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Schenectady-born actor Ato Essandoh has been everywhere; now he’s going to Mars

Schenectady-born actor Ato Essandoh has been everywhere; now he’s going to Mars 2020-08-30Leave a comment

fats tire electrical bike Schenectady-born actor Ato Essandoh has been in all places; now he’s going to Mars

IN PHOTOS: Ato Essandoh is seen in a latest publicity photograph and, inset, clockwise from high, floating in a scene from the upcoming Netflix collection, “Away,” as a teenager rising up in Glenville and as Main Trey Ferry within the CBS drama “The Code.”


Ato Essandoh has to suppose.

Not about what to do along with his life. He’s figured that one out. Not about his subsequent main performing function, both. These are all booked, for probably the most half. 
As a substitute, after I ask him which of his on-screen performances was the hardest to arrange for in his 25-year profession, he actually has to suppose. To him, although, that’s factor. It means he’s made it. 

And in his protection, there are quite a few performances to shuffle by way of in his thoughts. He performed Tanis within the 2005 Will Smith romantic comedy “Hitch.” He acted alongside Leo DiCaprio in 2006’s Civil Battle thriller “Blood Diamond.” He’s appeared as D’Artagnan in Quentin Tarantino’s Oscar-winning movie “Django Unchained” — which he finally says was, arms city, his hardest to arrange for. And he was additionally an everyday on the 2016 Scorsese-Jagger collab “Vinyl,” with an upcoming streaming function in Netflix’s “Away,” coming in September. 

However as he heads for Mars in his newest stint as an astronaut, and as he celebrates a profession of rubbing shoulders and dealing with among the best actors and administrators of the fashionable period, it’s vital to recollect the place Essandoh’s story started: Schenectady.

Essandoh was born within the space in 1972, to folks who immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana. His mother and father met within the states earlier than finally coming to Schenectady years later, when his father obtained a job at Basic Electrical.

“My mother was going to varsity in Washington and my dad was up at Cornell,” Essandoh stated. “After which they met someplace in between. Then my dad, who was finding out electrical engineering at Cornell, obtained a job at Basic Electrical. In order that’s why they moved there after which had the best factor ever of their life. That they had me. And we lived in Schenectady, Woodcrest Drive.”

When speaking about his childhood, Essandoh’s reminiscences bounce again pretty rapidly. He lived in Glenville till the fifth grade (so about age 12). He went to Glencliff Elementary College in Alplaus and later was despatched to St. Helens [now Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School]. What stands out probably the most for him, he admits, was how simple it was to experience his bike round his Glenville dwelling.

“What I bear in mind about Schenectady was simply driving bikes everywhere,” Essandoh stated. “And that was again within the day the place, you realize, your mother and father simply kicked you out of the home after which informed you on the weekend to come back again for dinner.”

Essandoh’s favourite place to experience his bike was an previous gravel pit off Woodcrest Drive, referred to as “the pits.” “We might go there with the remainder of the neighborhood youngsters for hours and simply tear it up.”

Moved to New Rochelle

Sadly, Essandoh’s time in Schenectady got here to an finish round 1984, when his household moved to New Rochelle. He finally went to Cornell, following in his father’s footsteps, and determined to check chemical engineering.

That was till someday in school, someplace round 1993, when he obtained a name.

“It was a director who was doing this play and he or she was on the lookout for my greatest good friend Marcus who was additionally an engineer. I used to be like, ‘Marcus isn’t dwelling, can I take a message?’ Then she provided me a component within the play. I by no means acted or something earlier than, so I used to be identical to, ‘You need me to do a play, I don’t get it?’ I kind of froze.”

So Essandoh known as his then-girlfriend up, defined {that a} stranger provided him a task in a play and his girlfriend began laughing. At that time, she dared him to do it and hung up the telephone.

“And so I ended up doing the play,” Essandoh stated. “And it was probably the most superb expertise in my life. I by no means considered performing as something greater than what I see on the display screen, like Denzel Washington. I by no means considered it as one thing that may be a factor that you simply do as an endeavor.”

However he did it. And after a number of years of nonetheless pursuing a life as an engineer and shifting to Rhode Island, he wrote himself a mission assertion. 

“Then the performing simply stored coming again to me,” Essandoh stated. “So when I discovered myself in New York Metropolis, possibly three to 4 years later [around 1997], I began going to an performing class. I had no concept what an performing class would appear to be, however I felt like I used to be at dwelling, dude, it was like, these are my individuals. I get it. These individuals perceive me.”

