Jackie Robinson famously broke the colour barrier in American sports when he signed a professional baseball contract with Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers. Actor Sidney Poitier, a Bahamian-American, became the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor and was one of the first black men to kiss a white woman on American television. Rudolph Walker stands among these men as a pioneer in his field, breaking barriers along the way in British culture.
A Little about the Man
Rudolph Walker was born in Trinidad, West Indies on September 28, 1939 and moved to the United Kingdom when he was just 20 years old in 1960. Walker has been the staple of British television and cinema since breaking into the industry as a policeman on The Wednesday Play, which he appeared in during an episode that aired 27 January 1965. His barrier-breaking role came on the controversial sitcom, Love They Neighbour, in which he became the first black actor to appear in a major British television series.
Today, Walker is better known to British television enthusiasts as Patrick Trueman on the BBC One soap opera EastEnders. His credits include appearances in 27 different feature films and television series appearing in British cinemas and media over the course of six decades.
The World’s Perception of his Homeland
Walker may have spent the majority of his life working and living in the United Kingdom, but he maintains a bright disposition in regards to his native homeland. He fully realizes that the world has become a smaller place courtesy of technology and the emergence of a globalised economy, but he believes that Trinidad and Tobago remain as a perfect tropical escape in an increasingly chaotic world. While he finds solace in the quiet life outside of London in the UK, he much prefers to go to Trinidad when he really needs to find peace.
“Go Visit Trinidad and Tobago ,” says Walker
The Caribbean has emerged in the last three decades as one of the hottest destinations for international travellers, but even though Walker offered up some admittedly biased answers on the subject. He believes that Trinidad and Tobago should be a top choice for those travelling to the region. He explained his reasons further with the following remarks:
“I’m from Trinidad, so there’s no other answer. I know the islands, I know the place, and I know the people. There is a uniqueness about Trinidadians, a general warmth. At times, the people come across as old fashioned and I enjoy that. There is no substitute in this world for laughter, and that is what Trinidadians generally do, they enjoy laughter and life.”
He goes on to say that celebrations in Trinidad are the source of much of its allure and joy. He loves to go and listen to the calypso music, hear local cultural shows. Only at these shows can you enjoy the pure laughter and beauty of the local Creole culture.
Does He have a Favourite Moment from his Career?
His greatest love as an actor is the theatre. Walker appeared in a theatre production entitled, “King of England”, many years ago which was based upon the story of King Lear. He looks back upon this moment as one of the finest in his career, and notes that his performance garnered him a best actor award. Not only was it his favourite moment from his career, but it was also one of the most challenging, and he notes that that factor added to the joy and memory of the role.
What Would He Change?
Looking back upon his career, Walker is not ashamed to say that there are things he wishes he could have done differently. He reflects that, “As an actor you’d love to be able to do a lot more, every actor thinks that way. Of course though, I am happy and I am content.” He still feels an excitement every time he appears on stage or is picked up to go to the set of EastEnders.
Acting: A Life of Challenges
Walker is quick to point out that acting is a constant challenge. Identifying one role as the most challenging is impossible for him. He notes that each role he’s taken on is different than the next, and each one brings about its own unique demands.
His Role in, “Love Thy Neighbour”
Walker is best known for that role in Love Thy Neighbour. He is stunned by how often people would look for a hidden meaning or social note from the story and plot of Love Thy Neighbour. While performing on the show, he said that it was about nothing more than pure, comedic value and “Two men acting like idiots, full stop.”
As a man of Creole heritage, Walker recognizes that life in Trinidad would be different. While people in Western societies walk on egg shells around each other, careful not to insult someone or appear politically incorrect, he sees how Trinidadians and other Creole societies have a better balance because people live together in harmony, raise families together, and work for the good of the nation and community.
Rudolph Walker Foundation
In addition to his endeavours on stage and screen, Walker recently launched The Rudolph Walker Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to improve access to opportunities for disadvantaged youth to launch a career in entertainment. The foundation offers the Rudolph Walker inter-School Drama Award to students from schools across London, and also the Rudolph Walker Role Model Award for students who exhibit positive leadership and a good influence to their peers and others.