‘The next person you meet; smile, be kind, be less judgmental’

Art mirrors life – or maybe it’s the other way around?

Actor Luke Dejahang has always had an interest in roles with purpose – using art, and acting, as a way to draw attention to social issues – as well as what needs to be done to correct them.

“Ever since I was younger I have always been interested and fascinated by stories with social issues,” explains Luke. “I’m a massive fan of … the directors and filmmakers out there that [are] really telling a story that is bigger than them. [It’s] just a piece of entertainment, but it’s actually making a statement.”

That’s why Luke tries to take roles that highlight these issues, helping to draw them into the public eye.

“Inclusivity, diversity, racism, these are all current issues. They’re issues that have been around forever and they won’t go away and they need to be talked about,” says Luke. “We need to have open dialogue and communication.”

“I’m not a politician. When I approach any subject, it’s always from a point of humanity – it’s from a point of love. For me, human beings, we’re all the same.”

“I think [the entertainment industry is] a place where you could hold up a mirror to society – whether it’s through your music, or whether it’s through your art, …  whether it’s through visual arts or film and television, you can hold up a mirror to society … put a story out there, it connects with people.”

Luke is passionate about highlighting the issues within our society through his acting – as well as through his production company Rockwood Films, which aims to delve into difficult subject matter, highlight diversity, and inspire watchers to develop a deeper, more compassionate understanding of others.

“I always say that you and I aren’t so different,” says Luke. “I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot. There’s very little that separates us. There might be cultural differences, but all have families; we love our families, [and] we want to protect our families. We want to do the best for the people that we love, regardless of where you’re from, what your religion or background is.”

Though he took a break from acting to found and run a successful business, Luke didn’t stop prioritising social issues. Sadly, his family was affected by suicide, and Luke supported his son when he decided to fundraise for Young Minds – a mental health charity for children, young people and their parents, making sure all young people can get the mental health support they need.

“As a family, like many families out there, we’ve been touched by suicide,” says Luke. “Somebody close to my son took their own life and it was a tragic time for all of us, [including] this person’s family, of course.”

“That propelled my son to swim the channel and raise money for Young Minds – [he was] only 16. And he raised close to £10,000. I was driving down with my wife every week to do the training in Dover, and he swam the channel to raise money for mental health in young people.”

Thanks to his son’s dedication, Luke has become even more passionate about young people’s mental health, and the work we need to put in to protect it – as well as the incredible work that charities like Young Minds do.

“When I was young, [mental health] wasn’t even talked about, but now there’s a lot more awareness through these charities and through young people talking about it. It never ceases to amaze me when I see teenagers open now … listening into their conversations is quite inspirational because it gives me hope for the future,” says Luke. “They seem so much more advanced and they talk about these issues and they talk about mental health. It’s going in the right direction, but still more needs to be done to support young people especially.”

Luke always hopes he can make a positive impact with his work – and in his real life, too. For him, it’s simple.

“It always starts with the smallest of things. The smallest of things. The next person you meet, smile. Be kind. Be less judgmental.”

Luke has jumped back into acting with his recent credits in Apple TV’s Tehran. You can support Young Minds, as Luke and his son have done, by visiting their website.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.

Samaritans. Samaritans works to make sure there’s always someone there for anyone who needs someone. Find out more here.

Ripple Suicide Prevention. R;pple exists to ensure immediate mental health support is presented to individuals following a harmful online search. Learn more here.

Papyrus. This is the leading suicide prevention charity for young people, working with under 35s. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.