included: The French House, The Curzon and The Coach and Horses.
The Resident is on the doorstep of some of the best bookshops in the capital. What are your favourite bookshops in Soho?
I love Foyle’s on the Charing Cross Road and work in the café often. But, if I have some free time, all the second-hand bookshops further down the same street towards Trafalgar Square are heaven to rifle through too.
Walk us through your dream day in Soho
I love walking – just walking and walking everywhere. London, people say, is just a collection of little villages and I find every single one to be fascinating and exciting and beautiful in its own way. In Soho, I would start at Bar Italia very early in the morning, when no one is around — Soho is at its best in the morning. It’s so full of possibilities and anticipation and memories, too, of all the naughtiness of the night before. I’d eat lunch at Barrafina (if I was feeling flush) and finish the day at The Coach and Horses for a cosy pint.