Westminster pupil stars in Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s exploration of black Britain

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

While millions of children have missed school this year Westminster pupil Roshawn Hewitt took time out to star in Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s exploration of black Britain.

The acclaimed Small Axe series was filmed last year and the cast for the series includes two actors with connections to Westminster City School.

Star Wars actor John Boyega appeared as police officer Leroy Logan in Red, White and Blue, and 14-year-old Roshawn donned 1970s gear to play a school boy in Education. This will be screened on BBC1 on Sunday, and on BBC iPlayer.

He also has a small role in Mangrove about the notorious 1970s prosecution of the Mangrove Nine, who protested against police harassment in Notting Hill.

Roshawn, pictured top, relished the opportunity to work with Steve McQueen, who won the Oscar for best film for 12 Years a Slave – which tackles horrors of slavery in the southern states.

Roshawn said: “He was down to earth and there to help you. He would have a laugh with us as well.”

Education is based on Steve McQueen’s own experience and highlights racial discrimination at school.

Roshawn said it was good for people to learn about the challenges and hardship others endured.

He said: “Fitting school work round filming is not as hard as people think. It’s quite easy for me to catch up.”

Unfortunately he has not yet met old boy John Boyega, but hopes that can be arranged in the future.

“It shows you that you can live up to his standards and surpass him,” said Roshawn.

Like John Boyega before him, Roshawn has been acting for a number of years, alongside his school work.

“I’ve done a number of adverts, different shows and various musicals. One of my favourites was when I joined the Chorus in The Bodyguard, which toured the UK for six to seven months. It was a fantastic experience for me and a really wonderful show.”

And he said he enjoyed dressing up in a 1970s burgundy jacket for Education.

He said: “It made me want to dance. It was a wonderful experience that really pushed me outside of my comfort zone. It was also brilliant to be working alongside other black actors, who really understand the experiences we were exploring in both films.”

He wanted to act since he was five and normally attends classes at the Creative Kids Stage School in Fulham.

And while audiences can see him in a classroom setting on their televisions  he missed school during lockdown this year.

“Study has been a lot harder,” he said, and explained the hardest part was avoiding getting distracted whilst studying at home in Streatham.

But when he could return to school in Victoria he was delighted to see his friends again, even though the social bubbles mean it’s not quite the same as usual.

“Everyone is more quiet than usual,” he said.

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