On the heels of Condola Rashad’s performance as Thelma in Broadway’s The Trip to Bountiful, actress Adepero Oduye has stepped in to play the role opposite veteran actors Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr. And she couldn’t be more pleased. “I am thrilled to be working with them. It’s been an absolute joy. I’m really thankful,” she says. The 35 year-old graduate of Cornell University was offered the role upon Rashad’s exit in July.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Nigerian parents, Oduye has been acting for 10 years, but her most notable role to date, critics say, is in 2011’s Pariah, directed by Dee Rees and produced by Spike Lee. For her extraordinary performance as a conflicted teenager dealing with her identity as a lesbian, Oduye won the Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance, the African American Film Critics Association Award for Best Breakthrough Performance and the Denver Film Festival Rising Star Award.
Recently, we caught up with Oduye to find out more about her entrance into acting, her take on Broadway, and her future plans:
TNJ.com: How did you break into acting?
A.O.: I’ve been acting for 10 years. I was doing theater and small films and figuring it all out and studying in NYC. I was in college planning to go to medical school. I took an acting class my senior year and I loved it! I had some doubts but my father passed away in the middle of school and it led me on a search for something else to do. Acting kind of found me and after that I knew I wanted to be an actress. I graduated from the pre-med program and started acting. I had to start from scratch and figure it all out.
TNJ.com: Broadway versus film...do you have a preference?
A.O.: Yesterday Vanessa Williams explained it well. Acting in a play on Broadway is about flexing a different muscle. It’s theater, but it’s theater in a bigger, grander scale because it’s Broadway. On Broadway, you get that energy from the audience, which you don’t get from film because you’re creating this thing in a vacuum. But when you’re onstage, the audience is right there and they’re responding to things that are happening. It’s a different experience and it’s one that is very enlivening.
TNJ.com: Are there any other projects on the horizon?
A.O.: I’m in a film called 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and directed by Steve McQueen coming out on October 18 and then I have my own writing projects that I’m working on.