TBB Talks To… Okorie Chukwu Star Of ITV’s Kate & Koji

Kate and Koji is about the unlikely friendship between a Cafe owner in a seaside town and an asylum seeking African Doctor. This week the series returns with a very notable change, Okorie Chukwu will be taking over the role of Koji from Jimmy Akingbola.

Okorie Chukwu is an actor and producer, known for Hood Chronicles, Hood (2011) and A Good Crime.

We spoke to the actor about his new role…

Please introduce yourself

My name is Okorie Chukwu I’m British born of Nigerian heritage. I am an actor.

A word or sentence that describes your life right now…

Be water, my friend!

You play the role of Koji in Series 2 of ITV’s Kate and Koji. He is an African asylum seeking doctor on a TV channel that is mostly aimed at middle England. Within the dialogue and issues addressed some may see it as projecting negative racial stereotypes, while others may see it as a way of opening up conversations surrounding prejudice. What are your thoughts surrounding this?

It would be remiss of me to not say that, both points of view hold true. As an actor, there are always shows that raise different perspectives or opinions in viewers and these are based on so many factors. I guess that’s the role art plays, to show life, spark a response, initiate change… maybe all that amounts to education if you will. I would say that it’s the quality of education that is the challenge we constantly face. To reach the quality and the degree of it that treads a line that enthuses and brings a potentially unifying perspective and understanding that maintains or drives the necessary compassion where it lacks.

Kate & Koji – Image Credit: ITV

What made you take on the role and how has season 2 been made more palatable for a wider audience?

I felt I clicked with Koji instantly when I read the script. That I knew his voice. He is a stand-up guy. He cares for people, loves what he does. He is a grounding spirit and yet his world is upside down. He goes through challenging moments and I saw an opportunity to play the comedy then dive in and bring out his sensitivity, determination or rebellion which I feel is a great dynamic I have always enjoyed in roles. Also the opportunity to perform with a great cast in a style of comedy that seemed to be extinct in the UK.

Koji is more active in this series and I think people will enjoy seeing him engage in life a bit more and seeing him in different scenarios. One of the more significant experiences is of Koji going on a date with Lisa, played by Chizzy Akudolu. I won’t say more than that but it was great to play alongside Chizzy. I think there are many touching moments in the show that will make people laugh and feel something.

The first series left a lot of room for growth in the character. Will we see this developed and the audience get a better understanding of Koji’s need for asylum? And what about the relationship between Koji and Kate, what can we expect from the pair now that the dynamics have changed with you as Koji (previously played by Jimmy Akingbola) will we see an entirely new take on the character dynamics?

We reveal little bits of Koji’s background but rather we are witnessing his attempt to settle as an asylum seeker, make what he can of a potential new life in the UK and the challenges he faces. His relationships with Kate and Medium have moved on. Particularly I would say Koji and Medium have a great bond and team up on Kate when they think she needs to be poked fun at or challenged. Kate and Koji still have their moments at each other’s throats but I think they are still running the marathon towards understanding each other but they are further ahead in that vain.

Koji is more settled among his new friends in the café in this series and I think and hope we have captured the bond and developing relationships and the growth each character goes through whilst hopefully providing a good laugh.

Are there any nuances that Jimmy brought to the character that you have tried to keep or is your development of Koji unique.

I aimed to start fresh. I had a sense of Koji and I did quite a bit of research and read the scripts multiple times. I had some ideas, but when I started to play scenes with Brenda and Blake, it was good to let all of that go. So much of the work was adapting choices and playing around to see what worked. Interestingly, each episode offered up new scenarios which made it feel like I was discovering Koji along the way.

Kate & Koji – Image Credit: ITV

Jimmy has now gone on to play the iconic role of Jeffrey the butler in the reimagine of the Fresh Prince of Bel-air. In the trajectory of your career, if there was a reimagining or a remake of a classic show/film that you’d take part in, what would it be and what character would you play?

I would love to do La Haine and I would play Vinz.

Your acting career so far has been a mixture of Theatre and film performances, what came first?

Theatre. I did youth theatre after school and over the summer at the London Bubble Theatre and The Young Vic. Although Film led me into acting, my first experience was Theatre.

What about drama and comedy? What do you prefer and why?

That is a difficult question to answer… Can I choose Dramas that lead in the direction of Comedy rather than the other way around? Think Succession.

Can we expect to see you take on more TV roles this year?

Shall the manifesting continue!

Getting to Know You…

A favourite book you have to have in your collection? Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Nightcall by Kavinsky

A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Atlanta

The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you? I think it was Dr.Faustus at the Young Vic Starring Jude Law. I went with my college drama class. By then I knew I wanted to be an actor and I remember being marvelled at all the aspects on display that it took to be an actor. I watched his emotions, his voice, movement, the relationships with other actors. In the next drama class I tried to achieve all of that. It was inspirational.

What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? Can’t think what I have been sad or Mad over. Glad constantly to have been blessed with good family and friends.

Kate and Koji series 2 starts Wednesday 16th March at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub.


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