I recently had the chance to chat with BLACK OR WHITE star Mpho Koaho about his experience on the new film, but this wasn’t the first time I was wowed by a performance by this extremely talented actor. You may know Mpho as Anthony a series regular on the popular TV series Falling Skies or if you’re a horror fan you may remember him from his involvement in the SAW franchise starring as Tim in both SAW III & IV. He has made countless stand out appearances in several TV series, but none were as memorable as his guest role on Flashpoint. Flashpoint is a TV series that follows the trials and missions of a Toronto police tactical unit starring everyone’s favorite dad from the cult TV series VERONICA MARS, Enrico Colantoni. The episode titled Never Kissed A Girl originally aired in 2008 and featured Koaho as Michael Jameson, a young boy who was wrongly accused of murdering his best friend and first love. After trying clear his name the right way and getting nowhere, Jameson is driven to the courthouse to track down the lawyer who sent him to prison and holds a courtroom and it’s occupants hostage until the police bring him the lawyer he so desperately needs to find. Once in the courtroom and speaking with the police negotiators Koaho delivers an emotional and heart-wrenching performance as he recounts what really happened with his best friend. I do not ever remember a more powerful performance on a TV series by a guest star. I was brought to tears and so moved by the pure talent of this actor that when I saw his name attached to the new drama BLACK OR WHITE I could not wait to see what his role would be. Koaho continued to show his talent and versatility as he took on the adorable and quirky African math tutor, Duvan Araga, that Kevin Costner’s character hires to tutor his granddaughter. He quickly becomes much more than a math tutor, he also becomes an assistant, a confidant and a driver when Costner’s character Elliot Anderson has a little too much to drink, which happens far too often. He becomes the comic relief in a film that deals with some very serious issues.
When I got a chance to chat with Mpho I couldn’t help but tell him, even at risk of me sounding crazy, just how moved I was with his performance on Flashpoint and how much that single performance has stayed with me after watching it. He was extremely gracious and grateful all while making me feel a little less crazy for becoming a complete fangirl saying:
“Thank you and that doesn’t sound remotely crazy, in Canada there is a station called Showcase and Showcase literally, and I owe them so much money for this, Showcase airs my episode, they play Flashpoint series all the time, but my episode is played the most on the network. They air it like three or four times a month. It’s crazy.”
It is so rare to be so moved by a guest star and you often sit and wonder if that actor will continue to deliver great performances. With Koaho it has become visibly clear from his work on both Falling Skies and countless other projects that thankfully the actor is here to stay. He certainly showed his versatility in taking on Duvan in BLACK OR WHITE so we had to ask the actor how he became involved in the project.
“I have been out in Vancouver shooting “Falling Skies” for let’s see, the past four seasons. Well five seasons we have done the show but we have been in Vancouver the last four. So I’m here the last year, just filming away, filming the series. My managers call me up and say, “We have this wicked, wicked audition for you man” and I’m like, I’m very receptive to anything that comes my way. So they say “It’s a Kevin Costner movie.” I’m like what!? So you kind of freak out, there’s that holy shit balls ten time moment and then you calm down but you really didn’t calm down your just telling yourself that. I finally do the audition. I swear my heart was racing the whole time, during the whole process of the audition. Then all the sudden Mike Binder, the director, calls one day and says “I would like to Skype with you.” I’m like holy shit! Holy shit! Wait a minute that’s good, oh that’s a good thing! Ok… all right… Ok! So I Skype with Mike, he looks at me and he’s like what the f*@k, you’re not Duvan!? Because he hears me talking like this (with no accent) and you know in the film I had the African accent (starts speaking in accent) so the whole film I talk like this. So he got thrown by that, and then he said “I want you to make another tape for Kevin with glasses on.” I’m like, OK. Then he says “I also want you to watch a movie called BEING THERE,” I’m like Ok. So I did that and then I did the tape for Kevin. He literally called the next week and he said, “Yea so can you come to New Orleans and do this movie?” Everything stopped I think after that.”
Director Mike Binder is such a cool guy to sit and talk to and has such a great outlook on not only filmmaking but life it had to be truly amazing working with someone like that.
“Remember Mike was on the Sunset Strip in the 80’s doing comedy, playing all those clubs, with all those legends. Do you feel me? So Mikes a damn legend himself.”
One thing was immediately clear while talking to this cast was the fact that they had become a very tight-knit family after working together, something that doesn’t always happen with a cast after a film. Koaho shares most of his time on screen with Kevin Costner, so we had to ask what it was like working with such a legend.
“You know I was just telling Angela in my previous phone interview, this is a question I never get tired of answering. What is like to work with this guy? You come into it with expectations because why wouldn’t you? It’s DANCES WITH WOLVES, it’s BULL DURHAM, it’s FIELD OF DREAMS, it’s TIN CUP, it’s WATER WORLD, it’s THE UNTOUCHABLES, it’s… I can like really keep going. So it’s like THAT GUY, in one person, right? Then you’re like dude, this is MR. BROOKS! Right!? So check this out… so everybody’s always like, oh FIELD OF DREAMS oh my god I cried, BULL DURHAM oh my god I cried. I’m like Kev, all right man, my three favorite movies, my favorite role, role specific was MR. BROOKS. You destroyed that movie. My favorite movies are TIN CUP and really WATERWORLD, WATERWORLD is #1 and TIN CUP is like #1a. (laughs) And when I said WATERWORLD his face just lit up, from that moment we were like best buddies. Because nobody tells him they love that movie and I’m like dude that’s like the BEST movie. From that moment he was just so nice to me and he was nice from the get go. He just went out of his way to give me advice and he’s just so complimentary of my work He’s just such a supporter of me, he was so willing to involve me in the press stuff and he made sure I was there. Exactly like you are speaking to, of the interviews and the press conferences that you have seen. Man he throws the ball around in interviews, you don’t expect him to do that, then he calls your name in an interview and your like, oh wait huh, oh that’s MY name and you answer the questions and your half freaking out because he called your name like that in an interview.”
It is so wonderful to hear that Costner is just as kind, humble and amazing as you would think he is because as Costner said himself during the press conference “We get disappointed often” in this business. There is no disappointment with Koaho either who was an absolute joy to talk to. Not only was BLACK OR WHITE entertaining it also carried with it a very important message and very serious subject matter. Everyone that sees this movie will take away something different and will have a very strong opinion on it. It is also a call to action, shedding light on issues that we as a country need to be discussing. We asked Mpho if the weight of the story comes into play when preparing for the role and stays with him once on set.
“Most definitely you think about that. You know that is the subject matter of the film. As an actor, I don’t know how many actors who are going to love a character, like totally hate the script and still do the movie kind of thing, right? So the subject matter hits you first and you’re like holy shit this is relevant and the character is like so cool and left of everything I normally play, that I’m all over that opportunity. Its entertainment first for people but clearly this is subject matter that we have to address and soon, like soon.”
One thing is for sure Koaho is beyond talented and continues to shine with each project he takes on. If you didn’t know who he was before, you do now, and you should definitely keep your eye on him because he will continue to do great things and is excited for you to see this film and for all the possible opportunities that may come his way.
“I’m just so stoked about this movie and I’m so stoked about what’s next. I don’t even know what’s next right now but that feeling, especially after coming off a series, you know I have been this show five years and I’m just excited to not know but have that anticipation at the same time and I feel like this film, people will like this film and I’m excited for what’s going to come to me from this film.”
Make sure you check out BLACK OR WHITE in theatres everywhere now.