Flooding the net with his funny viral videos, featuring on BBC TV for his conscious short-films, and entering the UK’s thriving music scene with full support, Theo Johnson is an all rounded creative. Otherwise known as T1Officiall, the Birmingham-born actor, writer, musician and comedy social media personality, is a rising talent.
He’s paved his way into the UK’s entertainment industry and continues to progress with enthusiasm and an imaginative mindset. You may recognise him from his first major role as ‘Callum’ in Channel 4’s ‘Raised by Wolves’ or on the big screen as ‘Jason’ in the ‘Intent2 Movie’. Theo has featured in the awareness campaigns for ‘THINK’ adverts and more recently, released music videos in collaboration with recognisable UK artists.
How did acting come about?
I was kind of a naughty child and found school challenging because I was more into the creative arts and sports rather than the academics.
I figured that I was good at drama – teachers would tell me to take lead in acting roles, which I enjoyed. I quickly started to catch the acting bug and knew I wanted to get more involved in drama.
But I knew I had to be proactive. Once I started telling people around me that I wanted to be an actor, they didn’t understand it or thought it was impossible. My friends wanted to be footballers and my parents wanted me to go to university and get a proper job. As you can imagine, all the negative comments that come with doing something that seems to be unrealistic. It meant I had to start putting in work to prove to everyone that I could do this. I studied performing arts at college and at university I studied teaching drama because my mum wanted me to get a degree. I knew university wasn’t going to help me find acting roles, so I used to attend open auditions whilst studying.
I finished my degree with a 2:1 BA and at the same time, landed my first big break as one of the main roles on Channel 4’s ‘Raised by Wolves’ series, featuring in 3 out of 6 of the episodes.
It was only later I realised I could really make money from acting. I liked the idea of fame and all the things that come with it.
Growing up in Birmingham and coming to an industry that’s London-centric. What was that difference like?
After the channel 4 show finished reality slapped back in. I saw the money coming down and the struggles of the acting world when you’re not in full-time work.
It was then, that I turned to social media and thought it was the future. Me and Sideman decided to work together – as he was involved in stand-up comedy too and made name for himself. We would both go to networking events in London and that’s how we got our foot in the door…
The difference between Birmingham compared to London is that; when you’re driving people will stop for you and give you way, they’ll say thank you and put their hazards on… you can actually walk through the street without being barged. In that sense, it can be a more relaxed and a welcoming place.
That’s all good, but at the same time, a lot of people don’t see opportunities. They just go down the wrong path, or simply don’t know what to do so they think certain goals are unrealistic because they haven’t seen in their immediate circle. Whereas in London, everyone wants to be something, everyone’s got a plan and they’re in a rush to get there.
Acting, music, comedy – how do you balance this and choose were to place your focus?
I think my main calling has been creating my own short films. I didn’t have an agent so I always made sure I was in full control of my work and writing scripts that would show and develop my acting skills.
I see myself as an all-around creative, but I like to be realistic and prioritise what’s important at the time. At a time when everyone was listening to American artists and the UK scene wasn’t as it is now, it made sense for me to focus more on acting.
With music it’s a lot more effort, you need to have the investment and know the right people. With acting it’s about having a big enough platform to push it out on once it’s created.
Comedy is the part I like the least. It’s funny because that’s what I’m mainly known for – it’s the videos that have gone viral. It’s the easiest way to gain a following via Instagram.
Where would you like to see yourself in the future?
I would like to see, a Netflix deal or to star in my own series – that would be big goals.
Being able to show my ability and be respected for my craft in acting and be recognised for my music would be a success for me.
I’d like to become an all-round creative… People can easily put you in a box or hold you back by telling you to keep to one thing or ‘jack of all trades and master of none’. But I believe, if you’re talented and you’re genuinely good at these things, then why not pursue them?
I’d like to be a Jamie Fox or Idris Elba, where I can master my acting and be known for music too.
What advice would you give to someone in drama school right now?
Firstly, don’t get your hopes up. Once you start, a lot of people will sell false promises and dreams. Don’t believe anything unless you’ve seen it happen because of your own grind and efforts.
The best advice is don’t take any advice. People will tell you ‘it’s not going to work’ but if you’ve got that gut feeling, then go for it.
If you have a positive or creative idea, and you feel it might get somewhere. The worst that can happen is people won’t like it or you fail and move on by trying something different. Never let anyone stop you from trying to create.
Also, some advice; don’t let things get to your ego. Money comes and goes, and you’ll have highs and lows. Don’t let fame get to your head because there is always someone trying to take your place and you can only stay at the top for so long – a new flame will eventually come.
When you do reach the top… It’s not as glitz and glam as everybody thinks. It’s very fake – you’ve got be friendly, smile and wave.
Why is there always a mention of this fake attitude, and is there a new turn happening with the younger talent?
I think the world has become too sensitive, and its led to the content not being real anymore. A lot of people are easily offended these days and if you’re a comedian with good intentions – this stops your creativity.
As time goes on, I think it’s getting worse to be honest. But that’s one of the things that comes with the game, I guess. It’s called a game for a reason – it’s not reality. The industry is really an industry of entertainment and it’s not like you have to be real here. It doesn’t matter. You can take your mask and ego down when you come off the stage and live a normal life or be real with your inner circle there.
What kept you motivated and inspired?
The progression is what keeps me inspired – it’s a change that has turned my whole life around. Being at a point where I’m totally independent; waking up when I want unless I’m booked for a campaign or advert, not being worried about bills or knowing that my mum’s not worried about money.
I’m nowhere near to where I want to be, but I’m very far from where I came, and I wouldn’t want to go back there.
My family count on me a lot, anytime they ask me for something I can say ‘yes’ – and I want to keep it that way. Seeing how my progress has had a positive effect on them makes me want to keep doing new things. My nephew wants to be a footballer and my other nephew wants to be a dancer. I can see they are trying because they’ve seen its possible with me. I want to open their eyes to the opportunities out there.
Keep up with Theo’s exciting new projects and follow his official Instagram account @t1officiall to check out his latest content and releases.