Percelle Ascott’s journey to costarring in Netflix’s newest sci-fi series “The Innocents” started with him playing the role of observer. It was 2016, and the 25-year-old British actor and content creator decided to attend a Netflix convention to learn more about the streaming giant’s strategy for content production.
“I was in the audience listening to people speak and talk about Netflix, and I met my director Farren Blackburn — well, I didn’t know he was going to be my director — but I met him at that time outside the venue,” says Ascott. “And we just had a brief conversation. Now cut to two years later, I walk into this audition room and I see him and I go…this is the guy I met two years ago.”
Ascott made an impression on Blackburn, and was cast for the project, which also stars Guy Pearce, in June 2017. His colead and romantic interest in the series, which brings the conflict of shapeshifting to a love story between two runaway teenagers, is another relative newcomer, Sorcha Groundsell. “We’re both in the same position — overwhelmed, anxious — but at the same time we can confide in each other and ask each other questions like, ‘how are you doing, how are you coping?,’ he says of working with Groundsell. “Ultimately, I feel like [our characters] go through a similar journey that we went through, in terms of the fact that we were having to explore this new journey together, and it’s the same thing these two characters do as well.”
Filming took place in Norway and the U.K., including Yorkshire and Ascott’s hometown of London. “It was really bizarre because I’d be filming in locations I’ve been to, and it’s like, ‘Wow, my memory of this location I’m filming in was the time when I wasn’t acting at the time, and now I’m here doing this massive job,'” he says.
Ascott, who began acting when he was 11, moved with his family from Zimbabwe to the U.K. when he was three years old. There, he attended the BRIT School, a performing arts school that counts Amy Winehouse and Adele as alums. “Just coming from Zimbabwe to the U.K., it’s not something that we kind of think about, like, ‘OK, you’re going to be on a billboard in New York.’ It’s been a crazy journey,” says Ascott, who had recently come from the Los Angeles and Mexico legs of his press tour. New York was his last stop before returning to London.
While a second season of the show hasn’t been confirmed — Netflix is likely waiting to see how the show, which has received favorable reviews, performs with viewers — Ascott has shifted his focus to growing his own video content platform, The Wall of Comedy, which he cofounded with several other young British actors. His current project for the platform is a musically narrated short film anthology, and he continues to look toward Netflix for inspiration as a model for expansion.
“I can only work in what is happening currently in terms of being present in the moment,” he adds, reflecting on his future plans. “Whatever is going to happen…is going to happen.”