Within roughly five years of beginning his acting career, Chido Nwokocha has already made a name for himself in Hollywood and does not have plans of slowing down anytime soon. Chido was originally born and raised in Sacramento, California and is the son of Nigerian immigrant parents. Growing up, he excelled in sports and dreamt of becoming a football player.
However, Chido was forced to make a career change after suffering a major knee injury on the field. After taking acting lessons in the Bay Area, he had decided to pursue a career in acting and moved out to Los Angeles in June 2015 to follow his dreams.
Chido has already amassed himself an extensive filmography list. He is more commonly known for his roles as Nathan Woodward on Steven Bochco’s Murder in the First and has guested on variety of television shows including Scorpion, Shooter, The Night Shift, and The Rookie. His most current lead role was the charismatic CEO Gary Marshall Borders in Sistas, which is written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry. Similarly, Chido has starred in a few films including Destroyer (2009) alongside Nicole Kidman and soon Top Gun: Maverick (2020) with Tom Cruise.
I had the honor and pleasure to talk to Chido and discuss his life as an upcoming actor, growing fame, and plans for the future.
SUAVV: My first question for you is that after doing some research about your life, I realized that acting did not always seem to have a precedence. I had discovered that you previously dreamed of being a football player, but you took acting lessons after sustaining a knee injury. I wanted to know what did you find the most interesting that compelled you to pursue a career as an actor?
Chido Nwokocha: I think the most interesting thing I found that was pretty challenging was just the work required to put into it. When I first wanted to act, I would see people on screen and was like, “This guy is good-looking and I’m good-looking. I guess I could go ahead and be an actor.” But then, I go in, get the script and as I’m reading it I realized that there’s so much more that goes into it. I really caught the “bug” when I first started taking classes and it was something that I’ve always wanted to do after football. Once I saw what else went into it, I was like “this is something I can really sink my teeth into, work hard, and really get the chance to focus on” which I was really passionate about.
SUAVV: Although your days as a football player are behind you, do you find a way to incorporate any of the lessons that football has taught you into your acting/career in general?
Chido Nwokocha: Absolutely! I talk about what drove me to acting like wanting to perfect the craft and dive into stuff emotionally. With football, there’s so much you have to do like play one game a week. Up until that point, it’s just practice, practice, practice! That’s real similar with acting. There’s so much training that goes involved to get your one moment. In an audition, there’s so much work that goes in to preparing for it and studying and you can’t just “show-up.” It’s so competitive and so many other people are trying to do it that you have to be on top of your game. You also have to continue to grow as well. That’s one of the things with football. We’ll practice, work, lift weights, study tapes, and then watch that tape again. Then, you’ll go back and play the game and hope it goes well. If it doesn’t go well, you go right back to the drawing board. Acting, auditioning, getting to the set, being punctual, and working well with other people in the team—it’s some of the similarities that it shares with football and it absolutely helped me transition really well.
SUAVV: Would you say that there’s a lot of discipline that goes into acting and football as well?
Chido Nwokocha: Absolutely. There’s a lot of discipline and a lot of focus. For me, it’s a lot of perseverance as well because you hear of so many “no’s.” I didn’t know how much rejection was going to be involved. You’re constantly going out and you can only control what’s in your control. So yes, you have to stay focused and you have to stay disciplined in your craft. Especially out here in Los Angeles, you can get caught up in the nightlife and extracurricular activities that could pull you away from your craft because you’re not experiencing a certain amount of success that you want to experience at that time.
SUAVV: I understand that you’ve only been living in Los Angeles for a few years, but I wanted to know what are some of the difficulties and challenges you have faced as an actor. This could range anywhere from rejected roles, learning lines, or perfecting a character—and how you might manage to overcome these obstacles.
Chido Nwokocha: I understood that you’re going to grow and may not have it down right away, but that comes with more experience as an actor. I think the toughest part is the rejection. You move out here, you’re wide-eyed, you’re excited, and you’re ready to book work. You take your first class and start to wonder, “When can I start to audition? When do I get a manager?” You then go through that process and realize that it is hard. It’s not easy to walk right in and get a manager or agent. There are steps you take as you enroll in acting classes until your first audition for T.V. and film. Just the rejection was one of the toughest parts to overcome because there is a lot of “no’s” that send you right back to the drawing board. It really tests your will and your wants. Everyone dreams of a story about coming here and immediately landing a big T.V. show. That probably happens for 0.1% of people, but everyone else has to lay the groundworks for a, hopefully, long-lasting career.
SUAVV: But how do you find yourself usually overcoming these obstacles? Do you train yourself? Does this go back to whole idea of discipline?
Chido Nwokocha: I train myself and, yes, this does go back to discipline. For me, fortunately, I have the background in that I understand this part of it. I do go right back to my acting classes, studying, and connect with my actor circle who I read the script and lines with to help me in an audition. It’s all about building that solid foundation of having something else to fall back on. Also, having other activities to keep your world just from acting. I enjoy working out, hanging out with my friends, and having a nice balanced life to where can I hear “no” from an audition and know I’m not going to be just sitting around for the next three or four days dwelling on it. I’ll go to class and then get my workout in. Then I’ll come right back to it and pick myself up again. I’d also like to focus a little on your acting career and the roles that you have played.
SUAVV: Within almost five years of moving to Los Angeles and becoming an actor, you have already had the chance to work with Hollywood legends like Tyler Perry in Sistas, Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, and Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you have worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names within a relatively short amount of time or do you believe that these roles are stepping-stones to even bigger accomplishments/opportunities?
