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From the Stage to the Screen, Mark Clennon is a Rising Star

We tagged along with the musician turned actor for his film festival debut and world premiere of I Don’t Know Who You Are.

by Maggie McPhee

Photo by Julien Herger

Mark Clennon had never been in a movie. Now, he’s a TIFF ‘23 Rising Star. The young actor is buzzing after the world premiere of his debut film at the Toronto International Film Festival. “One of the best nights of my life,” he says smiling. “You can hear people, all the sighs and all the exclamations. They were connecting dots that I had no idea existed.”

M.H. Murray’s urgent feature I Don’t Know Who You Are stars Clennon as Benjamin, a young queer artist living in Toronto, over the course of three hellish days struggling to access medical care after a sexual assault. “When I read the script and I understood the depth and severity of the challenge, I was a little bit intimidated,” Clennon tells RANGE while in Toronto for the film’s premiere. “It’s very outside of my comfort zone. I’ve never led a film before. I’ve never acted on screen. I’ve never been in a movie before, period.” 

“The team getting us together to go to the TIFF Portrait Studio with Norman Wong.”


“The Portrait Studio photoshoot was so much fun! Norman (Wong) was a pro at making me feel comfortable and natural on camera and the team was very warm and inviting! Pants and shirt by Club Monaco and shoes by Clarks — I wouldn’t be a real Jamaican if I didn’t wear some Clarks!”

But that lack of formal training actually allows Clennon to get out of his head, to infuse the role with his whole being. “I don’t think of myself as an actor, I think of myself as just someone living through the experience on camera,” he says. “If I forgot a line I would just fill in the gaps with what I knew the story was and then a lot of those parts ended up in the film.” 

Clennon plays Benjamin with a quiet intimacy. You feel his desperation as he navigates the catch-22 nightmare of Canada’s healthcare system. People who have potentially been exposed to HIV have a 72-hour window for the medication to be effective. But without adequate coverage that medication can be prohibitively expensive. Benjamin must jump bureaucratic hoops while debilitated by this recent traumatic event. And the clock won’t stop ticking.

Like Arabella in Michaela Coel’s stunning series I May Destroy You, Benjamin is not a perfect victim. The creative team behind IDKWYA brought their rawest selves to this project to tell an underrepresented story with nuance, veracity, and compassion. “That was M. H. Murray’s brilliance, just being vulnerable enough to use his story,” he says, “to do it in a way where Benjamin isn’t perfect, to allow the trauma to be a motivating factor in those 72 hours.” 

Murray, who wrote the script to process a parallel experience, fills a heavy subject with hope. The honesty, vulnerability, and openness he brings to the screen turn out to be the salve that sees Benjamin through to the other side of his harrowing weekend. Clennon, who came on as a story editor to lend authenticity to Benjamin’s background as a Jamaican musician, also travelled a healing path over the 13 days of shooting. 

“Me, Adwa Bader, Kudakwashe Rutendo, and Aria Mia Loberti at a Rising Stars brunch event. Outfit a mismatch of clothes from my closet – Calvin Klein blazer, Club Monaco undershirt, Zara pants.”


“Backstage before the red carpet of “Queen of My Dreams” to support our girl, fellow Rising Star Amrit Kaur, at her premiere! This movie was sooo good! I can’t wait for it to come out! The performances were stunning.”

The singer-songwriter-saxophonist — and now actor — explains that his artmaking has helped him understand his queer identity. “I just got to a point in my life where I was like, I don’t want to live a compromised life and I don’t want to die knowing that I wasn’t exactly who I was,” he shares. “This project on a whole brought me so much farther down that journey.”   

“My expectations were very limited in terms of the success that it could bring, but I knew that it would be a life changing experience for me, which it was,” he continues. “Even if we didn’t go to TIFF, just doing that movie and having to go through the motions of the character and learn what I had to learn I knew that it was going to pay off. But I could not have fathomed any of this.”

It will come to no surprise to anyone who’s seen IDKWYA that the brand new actor — who also produced the film and wrote and performed its original song — was selected as a TIFF Rising Star. Clennon spent the festival opening weekend at a hotel with his fellow ‘23 Rising Star cohort — “it’s almost like camp.” They shared a jam-packed itinerary meeting acting coaches and casting directors, receiving mentorship and feedback, and attending red carpets and premieres. “These opportunities are out of my wildest dreams,” he says. 

“On the red carpet with Rising Stars Adwa, Amrit, Almudena and Leah. We had sooo much fun that night. Outfit theme white night – Mango pants, vintage Converse shoes.”


I Don’t Know Who You Are is screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 | TICKETS & INFO