Ato Essandoh – Elementary, Copper


Tessa Thompson died trying to get the “Veronica Mars” movie made. Her co-star in “Copper”, Ato Essandoh, is alive and well, despite what the internet might tell you. When he is not playing Dr Matthew Freeman in the 1860s New York City drama, the native New Yorker can be seen alongside Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in the Sherlock Holmes reboot “Elementary”. Essandoh might have played a slave in “Django Unchained”, but this chat with Moviehole shows he’s a very modern man.

Q: “Copper” was recently nominated for an Emmy and is BBC America’s highest-rated series premiere ever. What’s it like to be part of a show that is so well received?

It’s nails. My first series regular job and it’s on a hit show. That’s a good bit of luck and I’m enjoying the hell out of it.

Q: The fans are enjoying it too – one recently dressed in “Copper” attire at Comic Con! Who would you dress up as for a convention?

I was going to say Batman, but it’s really hot in New York right now so I’m going with Dr Manhattan or The Sub Mariner. Oh wait – Iceman. Yeah, Iceman. Duh.

Q: I heard that you’re a “Kill Bill” fan. How did you react when you got the call that you were cast in “Django Unchained”?

Quentin [Tarantino] actually told me that I got it at the callback. He shook my hand and said “I’ll see you in Louisiana”. I didn’t believe him. I kind of walked out in a daze. The casting director came out with me and I said, “Did he just offer me the part?”. And she was like, “You’re an idiot”. Hilarity ensued.

Working for Quentin was one of my top acting experiences of all time. It was a dream. I want to do another one! Kill Bill 3? Reservoir Dogs 2 Electric Boogaloo? Whatever.

Q: Well you’ve got good “Kill Bill” connections – you work with Lucy Liu on “Elementary”. Do you choose roles based on the cast or director, or is it something else?

Ha! I wish I had the power to choose roles because I’d be working even more! That said, I auditioned and got lucky. Again. Oh and I’ve seen “Kill Bill” six times in the theater. Lucy Liu’s character, O’Ren Ishii, is one of my favorite movie villains of all time. Right up there with Vader.

Q: How much research goes into creating a character like Dr Matthew Freeman, or D’Artagnan in “Django Unchained”?

It depends. Both characters in this case existed at the same time. I’d like to think that had D’Artagnan escaped he would have become Dr Freeman. That said, I read many accounts of slavery, and the black experience. I watched documentaries, looked at pictures, read a lot about the life and times of African-Americans in those most trying days. It was so brutal. There was such misery and yet such perseverance and triumph.

Q: Being a New Yorker, how important is it to you to be involved in local work?

It’s very important. New York is the best. I want to be a part of its story. I’m a company member of Colt Coeur. We create theater from scratch. Soup to nuts developing new work. It’s vibrant sexy theater.

I also formed “The Defiant Ones” with my friend and frequent collaborator, screenwriter Joshua James. We’re in the initial stages of developing our own film.

Q: The caliber of people you’ve worked with throughout your career is extremely impressive. Is there anyone still on your wish list? Or anyone that you would like to work with again?

Denzel. I’d love to work with everybody again. Especially Lucy.

Q: And what about upcoming projects? Is “Copper” season 3 in the works?

I just got off of “Copper”. I’m headed to Europe to mess around a bit. I’d be shocked and appalled if there wasn’t a season 3 of “Copper”. That said, knock on wood.

Q: You recently said in an interview about a death hoax rumor “that was one of the best things that’s happened in my career, I guess — people thinking I’m dead!”. If you could pay it forward, who would you like to start an internet rumor about and what would it be?

Tessa Thompson (Sara Freeman in “Copper”). “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas had her killed (at a hot dog eating contest) to create an outpouring of sympathy in order to get the “Veronica Mars” movie made.

Follow Ato Essandoh on Twitter for live “Copper” comments @AtoEssandoh