Chicks Chat with Arnold Oceng

Arnold Oceng multi-talented Actor, MC and Music Producer whose career is going from strength to strength. His acting credits include Top Boy, My Brother the Devil, Adulthood, It’s a Lot, The Knot and recently playing Mamere the lead in ‘The Good Lie’ also staring Reese Witherspoon. We at Those London Chicks are so pleased that Arnold has taken the time out to speak to us.

Arnold, like so many success stories in the ‘business’, director Amma Asante included, you started your career as a child and stared in 73 episodes of BBC children’s drama Grange Hill. What was your journey from then and how do think the experience has shaped your career?

The journey has been an absolute roller coaster that I have loved every single minute of, the transition from a child actor to now from boy hood to adulthood (excuse the pun) has been a amazing. I feel like Grange Hill was huge starting point for all of us, it taught us our craft and prepared us for our acting journey ahead. It’s something I’m so grateful and humbled to be a part of.

The Good Lie, is loosely based on ‘The Lost Boys of Sudan’. Tell us a bit more about the story of the film?

The good lie is based on a true story it follows 3 young men on their journey from Africa to the United states. I play the character of Mamere who is the chief of the crew a young man who is forced because of tradition and the loss of his brother to lead the rest of his siblings and friends to better days with the help of Corey Stoll ,who plays Jack, and Reese Witherspoon who plays Carrie. Once in America Reese Witherspoon’s job is to help us blend into the society and find new jobs, its a job that Reese Witherspoon at first isn’t willing to do but as time goes on and she starts to fully understand what these guys had been through, she begins to empathise with them and naturally gets maternal with the boys.

As a British based Actor how did you get the role, tell us about the casting process?

Well i have always been going up for American roles through my British agent but actually getting the role is so far fetched that I never actually thought that sending self tapes worked so when this opportunity arose from my agent I thought nothing of it. I went to spotlight to meet and tape for the casting director and left thinking I had given it my all and my best. I didn’t hear anything back for about 1 month then my agent called me telling me the good news that my tape was the only tape they like from Europe and that was it possible for me to travel to LA for more castings. I went over and had castings with Reese and met up with producers and director and the rest was history.

The Cast of The Good Lie
The Cast of The Good Lie

Its one thing going through the nerve wracking process of auditioning for a part it’s another once you get the part. The Good Lie is a Warner Bros film produced by Ron Howard…..(no pressure) were you scared once you got the part and what were your first steps to creating the character of Mamere?

I was absolutely terrified to be honest! Working with the likes of Ron Howard, Brian Grazier, Philippe Farladeau and off course Reese Witherspoon, these are hollywood royalty yet the most humble and down to earth people I have ever met in the industry. Creating Mamere was very difficult because he is a very complex character with so much inner depth, I love characters where I can emmerse myself into and do research on like Mamere. I had to lose weight have a language and dialect coach a personal trainer and a nutritionist to get me ready for the film.

Arnold as Mamere with Reese Witherspoon who plays Carrie

 

You were born in Uganda but bought up in South London. As an Actor of African heritage what did it mean to you get a lead role in a film that highlights the real life story and struggles of many Africans now in different parts of the world?

It was an absolute blessing. It was art imitating life, my mother was in tears when I told her about the role because the story in some way wasn’t too far from ours as a family.

Can you share with us a particularly poignant moment from the set?

Left to Right: Emmanuel Jal, Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany.
Left to Right: Emmanuel Jal, Arnold Oceng, Kuoth Wiel, Ger Duany.

The most poignant moment from set would have to be when we invited real life lost boys and girls to set and to hear their stories of what happened to them and their families. It was a real eye opener and one that I will never forgot. Another was when we were given the opportunity to film in the real Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya and saw thousands of refugee’s. That is a day that will stay with me forever.

 

Who or what inspires you to succeed?

100% my Mother. I love her with all my heart and there is not a day that goes by that I am not eternally grateful for the sacrifices she made for me to be here and have the opportunity that I have had. Everything I do is to make her happy and proud.

Ok, we can’t have this chat without talking about your surprise gift to your mum and her reaction on receiving it?

HAHAHAHA are you talking about the Car? Well yeah that is nothing compared to what she truly deserves, she needed a car so I bought her a Mercedes you have to look after you parents if you don’t then who will.

As with many black actors from the UK, you are increasingly spending more time in LA. What are the differences in the ‘business’ between here and the US that draw you there?

I find that Hollywood is all about the business. They love British actors and how hard we work and how bad we want it. They admires us for it. They churn out different movies and stars all day everyday and are very fast paced about it. I loves this about LA, plus they have more work for people of colour.

You are an extremely busy bee, are you still finding time to pursue your music?

I haven’t as of recent but I am planning on going back in the studio and let the people know about my new life experiences since I have been away but through music so stay tuned.

Finally, what’s next for you?

Just staying focused and making sure I pick the right projects to follow up with, I have a few cool British indie films coming up that I can’t speak of just yet but lets just say I’m really looking forward to the future.

Thank you so much Arnold

Interview by Karen Bryson  xx

Take a look at the Official Trailer for The Good Lie

 

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