…a movement of service to others. I think we are all on this earth for a purpose and it’s not a selfish purpose. I believe our purpose is to use whatever gifts we have to help others less fortunate. If we can just do that within our communities, this can spread even further beyond nationally and globally. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It could be helping your elderly neighbor with his or her grocery shopping. I just think people are so closed off these days and more comfortable being on social media than interacting face to face. I hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy. 🙂
I had the pleasure to interview Sope Aluko (pronounced “Shaw-peh Ahlookoh”). Sope is a Nigerian-born actress whom was primarily raised in the UK. She spent her younger years traveling and living all over the world, including France, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Indonesia. She has dual-citizenship in both the US and the UK, and speaks four different languages, including her native language, Yoruba/Nigerian. While in the UK, Sope attended drama classes at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) and extended her study into dance. She had the privilege of performing the world famous South African “Ipi Tombi” dance at the National Arts Theater in Nigeria. Although a cultivated artist, Sope received an undergraduate degree in Engineering and a master’s degree in Marketing. After a very successful career in the corporate arena in both London and the US, Sope turned her sight back onto acting and performing. Sope can be seen in Marvel’s Black Panther, “Counterpart”, opposite J.K. Simmons. She can also be seen in The Best of Enemies alongside Sam Rockwell and Taraji P. Henson, releasing in 2019. Sope can now be seen in Venom, another Marvel film, released on October 5th, 2018. Sope is married and a mother to two teenage boys, and currently splits her time between Miami and Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Ever since I could walk, I wanted to be an Actress. One of my fondest memories growing up was when my Dad would set up the movie projector for our family to watch a movie on a Saturday afternoon or evening — our “Family Movie Night” ritual!. It was always a surprise what movie we would watch and I remember being so excited with the whole process. I was transported into the world of those Black & White films, mostly classics with the likes of Greta Garbo, Fred Astaire, etc! Then as we grew older, we watched the films on Betamax and then VHS etc. My love and passion for movies started then and has continued to this day! I am not sure when I was actually stung, with the “Acting bug”, I just remember enrolling in every form of Dramatic Arts I could get my hands on during my formative years. Everything from Ballet and other forms of Dance, to Drama classes, to Singing in the School Choir etc. I couldn’t get enough of the thrill to perform to live audiences. However, my greatest love was Acting.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
I think the most interesting thing is that although I loved Acting, my parents weren’t convinced it would provide the necessary stability I needed for the future. Therefore they urged me to follow a more sustaining career path. Hence I studied and achieved an Undergraduate Degree in Engineering, and then went on to do a Masters Degree in Marketing & Product Management. From then, I went on to work in the corporate world as a Brand Marketing Professional, and attained middle management status, before I decided to finally leave my 13+ corporate career to pursue Acting full time. That was 9 years ago. It was a huge risk, and the toughest decision I have ever made in my life. Obviously, in the beginning, it was all about starting from scratch and learning about the TV and film business since my background was in Theatre. I don’t know where I found the strength and courage, but I knew I wanted to give this Acting career a shot. I knew that if it didn’t work out, I would have to walk away from it altogether.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Back then when I first started auditioning, it was all about live auditions, rarely self-taping as we Actors are doing a lot more of these days. I remember going to an audition with a major Casting Director and I wore a white shirt and black pants. I think it was a white-collar role of some sort — Doctor or Attorney. I had no idea that one of the main rules when selecting auditioning attire is to never wear white, particularly in my case, as a dark skinned Black Actor. Apparently the colour white screws up the lighting and makes me look all dark and unflattering on camera. I remember feeling so cool and confident walking in until the Casting Director very nicely pulled me aside and advised me of my error. He was very sweet about it all and even through my nerves, I was able to laugh at myself. That is one mistake I have never repeated since.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, firstly I am coming off an ecstatic “high” from my work on Marvel’s Black Panther and now I am gearing up for the premiere of Marvel’s Venom which is also super exciting! We started shooting Venom in the latter part of 2017 into early 2018, so you can imagine how excited all the Cast are to see the finished product. Both Black Panther and Venom were super exciting projects I got to work on, and I feel very grateful and blessed about both opportunities.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I would have to say my work on Black Panther was quite surreal. I got to work with Academy Award Winners and Icons that I have admired for so long such as Forrest Whitaker and Angela Basset, and other mega stars like Lupita, Michael B Jordan (who I had most of my scenes with), Danai, Chadwick and the list goes on. It was pretty amazing and yet so familial as everyone was so nice. I had the honor of organizing an informal dinner for quite a few of us cast members who wanted to eat some African food as a semi informal wrap party. It literally started from me offering to take a fellow Actor for dinner at a nearby African restaurant, and suddenly more and more people expressed interest until there were almost 30 cast and crewmembers at the restaurant. That was pretty special.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I know people have heard this before, but I have to agree with the saying that this business is about running a marathon and not a race. There are so many ups and downs and turns that you just have to hang in there if you really want to pursue this career. My Christian faith and my family are the two most important things that I hang onto dearly to keep me grounded. So find whatever, or whoever keeps you grounded. That would be my number one tip I think.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
First of all, thank you for saying I am a person of great influence. I don’t think of myself as such but I will accept the compliment graciously. This may not be so profound, but the only think I can think of, is starting a movement of service to others. I think we are all on this earth for a purpose and it’s not a selfish purpose. I believe our purpose is to use whatever gifts we have to help others less fortunate. If we can just do that within our communities, this can spread even further beyond nationally and globally. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. It could be helping your elderly neighbor with his or her grocery shopping. I just think people are so closed off these days and more comfortable being on social media than interacting face to face. I hope that doesn’t sound too cheesy. 🙂
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. I wish someone had told me about the huge amount of rejection I would be facing in this business. This career is really not for the faint of heart. Self-love is so important because when you keep hearing the No’s it can really affect you emotionally.
2. I wish someone had told me I didn’t necessarily need representation right away in order to kick-start my career. I have seen Actors wait until they got an Agent when they could just have jumped right in and done the work, especially with all the student, or indie film opportunities out there.
3. I wish someone had told me it was never too late to start out in this industry. Thankfully, I never listened to the naysayers but it would have been nice to hear it from more folks in the industry.
4. I wish someone had told me how important it was to keep in shape and be healthy, not just to look good on camera but in order for my body to sustain itself during the long shoot days or nights and even for stunt work whenever necessary.
5. I wish someone had told me the amount of money I would need to invest in branding myself in this business. This is an ongoing effort and you have to be ready to invest in yourself even if the ROI is not immediate.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favourite life lesson quote would have to be “what’s yours is yours”. Sometimes when we don’t get a role, it is easy to feel disheartened or threatened by competition. However, I believe the Universe (God) knows what he’s doing. We will all get our roles in due time and there are a lot to go round. So celebrating others and their achievements is good for our soul, because when your time comes round, they will be there to celebrate yours.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Actually, I don’t have one particular person that has helped me which I know may sound strange. I have to say that my help comes from my faith in God. I am a proud Christian and I have a wonderful support system from within my family, my church, my bible study group and my close friends. So I feel my prayers along with the prayers of my ‘support system’ has helped me to achieve the success I have thus far.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Of course I would love to have breakfast or even a snack with the one and only Oprah Winfrey! I know that whatever time I spend with her will be educational, uplifting, inspiring, encouraging, spiritual, enlightening and so much more! That would be a time well spent and treasured for the rest of my life!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook handle is @sopealuko
Originally published at medium.com