The actor grew up in Le Blanc-Mesnil, France, just north-east of Paris, where he fell in love at a young age with performing. “I was always watching movies,” he says. When he was just 13 years old, he started his career by doing stand-up comedy. “I got kicked out of school,” he says. “For months, I couldn’t find another school, so I was writing comedy skits. I started performing at comedy clubs and going to acting classes.” He says doing stand-up helped him become a better actor. “Stand-up helps you to not be afraid,” says Bak. “It helps you fight the fear—the fear of audiences, or pouring your heart out on stage.”
Starring in Mali Twist had a deeper significance for him than his other roles. “Living in France, we often don’t get to tell the stories where we get to be an African hero,” says Bak. “On-set, we had Somalians, people from Burkina Faso—so many countries in Africa were [represented] trying to make this African story. That was beautiful.”
In the film, Bak’s character often unwinds by hitting the nightclubs, where he dances to ’60s music from Chubby Checker, Ray Charles, and The Velvet Underground (all the while dressed in sleek, silky dancing shirts). To get into character, he fully immersed himself into the time period, listening only to ’60s music and reading books from the decade. He also learned to dance the twist and speak Bambara, Mali’s national language. “All these beautiful Black people were dancing to this music [at that time], so I loved telling that story,” says Bak.