Essandoh began taking over smaller theater roles all through New York at first. His first gig on display screen, in a present known as “Third Watch,” was as a motorcycle messenger who was hit by a automotive by none aside from then-rising actor Bobby Cannavale. Essandoh remembers telling all of his mates in regards to the function — and his large scream within the present — prefer it was the best factor on the earth. And he recollects assembly Cannavale afterward someplace on the set of Vinyl. “Fifteen or so years later, we’re on ‘Vinyl,’ ” Essandoh stated. “And I’m like, ‘Yo, Bobby what’s up man? You keep in mind that ‘Third Watch’ present you probably did?’ And he was like, ‘No, dude.’ ”

‘Hitch’ function

Jokes apart, Essandoh’s profession quickly took him to nice heights, as he starred alongside Will Smith in 2006’s “Hitch.” All through filming in New York, Essandoh recollects large crowds surrounding Smith, and later surrounding him within the scenes to comply with, which he says was by default on account of Smith’s famous person aura.

By way of literal heights, nevertheless, his favourite Smith story from the set wasn’t essentially all of the freestyle rapping they’d do in between scenes. It was when he sat with Smith in a taxi cab.

“We’re driving down Fifth Avenue or one thing like that,” Essandoh stated. “And you realize, that is Will Smith on the top of his energy so I feel he’s doing that film, ‘I Am Legend.’ We’re at the back of the cab we shot one of many scenes in, after which we’re simply sitting there ready for the cab to again up so we are able to do one other take or one thing. We simply occur to cease beneath a 300-foot poster [of Smith] on the facet of a constructing.”

“It was like an ideal image: The cab rolls up and I see the silhouette and he doesn’t see it as a result of he’s dealing with me. After which, in the course of the dialog, he form of simply regarded over his shoulder, regarded up, noticed the poster and he simply went again to the dialog. He checked out it prefer it was simply on a regular basis for him. And I used to be like, ‘That’s superb.’ ”

Essandoh’s amazement grew as he began touchdown roles left and proper after the movie. However his hardest to arrange for, he admits, was “Django Unchained.”

“Simply due to the emotional kind of weight of enjoying any individual who is aware of he’s going to die, is begging for his life,” Essandoh stated. “That was emotionally draining and in addition understanding that I’d be having to try this all day lengthy.”

Acquainted feeling

However, for Essandoh, the preparation is what will get him excited for every function. For the final a number of months — as a lot of the world remained in quarantine — the actor joined everybody in feeling isolation firsthand, after filming his scenes for “Away” in January. The irony is that his character, Kwesi, has to handle this sense of loneliness as he’s despatched off to Mars — a sense that has now change into the norm for lots of People in lockdown.

“I feel all of us did a improbable job on it,” Essandoh says of the 10-episode collection “Away.” “As an actor, you’re at all times your performances and going, ‘Oh, I may have performed this.’ Now I’ve much more data. So if we get one other season and if all of us survive this season, I’ve much more to offer to the function.”

This season — of life a minimum of — has been fairly hectic for Essandoh. Whereas he needs he was spending time along with his household in Ghana, he’s presently utilizing his further free time to co-host two podcasts.

“Unrelated,” recorded along with his good friend Chris Cecot, whom he met throughout his time in Schenectady, follows the 2 males — Cecot being white and Essandoh being Black — as they talk about race, identification and the world. “Having been born in the identical place, we needed to kind of juxtapose our two lives and attempt to kind of speak in regards to the variations rising up in the identical place, how I used to be affected, versus how he was affected,” Essandoh stated. 

His different present, “Radio Zamunda,” follows him and one other good friend as they dive into artwork, tradition and music. The pair deliver on visitors that solely considered one of them is aware of, and have deep, mental conversations about how that particular person obtained to the place they’re in the present day.

Little does Esssandoh know, his personal story would make fairly the podcast. Whereas each exhibits are conserving Essandoh busy, he’s grateful that Schenectady can nonetheless be part of his life along with his work on “Unrelated.” And above all, whether or not locals catch him on display screen or not, he desires you to know that he’s “Schenectady born and raised.”

“There’s a fertile soil of creativity that’s up there, that’s anyplace you’re born. There’s at all times attention-grabbing tales wherever you go. I’m simply one other instance of these issues.”
 

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