In just six short months after moving to LA, Studio 24 alumni Chido Nwokocha booked an impressive recurring role on TNT’s “Murder in the First” and most recently guest starred on NBC’s “The Night Shift”. Studio 24’s Office Administrator Laurren had the pleasure of catching up with Chido to discuss his transition from a novice Northern California actor to a tenacious Los Angeles professional.
LC: When did you first decide you wanted to pursue acting professionally?
CN: I’ve actually wanted to act my entire life. When I was growing up, I was really passionate about football. I wanted to get into college and then play professionally. As my career started winding down and opportunities weren’t there anymore to pursue it at the professional level, I decided to give acting a go. That was about the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012. I enrolled in classes in the bay area and that’s when I decided to go after it. In 2014 I found Studio 24.
LC: When did you make the move to LA?
I made the move to LA at the end of June 2015. When I enrolled with Studio 24 in 2014, I put a plan together with Cody. We wrote down my goals, what it was going to take to go out there [to LA], and where I felt I needed to be at acting wise. I was in class with him for an entire year, just really working my tail off, approaching it the same way I approached football. Training and practice. Showing up every Tuesday and trying to give my best work and being as prepared as possible so I can get the best adjustment and the best coaching to elevate my game. That way when I was ready to make the jump [to LA], I felt like I would be ready to come out and compete with the talented professionals out here.
LC: I think you, and athletes in general, are great examples of what it takes to be a successful actor. You understand the level of discipline and training necessary to pursue something on a professional level.
CN: There are so many parallels. Between coaching, studying, and investing time. Also, you really understand the competition level of it. Like with football, there are so many people out there that are pursuing the same dream. The days that you take off, the days that you’re not really committed, the days that you’re not giving it your all, there’s someone out there going 100% all of the time. I correlate that with acting, you always have to put yourself in the best position to succeed. I always say that hard work meets perfect timing.
LC: Another thing that helps is athletes are used to being coached and critiqued.
CN: When you’re getting yelled at when you’re 9 or 10 years old, it gets kind of built in. I think one of the hardest things for people in both areas [football and acting] to understand is you have to be coachable. A lot of people have a hard time because they think it’s a personal attack. It’s never a personal attack, they are just trying to get you to be better and help you take that next step.
LC: What coaching/tools did you get from Studio 24 that helped you the most when you moved to LA?
CN: Preparation. Being in class, always knowing my lines, and doing my own homework outside of class. Also, the shared experiences. What’s cool about Studio 24 is that Cody has experience in the industry himself. When you ask questions, he’s able to pull from so many different resources. I think that’s one way to learn how to be successful as an actor. There is no one way to do it, but you can pull from different sources to help put together your own path. I loved being able to ask him questions about his own experience in the industry and hearing other students’ success stories.
LC: How do you go about taking advice from other actors?
CN: When you meet other actors and they are trying to tell you about acting but they aren’t doing the work, they aren’t training, they haven’t booked anything, they aren’t consistently pursuing their dream – why would I let them advise me on my career? Some people when they talk to you, they don’t have that excitement that they had when they originally came out here. They aren’t excited to talk about acting because they’ve had a negative experience or three years have gone by and they’re nowhere. No matter what they try to tell you, it’s going to come across as negative. You really have to focus on guarding your mind out here. You can easily absorb people’s negativity about the industry.
LC: So, how do you stay positive while working on your career?
CN: Well, one thing you’re going to learn quickly is the power of ‘no’. If you haven’t ever heard the word ‘no’ before in your life, you are going to hear it out here. It is extremely frustrating and you’d be lying if you said it’s not. It is a part of the process that you have to learn how to handle. You can have an incredible audition where you go in and just know you killed it, and then… you didn’t book it. Then you go out on another one, and another one, and another one. Then you go, I’ve been going out for this entire month and I haven’t booked anything. You can start to get down, but you have to remember that you are not going to book everything. You must have a strong understanding of what you came out here to do.
LC: What surprised you the most about acting in LA?
