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Paterson Joseph: ‘Racism is a strange mental illness’

Paterson Joseph will next star opposite Suranne Jones in BBC’s submarine crime-drama ‘Vigil’(Getty)

Paterson Joseph was sent off to drama school with a warning. As a black person, his older sister said, he’d only be playing slaves and servants. “I realized I was up against it,” says the 57-year-old now. “I thought, ‘Right, OK, I don’t see a lot of black people playing kings and CEOs on TV. And I want to do that. I want to play people who are in charge as well as people who are at the bottom.’”

He’s telling me this story from a hotel room in Geneva, where he’s about to play a chocolatier alongside Timothée Chalamet in the new Willy Wonka film. Probably best known as Alan Johnson, Mark’s suave sociopath of a boss in the sitcom Peep Show, Joseph has run the gamut of kings and CEOs over his 30-year acting career. He’s played Roman heroes (Julius Caesar), IT heartthrobs (