Nigerian-American Actor, Performer, and Writer, Chinaza Uche would be featuring in Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, courtesy of the 2017 New York Theatre Workshop.
Born in Edinburgh Scotland to both Nigerian parents, Chinaza Uche started acting while he was 7.
He has a BFA in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and studied at the Experimental Theatre Wing and the Classical Studio, while at Tisch.
His features in Films and TV shows include: Ricki and the Flash (Starring Meryl Streep), Mother Of George (Sundance, starring Isaach De Bankole and Danai Gurira), Terry Richardson’s Last Hours (Cannes) and episodes on “Golden Boy” (CBS), “Deception” (NBC) and “Blue Bloods” (CBS).
In an exclusive interview with Buzznigeria.com, Chinaza Uche shares his journey from a Nigerian child of both teacher parents to one of Hollywood’s fastest rising African acts.
The 29-year old actor also talks about his roles in the 2017 New York Theatre workshop plays; Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, where performances are scheduled to start from April 22nd through June 4th, 2017.
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau, both by Mfoniso Udofia are just two chapters of Udofia’s epic, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, which follows the highs and lows of Abasiama, the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Chinaza Uche, who plays Disciple Ufot in Sojourners, shares all there is to know about the Play, also revealing his favorite Nigerian actors and who he would love to play ‘Him’ in a movie.
Full Interview Below:
Describe the experience of your first stage play.
My first play was ‘Oliver Twist’. I was 7 or 8 and I played Mr. Bumble (the entire cast was children). I think I had one line, and I remember it going pretty well.
As a professional stage actor, what makes a good scene partner?
Listening. Being generous and a team player. Remembering that we are all working together to make something magical happen. A sense of humor. The Sojourners cast (and Portmanteau) laugh a lot.
What inspired you to take the role of Disciple Ufot in the play Sojourners?
There is a whole generation of Nigerians who left Nigeria to pave a better way for the next generation. The American Dream. Disciple is one them. So are my parents. I hope to honor what they went through.
What are the similarities and differences between the character ‘Disciple Ufot’ and Chinaza Uche?
We are both driven. He believes he was put on this earth to do something of worth. I believe that too. Our main difference is that he has to pave his road on his own, through far harder circumstances, and without the support of a loving family.
What is the most challenging factor about bringing your role to life?
Disciple does not live in a healthy frame of mind. Mfoniso describes him as a ‘wandering spirit’ ‘without an emotional tether’.
Nothing grounds him. Nothing gives him peace (… until he finds the person that does). Making my mind work like his is the greatest challenge I face every night.
What kind of audience would love to see Sojourners?
All Audiences. On the surface, it is a Nigerian story and an immigrant story. But the underlying themes are of struggle, perseverance, and love, themes that have universal appeal.
Who do you look up to as an actor?
James Earl Jones and Gene Hackman are some of my favorites. Chiwetel Ejiofor and David Oyelowo also have special significance for me as prominent Nigerian actors that I admire.
What do you do when you’re not in the theater?
I write. I watch a lot of films. I play chess. See my friend’s shows. The NYC acting community is a supportive one.
What’s the last thing you do before you come live on stage and the first thing you do after the curtain goes down?
Before I go on, I say thank you, try to remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I love. After, I check-in with the rest of the cast. There is always something to talk or laugh about.
Tell us about your Nigerian roots.
I am Igbo, born of two Igbo parents from Ozuitem, Abia State. My mother was born in Mbaise, Imo State. I was in Nigeria last October to attend my uncle’s funeral which was a great opportunity to see my family and friends back home.
As a New York-based, Nigerian-American actor, what are the challenges you have faced in your career and how were you able to handle them?
Although I have a community of support through my family and friends, what I didn’t have was insight or connections into the industry that I wanted to pursue.
In a place as busy and packed as New York, navigating the acting industry independently can be a challenge.
You have to continue to believe in yourself and your worth as a storyteller in a town that is so full of talent. Hard work, persistence, focus, and love of the Theatre have kept me going. It also never hurts to ask for help.
I am grateful to all the people who have taken time to give me advice and have believed in the unique stories I have to tell.
What is your take on the Nigerian movie industry and Stage Play Performances?
Nollywood is one of the biggest movie industries in the world. I am proud of its continued growth and I am excited to see more and more people dedicating their lives to telling our stories in the best ways possible.
If someone was going to make your life into a Nigerian movie, which Nollywood actor would play you?
Comedy: Nkem Owoh. Drama: OC Ukeje (He didn’t win best actor 2 years in a row for nothing!). I would be honored!
If not acting, what profession would you be into?
Teaching. Both of my parents are teachers. Nothing is more important than shaping the young minds of the future.
Tell us one lesser known fact about you, something really weird, but new, that hasn’t been shared about you before.
When I was younger, I had to go to the hospital, because I broke my toe attempting to do the Moonwalk in my parent’s kitchen.
What would be your candid advice to aspiring actors?
Persevere. The business is hard, but each difficulty teaches you something that can help you grow. Also, find your tribe. Surround yourself with like-minded people who inspire you.
Thanks, @ChinazaUche for sharing with BuzzNigeria.
To know more about the talented stage lord, visit his official website.