OVNV Alumni interview: Okorie Chukwu

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Meet… Okorie Chukwu, Actor

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Tell us a little bit about your background:
So I grew up in South London. I think I first got into acting doing the school play, then I went on to do youth theatre with the London Bubble. The Young Vic had a young company back in the day and from there I did drama at college, then went to drama school at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. I think drama school was the real turn.

How has being involved with OVNV helped you as an actor?
I took part in the 24 hour plays when Id just finished drama school. What was great about taking part was the exposure, getting the feel of professional work and the people that came to see it. It was brilliant to be on The Old Vic stage and performing to such a wide audience. I remember it being completely full, similar to what it’s like doing The Hairy Ape. I just remember thinking – yeah, this is what I want to do and if every job could feel like this it would be fantastic.

What opportunities have arisen from being a part of OVNV?
I met industry people who still keep in contact now and have seen me in other shows. It’s the links that it helped build. The people Im still friends with: actors, writers, directors who are still working in the industry, doing different things. We always have that connection. I went on to do the TS Eliot Exchange project which was absolutely fantastic. We went out to New York and performed at the Public Theatre to the American public who were really supportive. We had workshops with different people and it gave you an idea on how they work. That was an eye opener.

What would you say to someone thinking about getting involved with OVNV?
I would say do get involved. They are great team pushing emerging talent forward. It offers many opportunities not only do to work at The Old Vic, but also to form connections. Thats important because the people you know now, in ten years will be in different places. Always stay in touch and find out whats going on.

What organisations/events/talks/people/theatres would you recommend for emerging artists to seek out?
In terms of information I would say The Stage newspaper is always good to read about what’s going on in theatre, the people running theatres and their ideas. I read a publication called Backstage which is an American website, and they talk a lot about the industry. If you wanna get out there Monologue Slam is a very good initiative. It’s open to everyone and doesnt worry if you’re not trained or you dont have enough money, it’s just based on the audition process and gets you in front of many great casting directors, directors, film makes and fellow actors.

Can you name one person who inspires you?
Chiwetel Ejiofor. I was watching his stuff when I was in youth theatre. I think the way he is, the kind of work he does and the way he does it, excites and inspires me. He’s done such a range of work and I think thats to his credit.

What do you know now that you wish youd known when you were first started out?
Follow your heart, but also know what your heart is going for. You have to ask yourself what that is, then research so you know how to find or navigate that path. While you’re working on things ask yourself do you enjoy it? Are you learning? Are you improving? Are you gaining the kind of experience that you feel will help you and is feeding the path you want to go on? I think they are questions you can always ask.

What was the last great piece of theatre you saw?
People, Places and Things. Interestingly enough it’s written by Duncan Macmillan, who I met during the TS Eliot Exchange. I remember meeting him and thought – this guy is really good. Denise Gough was fascinating to watch in the lead role, as were the rest of the cast.

What is your dream role?
I dont think I’ve ever seen a dream role? I’d love to be in a new writing piece that really moves the audience to think about the topic that is discussed. To be in theatre that moves people to take action and follow what’s in their hearts.

What are you working on right now?
I’m working on The Hairy Ape, directed by Richard Jones, starring Bertie Carvel and many other fantastic actors. It’s been a fantastic experience being back at The Old Vic and I hope to come back! Next, I’m at the Manchester Royal Exchange doing a play called Wit by Margaret Edson. It follows a character who’s discovered she has ovarian cancer, taking a humorous approach to the topic. I’m really looking forward to that.

How can people find out more about you? (upcoming shows, twitter, website, band page, cooking channel)
Yes Twitter. I’m still working out the whole thing but I’m getting better. It’s @okorie_chukwu. That’s the main one!

Lastly, what would be your top three tips for actors:
1. Enjoy auditions and try not to be nervous. Do something that gives you confidence before you go in.
2. When you get the job, never relax. A job is practice for the next.
3. Save your money.

Old Vic New Voices will be hosting a series of interviews with tips and experience from fascinating creatives. If there’s someone you’d like us to interview, or questions you want to ask, tweet suggestions to @oldvicnewvoices