Interview With Sope Aluko | My Truth
Having faith is believing without any physical proof, it’s trust and confidence that translates into clarity, it’s strength and the evidence of the power within all of us. Regardless of our spiritual beliefs, we all want to have faith in something good and greater.
Actress Sope Aluko, who can be seen now in theatres as Dr. Rosie Collins in Sony Marvel’s “Venom” says:
“Whatever anyone’s belief, one cannot deny that there is a greater source of power and being that rules our universe.”
• Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Sope Aluko and does your name have a meaning in your native language Yoruba/Nigerian?
I am a proud Christian, happily married to a wonderful Yoruba/Nigerian man for 21 years, mother to two amazing teenage boys, sister, sister-friend and hopefully described as a person of integrity, kindness and humility to those who really know me. My full name given to me eight days after I was born in a Nigerian Christian naming ceremony is Ibisope which means, “Thank God for this safe deliverance/birth.” I was the third child of four difficult C-section births, so I was in some way a “miracle child.”
• You spent your younger years traveling the world. How does the multi-cultural influence has shaped your identity and life perception?
Yes, I was fortunate to experience a diverse upbringing due to my father’s profession in the diplomatic service. He was posted to various countries around the world, including Kenya, Switzerland, France, Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago, etc. My father enjoyed learning and assimilating into the various cultures of the countries we lived in, and encouraged us to do the same. He spoke eight languages fluently so that essentially inspired me to pick up a few languages along the way. He always told us that the highest form of respect for any national, was to try and learn their language and culture. As a result, I have a passion for traveling, meeting people from various indigenous countries, a love for eclectic music, fashion, art, etc. It has definitely given me an appreciation for people who come from different walks of life. Also in retrospect, I believe it was my multi-cultural upbringing that drove me to specialize in multi-cultural Brand marketing which was my specialty during my corporate career. Back then, the area of multi-cultural marketing/ethnic marketing was in its infancy phase in most fortune 500 companies, so the challenge of establishing it was both exciting and rewarding.
• What a unique path was becoming an actress! From studying drama and dance classes at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) to receiving a degree in Engineering and a master in Marketing while succeeding in all these fields. How do these experiences have enriched your authenticity?
Every Actor has a different path to Acting, and I honestly believe that my path has helped shape me to be the authentic person I am today, some facets of which I get to play in the roles I have played to date. I always wanted to be an Actor from when I was very young. However, my traditional Nigerian parents did not feel it would be a sustainable career path and urged me to study for professions that would be more stable and lucrative. Hence, my path into Engineering which I gravitated to due to my love for science. However, halfway through my honors Engineering degree, I fell in love with Brand Marketing which allowed me to exercise those creative juices that I had tried to suppress for so long. After the loss of both my parents, I felt it was time to walk away from my successful 12+ year corporate marketing career and try and pursue an Acting career full time. That was nine years ago. It was the most difficult decision I ever made in my life, but I had to step out in faith and at least give it a shot.
• The entertainment industry serves as a platform to convey stories that represent who we are. How does the narrative of those stories are changing now, and how do you foresee its future?
Right now, there are a few things going on in the industry that is causing somewhat of a shift. For instance, you have the proliferation of streaming content from various streaming platforms. TV content is now competing with the likes of Netflix, HULU, Amazon, DirectTV, and the list is growing. These streaming platforms are not bound by the restrictions of Network or Cable TV; therefore there is more freedom to really tell stories in the way we want them told, and not having to adhere to the bureaucratic “red tape.” There is also the resurgence of more Black Writers, Producers, Directors and Women coming through that are also helping to craft the landscape of the stories being told. Coupled with what is going on politically with respect to the #Metoo movement and ‘Black Lives Matter,’ all these elements are ‘feeding’ into the shift which is currently moving in a positive direction. Also, the success of ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ in the box office, speaks to the power of the diverse audience which frankly is the bottom line. So I am looking forward to the future of this industry.
• How do you think talents could create more opportunities for themselves, or you think it’s conditioned by the entertainment industry, so to speak?
