Africa’s Action Man in the West

There is a great deal of respect attached to being a successful African actor in the bigger leagues of filmmaking across the world, be it in Hollywood, Bollywood or any other established territory or market.

Down here in the African continent, most people feel at ease when they see their fellow African play a lead or supporting role in a major movie produced in say, Hollywood.

It is a good feeling for most people across the continent not because they are not used to seeing their stars get to the top in that field but because, it usually takes a lot of man hours, image-massaging, skill and diligence to achieve platinum filmmaking status in the West especially in a jurisdiction like Hollywood, where a lot of factors including race sometimes determine whether you would even get a cameo role or not.

These established markets are the highest points most African actors would want to get to in their careers. At that stage, everything falls in place, recognition is earned, and revenue is increased.

Across these leagues, there are a good number of African-born actors who are leaving nothing to chance, and are constantly battling for supremacy amongst the awesome lot of movie professionals.

Names like Idris Elba, who is half Sierra Leonean, half Ghanaian, Djimon Hounsou, and Borris Kudjo have over the years become almost synonymous with quality to an extent where they are now lords of their crafts

Elba and Hounsou for instance command a large chunk of respect available for grabs at that level of filmmaking, and duly recognized as such. Then of course, there is always a great storyline to how it all started for them. In most situations, the story goes like …. ‘He was born in somewhere in Africa but later found his way…’ into the streets of say New York or London or Montreal…and it goes on and on to how awesome they are.

Ghanaian-born actor Peter Mensah belongs to that tall list of actors of African descent and heritage, who are making it big out there.

Over the years, and still counting, Mensah has built for himself a cult following of ardent and loyal fans that pay to watch his collection of productions, whenever they are released.

Major roles in productions like the box-office platinum-selling hit Avatar, Incredible Hulk, Hidalgo, Tears of the Sun, Perfect Son, The Long Island Incident, Cypher, Jason X, Harvard Man, Bless the Child, Star Trek: Enterprise, Tracker, Witchblade, Blue Murder, Relic Hunter, Earth: Final Conflict, Highlander: The Raven, La Femme Nikita, 300, and The Seed among others, have kept his career on a high.

Conviction, Trigger Man, Flynn, Enslavement: The True Story Of Fanny Kemble, Once A Thief, Blue Murder, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, True Blood, FIX: The Series, Twich City, City Of Shoulders, Exhibit: A Secrets Of Forensic Science, The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Bruiser, and Nancy Drew are some other productions he’s played major roles in.

Mensah’s acting skills is only matched by few others in the world he belongs. He has kept this credibility running for years, without showing signs of losing it or going out of tune or shape.

Turning 53 in August this year, Mensah surely has got some more acting years in him, which the world should watch out for. An incredible master of his trade, with two decades of mainstream acting, Mensah has almost become a name most producers in Hollywood can’t do without.

Largely a shy-looking but funny individual with a great aura of personal warmth that is appreciated by his colleagues in the industry, Mensah has found a way of making his acting do the talking.

On average, most movie watchers are wowed by his sense of precision and calculation in acting. Mensah some have said, is one of the very few actors who relate to a viewer anytime he is onscreen – and this, he’s done over and over with cheeky ease.

In the award-winning movie Avatar for example, he played the Horse Clan Leader, a role that was met on arrival at the cinemas with positive reviews. It was business as usual for him, you may want to say but certainly Mensah knows how to bring out his A-Card when it matters.

 For years to come, the trained engineer will continue to shine and prove his worth script after script. Widely seen across the industry as one of the most engaging, thought-provoking actors of the current generation, Mensah’s stock particularly begun to rise through his casting in most series including the very famous Spartacus.

Acting in a good number of all the Spartacus Series, he recently took up a recurring role in the Season 5 of the series True Blood.
In Season 5 of True Blood, Mensah plays the role of Kibwe, the Authority’s chancellor and an all around handsome slab, and a vampire from Africa who promotes mainstreaming under ‘Roman’s’ tenure.
Although a lot of reviews are coming in pretty fast for Season 5 of True Blood, Mensah’s biggest exposure apart from what Avatar offered him, is Spartacus, a series that traces the story of a famous leader of the slaves in the Third Servile War, against the Roman Republic.

The series has been largely interpreted by ‘some as an example of oppressed people fighting for their freedom against a slave-owning oligarchy’.
So how did Mensah get the opportunity to star on a project like Spartcaus? He tells the story of how just a phone call from a friend who was working on the project and thought he was the perfect gentleman the producers wanted for a certain role, got him to jump onto it.
‘I was very fortunate,’ he says in a recent interview.

‘A couple of years ago, I got a call while I was traveling up north in Canada from a friend of mine who’s a writer on the show, saying that they’re doing this project and there’s a role that would be perfect for me if I’m interested. So the project found me, I guess, effectively. It was brilliant: they knew the body of work, and they were interested in having me do it…and the next thing you know, you’re in New Zealand’.

Although concerns have been raised about the morality and storyline of the Spartacus Series, with most critics saying it is unnecessarily heavy on sex and violence, Mensah finds a very nice way to bury the argument by saying ‘Yes, (Spartacus) definitely has a different morality, but we’re reflecting the morality of the times’.

The violence and the sex Mensah says, ‘Is an integral part of that life and is viewed morally very different. Of course, we’re making it for the modern audience, but we’ve got to stay true to the story’.

He continues to defend it by insisting that Spartacus has ‘Really broad strokes, definitely fed by vague history lessons from the past’.

He tells of his experience in working on the project: ‘I was actually blown away by the culture. For some reason, I didn’t even know that the Roman army was made of auxiliaries for the most part, which is why there’s such a wide range of individuals in the villages and the towns: they basically took people from all over the world and brought them in. So, yeah, I learned quite a bit on the job.

‘There is no show like it, you know? And that’s one of the things that really hit me when I read the script. It’s challenging because there’s nothing like it… and it’s very physical. At the same time, it’s fun because of the speed of the action, the speed of the work itself. And it’s even more fun now that we’ve done a little bit of it, and people are really positive about it. So it’s been good,’ he adds.

He tells of his experience in working on the project: ‘I was actually blown away by the culture. For some reason, I didn’t even know that the Roman army was made of auxiliaries for the most part, which is why there’s such a wide range of individuals in the villages and the towns: they basically took people from all over the world and brought them in. So, yeah, I learned quite a bit on the job.

‘There is no show like it, you know? And that’s one of the things that really hit me when I read the script. It’s challenging because there’s nothing like it… and it’s very physical. At the same time, it’s fun because of the speed of the action, the speed of the work itself. And it’s even more fun now that we’ve done a little bit of it, and people are really positive about it. So it’s been good,’ he adds.

*Source :african.howzit.msn.com

 

 

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