Kosar Ali Is The Rising Star Set To Rule 2023
To say that period dramas have had a renaissance would be an understatement. Shonda Rhimes’s small-screen Netflix hit Bridgerton proved a corseted, slow-burning love story could shatter TV ratings records – and others are following suit. Enter Dangerous Liaisons, a prequel to Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’s 1872 novel, starring the Bafta-nominated Somali-British actor Kosar Ali.
You may already be aware of the 1988 adaptation, which featured Hollywood heavyweights including Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer. But the 2022 prologue, shot in Prague, has taken the literary tale of lovers to a sensual new level. Starring Alice Englert as Camille and Nicholas Denton as the Vicomte de Valmont, the show centres around the pair and their turbulent, seductive romance. For Ali, who plays Victoire, a perceptive chambermaid with epilepsy, it was an opportunity for the 18-year-old to defy expectations.
‘[Creating] the character of Victoire was a collaborative experience,’ she says. ‘Victoire wasn’t [the same] before I came along. She wasn’t Muslim, and she wasn’t a Black woman.’ Ali did not take the task lightly. ‘I reflect a lot of people, so I want to ensure I’m doing it in the right way. The most satisfying part about playing a role such as Victoire was being given the freedom to reflect the emotions of a disabled character in 17th-century France, who is also a Black Muslim woman. She’s a humorous, generous, brave, ambitious human with a lot of politics around her.’
Winner of two British Independent Film Awards (one for Best Supporting Actress and the other for Most Promising Newcomer) and a rising favourite among fashion houses (she’s a front-row regular at Alexander McQueen), Ali commands so much attention it’s hard to believe it has been just three years since she was thrust into the limelight for her critically acclaimed performance as Sumaya in Rocks, the Sarah Gavron coming-of-age drama.
Ali has had no formal training, but growing up in Forest Gate, east London, she would often entertain herself and her four siblings by re-enacting Disney films. ‘I was into the arts from a young age,’ she says. ‘We have videos of me making my entire family sit in the living room to watch me act out Pocahontas.’
Navigating fame is still surreal, says Ali, but she’s found a way to cope: ‘Coco Cassandra’, her alter-ego. ‘My friend and stylist came up with the name together. Coco Cassandra gives me a confidence boost. She comes out when I’m on photoshoots or red carpets. It’s not how I am in my day-to-day; I’m a shy, awkward person and that’s fine, too.’
Her rise in the industry coincided with the Black Lives Matter movement, which held a magnifying glass to society and the injustices faced by Black people. Two years later, has she noticed any changes in the TV and film industry following the reckoning? ‘I’m new to the industry, but I do feel like we’ve made some progress,’ she says. ‘Of course, we’re not 100% there yet. There’s always more work to be done. I’d like to see more Black women, people of colour and religions represented onscreen.’
And she has ambitions beyond acting, to help make that happen. ‘There’s something so powerful about writing,’ she says. ‘Firstly, because it’s your voice, it’s your narrative, it’s your story, and you have full autonomy over that. I’d like to experience more behind the camera, and one day open my own production company, bringing more people into the space to create more stories.’
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