If you are referring to Actors, we have already witnessed case studies in the form of Issa Rae, Donald Glover, Lena Waithe, Ava DuVernay, etc. who have all clearly redefined the system. Now more than ever, talent can create their own opportunities, by developing their own material. We can produce, direct and even star in our own short films, features, web series, and either submit them to film festivals or distribute via streaming channels. It’s quite an open marketplace now.
• In the film “The Best of Enemies,” which is set to bow theatres in 2019, you portray Henrietta Kaye. What is the main message behind its plot and how does it feel to be part of with such a fantastic cast?
In my opinion, the main message of the film speaks to the power of two opposing forces reaching out across the aisle to form a compromise for the greater good of the community. The film is based on a true story with Taraji P Henson who plays the role of Ann Atwater (an outspoken civil rights activist) and Sam Rockwell (a local Ku Klux Klan leader), who battle over the desegregation of schools in Durham, NC during the racially charged summer of 1971. It’s an incredible story, and it was truly an honor to work on this project.
• You also can be seen next in “Venom,” a Marvel film which was released on October 5th, 2018. What kind of story it brings to the big screen and why do the audience will love it?
Yes, I am so blessed to have also worked on Sony Marvel’s “Venom,” particularly after working on “Black Panther” as well. The story is very close to the comic book, and essentially describes how Eddie Brock played by the incredibly talented Tom Hardy, becomes “Venom.” He really plays the role so well with the Jekyll & Hyde type feel to it. The worldwide audience is going to absolutely love it!
• Can you tell us about your role as Dr. Rosie Collins in “Venom,” and how was your process to become this character?
I play the role of Dr. Rosie Collins who is a West African senior tenured scientist working at the Life Foundation, which is owned by Dr. Carlton Drake. First of all, I have to give kudos to our Director, Ruben Fleischer who insisted I play the role as a West African, which was a lovely surprise. In fact, once you see the movie, you will see the diversity in most of the characters, so that was really special. It was also nice to be able to draw on my knowledge and experience as an Engineer as part of my preparation for this role.
• In “Black Panther,” you brought to life the Shaman – a powerful primal leader who calls upon nature spirits for aid or guidance. Do you think we all have a Shaman within us? If so, how do we listen to it?
Well, speaking as a Christian, I know I call on the Holy Spirit daily for guidance and help which is truly a privilege given to all Christians through our faith in Jesus Christ. For those, who are not Believers, I also believe there is a calling through a spiritual guide they can refer to as God or the Universe. Whatever anyone’s belief, one cannot deny that there is a greater source of power and being that rules our universe.
• What is your definition of success and how does what we think about ourselves affect what we decide to do?
My definition of success is living in God’s purpose for my life. The ability to use whatever gift or anointing that I was given, for the good of others in my community or even globally. I think it’s a slippery slope if we think of ourselves too highly because that pride leads to selfish actions that don’t benefit others. For me, humility is important, so we are constantly listening to the needs of others in order to understand how we can be of service to them.
• How do you balance your personal and professional life?
First and foremost, I put my faith and trust in God first. Second to that is my family. I find that when I do that, it really helps give me clarity as to what is important and what I can let go, especially when I am considering projects – content, time away from my family, etc. It’s not always perfect, but I do my best to keep a good balance.
• Are you involved in any charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
I am actively involved in my church’s local community efforts. Additionally, I am also involved with an organization called Joshua’s Heart Foundation that strives to feed the homeless/hungry, and organizations who support our young Black Youth in the Arts. My other causes are the fight against FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) in Sub-Saharan African Countries, Parkinson’s Disease and Bladder Cancer.
• The spirit of The Hedonist Magazine is “The Essence of a Joyful Living.” How does Joy during the creative process affect your own experience and in consequence the final manifestation of your actions?
I experience true joy when I see real abundance surrounding me. When others including myself are thriving in their lives, with respect to their health, career, the celebration of key life milestones and more. When that joy permeates through my inner being and my life, it opens another level in my creativity that I feel I have to immediately explore.
• When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words by Abraham Hicks. What is your take on such a statement?
I have to say that I correlate that to scripture, which says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Phillipians 4:13. So yes, I can do all that Abraham Hicks states, but only through my faith in God, who is my constant companion. That’s my truth.
Photography by Irvin Rivera | Styled by Hema Persad | Make-up: Anton Khachaturian | Hair: Alexander Armand