10.12.2011

Chuk Iwuji: Buckingham in "Richard III"

We had a few guest lectures in England and I've seriously been wanting to write about them for so long. So, drumroll! Here we go.

(Evan with Chuck Iwuji)

Chuk Iwuji plays Buckingham in The Old Vic's production of King Richard III this season. Starring alongside Kevin Spacey, you might assume his performance goes unnoticed. Well, it doesn't.

When Chuk came to speak to our travel study group, he approached us like a group of his own friends. Everything was casual, starting off his discussion with the instructions "let's just chat."

He introduced us to his career as an actor and how he secured the part of Buckingham. The play, directed by Sam Mendes, was obviously slighted for success with the names already attached to its production and Chuk admits he knew the second that he was to meet with Sam, his consideration was serious. He told us that meeting with Sam Mendes removes any self-doubt about one's own acting ability. He wouldn't meet with you otherwise. Instead it was a question of how the actor planned on interpreting his role. Mendes saw Buckingham as young and ambitious, a slick sidekick with a twinge of moral ambiguity and a talent for worldplay. Obviously Chuk felt the same and landed the role. Chuck went on to compliment Mendes' arrogance, referring to his ability to come up with visuals and directions without any sort of explanation why.

By comparison, Chuk offered us many of his perspectives on acting. "Acting is reacting. It is play," he said, referring to the way an actor must think in between lines instead of before them. He believes in blurring a character's edges and including quirks into performances. He also clings to the magic in leading a character on the stage instead of carrying it along as an actor. He answered all our questions about accents, play acting, and Shakespeare in general, making sure we were satisfied with enough information before he turned down my friend Evan's request to hear his best American accent. "You bastard" is all he replied.

He went on to tell us about the Bridge Project with the Royal Shakespeare Company, which brings together American and English actors, allowing them to keep their originality while working together on a play that travels throughout many countries. "Everyone I admire is from the Royal Shakespeare Company," he said.

Finally he touched on his feelings as an African American actor in a industry that favors Caucasians. First he made the point to include Asians and women over 40 in this category--all groups that often struggle in finding work. He reminded us of "Friends," a typical American show--set in New York and focused on an entirely white group of friends. For every 6 roles that are meant for white actors, Chuk knows 1 is meant for him. However needless to say, Chuk is rising just as quickly as any other play actor. "You don't shy away from something because of its obstacles." Obviously career spheres are more interconnected than we think.

Keep an eye on this one: