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'Mayor of Kingstown’s’ Tobi Bamtefa Says Killer Mike Was an Inspiration for 'Bunny' Character

After a successful first season, the Paramount+ series Mayor of Kingstown has returned for a new season, which features Tobi Bamtefa as a series regular portraying the character Deverin “Bunny” Washington.

“Bunny” is a friend to the series’ leading man Mike (Jeremy Renner) and is also a drug dealer and leader of The Crips, but is not written stereotypically in any way, according to Bamtefa. “His humor was very intriguing,” Bamtefa said in an interview with The Quintessential Gentleman about the trait that helps differentiate his character from the typical gangster image. “It almost makes him slightly unpredictable,” he added.

Bamtefa explained that he himself also relies on humor at times as a defense mechanism to cope with tough situations. While the character is humorous, he does have moments of being vicious, which Bamtefa expressed is a challenge to mesh the duality of Bunny’s light-hearted humorous side with his ruthless side. Bamtefa spoke about drawing from the many different sides of personalities off-screen stating, “It's definitely an acting challenge, trying to marry the two aspects of these personalities, but we all have aspects of that within us depending on whatever situation we're in. You might have to kind of switch it up at the drop of a hat.”

The show on Kingstown is set in Michigan, however, Bamtefa didn’t arrive in America for the first time until the series began filming season two in Toronto. While Toronto is part of the Americas, the culture is different in Canada than it is here in the United States. In researching gang culture to prepare for his role, Bamtefa said, “I watched videos and read books on a variety of things, just to understand this world a little bit more.”

Photo Credit: David Reiss

As he went deeper, Bamtefa started to draw from people he knew and previous characters he portrayed like Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in a stage adaptation of the film The Last King of Scotland. In describing Amin (whom Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for portraying) and how he drew from Amin to create Bunny, Bamtefa said, “He was this larger than life kind of person and he was really charming, and welcoming to people, but there was this other side of him that was equally just as violent.” Amin wasn't Bamtefa's only inspiration for Bunny. Killer Mike was also an inspiration. “[Killer Mike] is someone whose intelligence kind of seeps through everything that he talks about, and he's also the kind of person who can sort of look at a situation and form his own opinion on it, and that opinion you can trust will be informed,” Bamtefa shared.

Tobi was born in Nigeria and lives in England. He learned a lot about the US prison culture while researching for his role. He came across an interesting connection saying, “I found that slavery is technically legal if you are incarcerated. You become property of the state. So that in itself is a concept to get around because there is a whole myriad of outcomes that comes with that,” he added.

Bamtefa also took time to research more in-depth how the prison system is different across different states. He shared that he was familiar with other topics that the series touched on such as police brutality and human rights violations in prisons, which doesn’t just happen in America. Aside from discovering new information about the prison system, he also discovered new aspects of American culture such as the fast food burger restaurant White Castle.

Even in discovering American food techniques and taste that his character Bunny experiences he was able to connect it back to his experience in Europe. “We're a lot more similar than we would like to admit, and a lot of times there was comfort in that and a little bit of heartache because we've been taught to assume that we're all different. But actually, no, we kind of do the same thing,” Bamtefa said.

When it comes to misconceptions, Bamtefa went on to explain how his own physicality sometimes gives people the wrong idea but how working in America has given him pride. Bamtefa who stands 6’4, said, “When I came to America, I realized that I actually stand straight up,” he said. He explained in England he would have to try to make himself shorter not just to fit into low-ceiling buildings but to appear less threatening. But America has given Tobi the ability to stand tall in his glory. “America is different in that if you don't stand up for yourself, you're gonna get lost in the sauce, especially in New York. Everyone's kind of doing their own thing. So you kind of need to be able to take up space, otherwise you're just going to get swamped. And also, things here are just big, so I can just stand up straight. I haven't had a backache since I've got here,” Bamtefa added.

Check out the full interview below.


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