Need for speed
Rising star Lauryn Ajufo isn’t hanging around, with a slate of assorted projects already to her name. Just don’t ask her to open a bottle of wine…
It’s been a busy couple of years for Lauryn Ajufo, who has burst onto British screens with roles in series The Last Bus and Tell Me Everything and films Boiling Point and Luther: The Fallen Sun.
In fact, her first screen role came in the short film of the same name that inspired Boiling Point, a one-take feature directed by Phil Barantini and set in a restaurant run by Stephen Graham’s head chef Andy. In both the 2019 short and the 2021 feature, Ajufo plays a waitress.
“I’m really glad the breakout point in my career was with Phil because he’s a great director. No question is a stupid question and he’s super supportive,” she tells DQ. “Boiling Point was a lot of fun. I was in a room with amazing actors but the pressure there wasn’t to the point where it was scary. It was motivational. I’m glad I got to be a part of something that was so important, did really well and is very British.”
The daunting task of filming the feature in just one take was made simpler by the fact the script contained very little dialogue. “The improv was great but, to this day, I still can’t open a wine bottle,” Ajufo jokes about a scene from the film. “I remember the first two takes where it was a struggle and I couldn’t open it. You could hear Phil going, ‘Keep rolling,’ and I’d run out of things to say. But other than that, it was a great experience.”
Netflix’s The Last Bus, meanwhile, is an action-packed eco-fable that premiered last year. It follows a group of mismatched teenagers, including Ajufo’s Misha, who become unlikely heroes when a robot apocalypse zaps away the rest of humanity.
Also debuting last year with the launch of ITVX was Tell Me Everything, which focuses on how the challenges of modern society affect the mental health of a group of teens who are searching for their own identities while experimenting with relationships, drink, drugs and sex. Ajufo plays Neve, who struggles to meet her family’s expectations compared with her high-flying sister.
“Especially being a young black girl, I grew up in a similar situation where it was hard. I got told I sounded too posh to be from south London and things like that, so it was nice to play a character with traits and issues I grew up experiencing, because I could put those into my character and show that to the world,” the actor says.
Most recently, Ajufo appeared in Netflix’s Luther: The Fallen Sun, a feature-length sequel to the BBC psychological crime drama starring Idris Elba as DCI John Luther. Ajufo plays Anya, the daughter of Cynthia Erivo’s counter-intelligence operative on the hunt for the title character after he escapes from prison.
She started work on Luther the day after Tell Me Everything wrapped, throwing her straight into this “bigger, bolder” take on writer Neil Cross’s detective. “There was no time for me to mentally prepare myself, it was just, ‘Go, go, go.’ But I loved it that way,” she says. “I loved being on set. I was very nervous at first because you’re working with really big actors who’ve been in the game for so long, but everyone was so supportive and fun and friendly to be around.”
During her fledgling career, Ajufo says she has learned not to commit to a script straight away, as they have a habit of changing through numerous new drafts. But as the variety of series in which the actor is appearing indicates, she’s up for a challenge. “Every single role I’ve played so far has been very different and I’m grateful for that because it helps me grow as an actor,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to be one-dimensional. I would like to challenge myself and try something different.”
Her upcoming projects include Accused, a feature film reuniting her with Barantini for a story about a man (Sex Education’s Chaneil Kular) wrongfully accused of being a terrorist. She also stars in Netflix’s The Fuck It Bucket, playing best friend Becca to protagonist Mia (Sophie Wilde), who emerges from hospital after a battle with anorexia intent on catching up on her childhood by completing a bucket list.
“I’m a sucker for teenage films or TV shows,” Ajufo says about The Fuck It Bucket. “I was obsessed with Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries, so to be a part of something aimed at a similar age group to the things I grew up watching is so cool.”
She’s also a fan of romcoms and would one day love to star in a new take on Richard Curtis favourite Notting Hill. But one job in particular would trump them all. “If I could be a Disney princess, my life would be complete,” she says. “I’d retire straight afterwards. I’d be content with life.”