Chido Nwokocha: It’s a bit of both. For myself, it was a personal accomplishment because I knew what it took for me to move out here and staying in the game along with working, finding jobs, auditioning and booking the roles. Even seeing how they conduct themselves on set and to understand what type of production I’m in has been instrumental to my mindset as an actor. This lets me know that this is something I can be a part of, watch, see, and have now potential to take things to another level because I definitely want to tackle bigger roles and bigger opportunities. That experience that I’ve gotten right now, I wholeheartedly believe is going to allow me to do that.
SUAVV: Not only that, but you have definitely been challenging the types of roles actors of color can play in Hollywood. One of your most recent roles was on Tyler Perry’s television show Sistas where you play a CEO named Gary Marshall Borders. How does it feel to be an African American actor portraying a successful character during an era where viewers are demanding to see diverse casting and representation in the media?
Chido Nwokocha: It’s everything for me because I am definitely very wary of what role I take on. It’s just cool to see the shift in Hollywood and the movement that’s been going on that’s allowing—especially myself—an African American actor to take on these roles. Growing up, I was around a lot of successful black men who were lawyers and doctors, which I do have in my family. I would definitely love to pursue these types of roles. There are going to be some roles that you can have that stretch like “bad guy” roles. It’s just cool to see someone you grew up with and have representation for.
SUAVV: I would also like to go back and touch on you starring in Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick which is premiering June 26th, 2020. The original film was a huge success and it has developed a legacy/name for itself as a cult-classic action film. Were you in any way anxious or excited to take on a role in such a highly-anticipated sequel?
Chido Nwokocha: I was super excited! I remember getting the call at the airport saying I booked a roll in the film. I think there was some anxiousness because it’s such a big production and you’re just like, “I want to go in, do my part, and I don’t want to mess anything up!” You also have to remind yourself that you do belong. That was one of things that really grounded me. I was able to go to work, enjoy it, see all the moving parts, and be on a big-budget film. It also made me realize that this is just the beginning because I’m going to be doing way more of this in the future, so just enjoy it.
SUAVV: Over the span of your acting career, you have played numerous roles. Out of all the characters you have played on film and television, which has been the most challenging for you to portray and why?
Chido Nwokocha: All of the roles have certain challenges that they bring. I think my most challenging but also enjoyable roles was a lawyer I played on Murder in the First. It was hard handling the lawyer jargon. With me as an African-American who is playing a very successful young lawyer coming up, it was really cool for me to get that type of job. Laying the groundwork to sit and watch and read a lot of lawyer stuff and how they go about themselves was really fun. That role made me realize that these are the types of rolls I want to take on and know I can handle.
SUAVV: Did you feel yourself coming out of your comfort zone, by any chance, in assuming this role? Or was it more difficult for you to portray because it was something you have never experienced before?
Chido Nwokocha: It’s a little bit of coming out of the comfort zone because it’s not something I went to school for. I didn’t study to become a lawyer, but I do have to immerse myself in that world and learn how they would think. It was something that I really felt strongly about in terms of the character and it was something that I always wanted to do. I really felt like that was one of the roles that I was so ready to tackle and dive into! It made for a great experience and it was really fun.
SUAVV: We’ve spent some time looking at your current and most recent projects, but I would like to spend some time looking towards the future. Are there any roles/characters that you have not yet played but would like to play?
Chido Nwokocha: I guess I really want to play a superhero. I work out a lot so I got to get on it! I would love to star in my own action vehicle movie similar to John Wick. I really want to have my own franchise which would be incredible. I keep my head up and think, “One day, I’m going to my own film!” Superhero for sure! It has to happen!
SUAVV: So when you feel as though when you have filmed a superhero movie, you know that you have made it as an actor?
Chido Nwokocha: I’m in! People have all these other roles that they do that’s gonna win them an Oscar or whatever. That’s pretty great, obviously, but I have to get a superhero role! I would have a lot of fun with that!
SUAVV: In a previous interview, you mentioned that you also dream of creating your own projects that would hopefully inspire and create other opportunities for others. What types of projects are you most interested in creating in the future?
Chido Nwokocha: I definitely want to write and produce some great content. I definitely want to tap into that mindset and create opportunities for African-American males so that they see themselves portrayed in a different light on T.V. which there is a strong market for that and has not been tapped into. There are so many roles and rich stories that we have. Growing up, I would turn on the T.V. and only see roles here and there. For example, when I saw young males growing up on shows, these roles revolved around a gangster lifestyle or a single-parent home. There should stories where a kid struggles coming up with two parents in the household, growing up in the suburbs, learn to take care of their families, or even become the breadwinner early on in life and must try to find financial stability. I’ll sit down with my buddies and we’ll be writing and telling stories. It would give people a chance to gravitate towards it because there aren’t many people out there who write black content and tell our stories. People are wanting it and they want more of it, but they’re hypocritical because they want it to be good. I understand all of that and I feel like it’s going to be nice to bring that to the table. There is a huge market for diversity right now in Hollywood more than ever.
SUAVV: I want to touch on that. With young African-American’s growing up, you always have to think about their future. Right in the black community, mental health and awareness is finally starting to show its light. Touching on topics like this in my content are things that I’m really passionate about. We are one month into 2020. What do you hope to accomplish this year in terms of your career?
Chido Nwokocha: I want to continue going on with my show for a season two pick-up. I mainly want to continue on my path and do good work and keep being well received in the acting community and industry. I think everything else will fall into place. I really try to control what I can control. If I continue to do good work, be positive, and show myself in a good light, then roles will continue to come as they have been coming. I feel like that’s been working for me in the short time period of time I have had since moving out to Los Angeles. I’m just looking out for a lot more opportunities this year. I think it’s going to be a really big year for me and I’m excited about it!
Be sure to keep up with Chido Nwokocha on Instagram @yea_imchido and on Twitter @Yea_imChido. Also, Click on the photo below to watch our interview with Chido.