CN: How many people out there are trying to do it and how competitive it all is. There’s so many people in LA trying to act. It’s just such a bigger market than San Francisco. You’ll see [a breakdown] and it says “handsome 25-30 year old African American” and you’re like “Okay, cool. There’s not going to be THAT many guys. Right?!” And then, you go into the room and everyone in there is just as fit or as good looking as you, and they all look exactly like the description of the role. So, just understanding how competitive it is. The only thing that you can control is the work that you do in the [audition] room.
LC: What was the most exciting role you have booked so far?
CN: Oh… that’s tough. The first one is special because it was the FIRST ONE and you’re like “I did it! I booked a role!” I would have to say… I think the ‘Night Shift’ because that was really “it”. Actually, no… You know what, it’s a tie. Between that and ‘Murder in the First’. Those were really cool because they were guest star roles. The ‘Night Shift’ was really awesome because I feel like this year I’ve really been coming into my own as an actor. I’ll never forget that audition because I remember walking into the room like this is mine, I don’t care who else is auditioning for this, I’m going to get it. When I went into the room, I knew I knocked it out of the park. I still remember the casting director’s reaction. Six days later I got the call and I just remember going nuts. It was like, wow, I am going to be on NBC.
LC: What played into your confidence? You said you “just knew” going into the audition that it was yours, and obviously that confidence paid off because you booked the job…
CN: I felt prepared going in. I hadn’t really missed any classes while being out here. I felt really strong in the work that I was doing. Also, it really trickled back to the plan I had with Cody, about knowing what roles that I could walk into right now. Seeing that type of role that is right in my wheelhouse, I felt like I could go in and do well.
LC: You mentioned you felt like you’ve really been coming into your own as an actor, was there anything in particular that made you feel that way?
CN: I think it’s the work i’ve been doing. Not just see and deliver the words, but really start to understand it, and start peeling off the layers of the scene. I have been able to pick up a script and quickly dissect what I wanted to do with it or where I saw the character going. My “who, what, why” and all of that. Before, I would be like “okay, what’s really going on here…” and it would take forever.
LC: How do you deal with nerves in the audition room?
CN: Oh, breathing. I sit down before I go in, and I tell myself “We’ve already done the work. We’ve already done the work. We’ve already done work.” and I’ll say that to myself three to five times to really help calm down. Also, I do my tongue twisters, I let out a loud scream in the car to get out that anxious energy, and I’ll do a quick stretch. There have been a few times before when I was first auditioning that I would be so anxious going in, and then I would walk out two minutes later and I didn’t even know what happened.
LC: It sounds like the ‘Night Shift’ was a great audition. If you can think back to maybe one of your not so great auditions… Can you describe the difference between the two?
CN: I had an audition, I went in and I was so in my head. I don’t want to say that I overworked it… but I just could not put the script down. I was really excited about the role and I was rehearsing it every second. I remember going into the room and the casting director was trying to say hello and ask how I was doing and I was like “oh fine”, I didn’t take the time to engage with anyone. I just ran to my mark and I literally did not move from that spot. I kept tripping over my words too. They let me do it like four times. FOUR TIMES.
LC: How do you make sure you don’t overwork the material but are still fully prepared?
CN: After working on material, I literally have to distract myself and do something else. Whether it’s working out, watching some tv shows, talking with friends, something to distract myself and take my mind off of it. Just being able to set it down and know that I have it. Trusting that when I get to the audition, and I get in the room and do it, I have done the work.
LC: Is there anything you wish you had done differently so far while being in LA?
CN: Not that I didn’t enjoy hitting the ground running when I first moved out here, but I do think it would have been beneficial to enjoy and appreciate that I had made the jump. There are so many people that want to make the jump to LA and never do. It really is an accomplishment in itself.
LC: If you could give one piece of advice to actors just starting out, what would it be?
CN: Get into classes. If you’re just starting out, definitely get into classes. Also, write out a plan. Once you have a plan and vision of where you’re going, you’ll get a clear view of your path. What really worked for me was that when I really locked in moving to LA, I put a plan together and I stuck to it. Then I came out here and put together a plan for LA. That has allowed for me in my short amount of time here to book work, get representation, and just to be excited about the process of becoming an actor.