Let’s be honest, the Wizarding World Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts franchise hasn’t always been the most diverse. However, in The Crimes of Grindelwald, we were introduced to William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama, a mysterious French-Senegalese wizard on a mission to avenge his family’s tragic past. The matter of his Unbreakable Vow was settled at the end of the film, leaving him with a fresh start in the new movie Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore. Nadylam spoke with The Root about where the latest story takes Kama, how his African heritage informs his magic and his place in the Wizarding World.
When we last saw Kama in The Crimes of Grindelwald, he discovered the Unbreakable Vow he made to his father was likely void since Corvus Lestrange, the boy he had spent his life searching for, was long dead. He met his half-sister Leta Lestrange, only to watch her sacrifice herself to save him and others from the evil Grindelwald. Nadylam says those events have framed Kama’s new mission.
“This is a young man who has lost everything, he’s completely devastated,” he said. “He finds his sister in The Crimes of Grindelwald, unfortunately, as soon as he finds her she’s torn away from him by Grindelwald. So Grindelwald becomes a new target.”
Kama joins Dumbledore’s quest to take down Grindelwald, but since no one knows anything about him other than his thirst for revenge, there are still questions about whether he can be trusted.
“It’s really hard to pierce his mystery. We don’t know what he’s made of. We don’t know what he’s been through,” Nadylam said. “Can they trust him and more importantly for me, can he trust you? He’s been lied to, he’s been abused, so I think he’s the kind of person who cannot be easily manipulated. He will go to the bottom of things before making his decision. That’s also what makes him an asset to Dumbledore. He is barely predictable. All these characters, the one Grindelwald will have the most trouble figuring out is Yusuf Kama.”
For Nadylam, Kama’s African heritage is a big part of what drew him to the role. He was able to relate his father’s Cameroon background to how Kama’s ancestry plays into his magical abilities.
“My mom being Indian and my father being from Cameroon, magic is everywhere. It’s an everyday thing,” he said. “It’s not something extraordinary. The importance of rituals is in every single step of our lives. Protection, blessing rituals, magic was always a part of our lives. To me it was extremely easy and natural to tap into that.”
“Kama is a French wizard from African descent and for me that’s a double bonus. He has been to a French wizarding school, but before that I suspect…I chose the Uagadou school, because it is the biggest and most powerful,” Nadylam continued. “I think I’m not wrong to think it was the most powerful school of magic in the world. I think it was the school with the most powerful students because it was the biggest and it gathered all the wizarding knowledge from the whole continent of Africa. I think part of Yusuf Kama’s powers are coming from what was happening in that school.”
Side note: I’m gonna need an HBO Max series following the students at Uagadou. Imagine all the amazing African rituals and history it could introduce?
To a generation of new young fans who are just discovering the franchise, they will be able to see themselves in the universe because Nadylam has made Yusuf Kama an integral part of the Wizarding World.
“When you play a part, there’s something universal about it. You want all the little kids to be able to identify with you,” he said. “Emotions have no color and no gender, and that’s something I’m very adamant about. As a Black actor when I grew up, I needed role models. It is my pride and responsibility to dignify those parts and to open doors for people who are not represented enough. That’s what I’m interested in. The Harry Potter franchise with that magic allows you to be who you want to be.”
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore opens April 15.