"This is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever signed up to," the "Game of Thrones" actor & rapper laughs to Billboard.
Raleigh Ritchie (born Jacob Anderson), an English actor and musician, is best known around the world for his role as Grey Worm -- one of the few characters yet to die on Game of Thrones. But what he's setting out to do with acclaimed actor Nicholas Hoult(Mad Max: Fury Road,X-Men: Apocalypse, Skins)and other friends starting on New Year's Eve scares him more than anything Grey Worm has been tasked with.
"I mean, this is absolutely the dumbest thing I’ve ever signed up to," Ritchie, who got his stage name by combining two characters he loves from Wes Anderson’s 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, tells Billboard. "At least Grey Worm’s got a hugely talented stunt team to guide him through what he’s doing. I’ve got five of my equally endangered friends."
On New Year's Eve, Ritchie, Hoult and three friends will begin a 1,000-kilometer trek (about 620 miles) across the Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains in Morocco for the Monkey Run, sponsored by Carrera Eyewear, to benefit men's mental health charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). The adventure is expected to take a week to complete, and the guys will ride mini motorbikes called Monkey Bikes.
"Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the U.K.," Ritchie explained via press release of his motivation behind taking on this challenge. "Depression and anxiety affect a huge number of us. It’s so important that the barriers that keep us from talking, seeking out help and finding a way to cope when things feel desperate are removed. I know first-hand that this stuff isn’t easy to face. The work that CALM does to encourage conversation and awareness around men's mental health is vital to preventing male suicide and creating a space where it's a safe to talk about it."
Hoult's statement reads: “CALM do such a great job highlighting a really important cause and encouraging the conversation around men’s mental health and preventing male suicide. The group of us taking on this challenge want to raise some money and awareness for CALM so they can continue to help people in need.”
On their way to where Morocco meets the Atlantic Ocean, Ritchie says he expects he and his mates will listen to "'Bad to the Bone' by George Thorogood, and The Destroyers has got to happen. 'DAMN.' by Kendrick [Lamar]. Mostly, I think it will be 'Bodak Yellow' [by Cardi B] on repeat though."
Ritchie's own lyrics aren't afraid to touch on difficult emotions and realities. For example, he sings in his track "Stronger Than Ever" (off of his debut album You're A Man Now, Boy featuring Stormzy), "But when I'm here I need your kindness 'cause the climb is always stressful/ Clumsily gassed myself by thinking I'll be better off alone/ I'll leave my peace in pieces all around the decent people back at home."
"Straitjacket," from 2016 EP Mind the Gap, finds the 27-year-old Londoner's honesty at its peak: "Hold me for a minute/ I'm just that far away/ From being considered/ Clinically insane/ I need your attention/ Affection is my way/ Out of the danger zone/ I feel no lightness/ Days like this are priceless/ Given myself license to indulge in all my vices."
Don't take it the wrong way, though. Raleigh Ritchie is not running away from the pains of Jacob Anderson. He is running -- or riding a Monkey Bike -- toward them, to conquer and ultimately amend.
"I’m doing this in part for myself, for my own struggles with myself," he tells Billboard. "I want to encourage myself to face my fears and my anxieties and do something I never would have thought I was capable of, but also we’re doing this for anybody who doesn’t feel they can talk about how they’re feeling, anybody who ever feels like their problems are lesser than other people’s. It’s so important that we talk about mental health, especially men.
"That’s why CALM is such an important resource to stand with. I’ve lost somebody close to me to depression and I can’t help but feel it could have been prevented with the right support."
To help sponsor the guys, under their team name The Moroccan Rollaz, click here. For more information about CALM, click here.