Being an actor isn’t easy, and being a father isn’t either. In this interview we speak to Michael Salami, a talented actor who made his TV debut on BBC 3’s Just a Couple and has recently joined the cast of Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. Beginning his acting career at the age of 11 in theatre, Michael graduated from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, giving him the opportunity to work alongside a number of award-winning actors, directors and writers.
We talk to Michael about being a father and how his journey into fatherhood has changed his outlook on life.
What does it mean to you to be a Daddy that does?
MS: Being a daddy that does feels natural to me. It’s instinct. It’s primal. It’s funny because fathers weren’t very prominent when I was growing up and in school. At the same time it’s weird because most of my generation that are now parents are part of their children’s lives and we can’t see it any other way. Everything we do is for our kids. We are the generation of love – black love – and it feels so natural.
What’s the best thing for you about being a father?
MS: Having a little human being that looks like you and who loves you unconditionally with all their heart.
What’s the most difficult thing about being a father?
MS: Going away for work and seeing how that affects him. I never got to spend much time with my father growing up and that affected me, so I try my best to do the opposite for my son. But it doesn’t ever feel enough for me.
What do you think about the role of fathers in society today? How do you think it has changed from back in the day?
MS: Funnily enough it was my best friend’s birthday the other day and he tried to arrange a last minute link up with some old friends of ours, but no one could find babysitters! We joked about how unfortunate it is that none of our friends are deadbeat dads because, if they were, they’d be able to come!
Personally, I have seen a shift in my generation with new fathers being more present and expressing their love for their children. But what the media and society tell us about fathers, black fathers in particular, contradicts what I’ve witnessed. This is why I alway feel obligated to share images of black love, and father and son love, on my social media platforms. It exists and it’s important to share so we can change the perception the media is portraying.
How do you balance being a father with your career?
MS: At first I struggled but I thank God for technology which makes it that bit easier. I used to try to separate the two worlds but the older my son gets, the more I realise how important my son is to me. He now influences my process of picking and executing work. He is now the main reason I do what I do, not only to give him the best life but to prove to him that, with hard work, persistence and faith, you can become anything you set your mind to.
Traditionally men are often looked at as the sole provider for their family which sometimes means they can’t be as actively involved with their children as they’d like. What advice would you give to fathers that find it difficult balancing their everyday hustle/career with fatherhood?
MS: I’ve begun gradually explaining to my son that I’m an actor who pretends. It’s important to me that he understands why I’m not around all the time. His mother is a great mum who has done an amazing job raising him. She has taught me a lot, but the best advice she has given me is that communications is key to children – they really just want to be in the know.
My advice to other fathers would be to just keep your children in the know. Explain to them what you do, when you’re going away and when they can next see you. As long as they know that you’re coming back, and when, they have something to look forward to. Schedule days with them and remember; presents and gifts come and go but experiences last a lifetime. I remember the little things as a kid with my dad – like kicking a ball with him…or him refusing to get me a McDonald’s toy!
Which other fathers inspire you, or have inspired you, in your journey as a father?
MS: I guess watching fathers on black TV comedies inspired me. Shows like Sister Sister, My Wife and Kids, One on One, The Cosby Show, Black-ish. They play a part in the kind of relationship I’m building with my son now. People like Will Smith, Tyrese Gibson, Steve Harvey and Kevin Hart all inspire me, too.
What has being a father taught you about yourself?
MS: It’s taught me that family comes first. It’s taught me how to love unconditionally. Seeing my son fall over, over and over again, has taught me to just keep going no matter how many times you fail. He always gets back up, brushes off his clothes and just keeps going.
Being a father has also shown me how much I love God, and that there is more to life than just acting.
What’s your typical day-to-day like with him?
MS: It’s never typical as I’m always on the go. But when we do get a full day, it involves a lot of role playing, chilling out, learning, eating and sleeping. We love to share random activities with each other like going bowling. I have so much respect for his mum who does all of this every day!
What’re your thoughts on diversity in children’s books? Do you feel as though you and your child are represented in literature?
MS: I’m finding more options of diverse children’s books nowadays but there’s still not enough. I don’t particularly feel black fathers are represented in children’s literature. With my son, our aim is to read books that mirror him. Books like Chocolate Me and So Much.
Fast forward 20-30 years and your son is now becoming a father. What’s the one key piece of advice you’d give him?
MS: Save! Babies are expensive!
Words by Casey Elisha and Casey Paul.