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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 all over the place; now he’s going to Mars

IN PHOTOS: Ato Essandoh is seen in a latest publicity photograph and, inset, clockwise from prime, floating in a scene from the upcoming Netflix sequence, “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 appearing position, both. These are all booked, for probably the most half. 
As an alternative, 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 means 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 a daily on the 2016 Scorsese-Jagger collab “Vinyl,” with an upcoming streaming position 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 biggest actors and administrators of the trendy 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 ultimately coming to Schenectady years later, when his father acquired a job at Basic Electrical.

“My mother was going to varsity in Washington and my dad was up at Cornell,” Essandoh mentioned. “After which they met someplace in between. Then my dad, who was finding out electrical engineering at Cornell, acquired 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 straightforward it was to journey his bike round his Glenville residence.

“What I keep in mind about Schenectady was simply using bikes everywhere,” Essandoh mentioned. “And that was again within the day the place, you already know, your mother and father simply kicked you out of the home after which advised you on the weekend to come back again for dinner.”

Essandoh’s favourite place to journey his bike was an previous gravel pit off Woodcrest Drive, often called “the pits.” “We’d 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 ultimately went to Cornell, following in his father’s footsteps, and determined to review chemical engineering.

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

“It was a director who was doing this play and she or he was on the lookout for my finest buddy Marcus who was additionally an engineer. I used to be like, ‘Marcus isn’t residence, can I take a message?’ Then she supplied 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 form of froze.”

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

“And so I ended up doing the play,” Essandoh mentioned. “And it was probably the most superb expertise in my life. I by no means considered appearing as something greater than what I see on the display, 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 just a few years of nonetheless pursuing a life as an engineer and shifting to Rhode Island, he wrote himself a mission assertion. 

“Then the appearing simply stored coming again to me,” Essandoh mentioned. “So when I discovered myself in New York Metropolis, possibly three to 4 years later [around 1997], I began going to an appearing class. I had no concept what an appearing class would seem like, however I felt like I used to be at residence, 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, in a present known as “Third Watch,” was as a motorcycle messenger who was hit by a automobile by none apart from then-rising actor Bobby Cannavale. Essandoh remembers telling all of his mates in regards to the position — and his huge scream within the present — prefer it was the best factor on this planet. And he recollects assembly Cannavale in a while someplace on the set of Vinyl. “Fifteen or so years later, we’re on ‘Vinyl,’ ” Essandoh mentioned. “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’ position

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 huge crowds surrounding Smith, and later surrounding him within the scenes to observe, which he says was by default on account of Smith’s famous person aura.

When it comes to 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 mentioned. “And you already know, that is Will Smith on the top of his energy so I believe he’s doing that film, ‘I Am Legend.’ We’re behind 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 will 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 going through me. After which, in the course of the dialog, he form of simply appeared over his shoulder, appeared 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 form of weight of enjoying any individual who is aware of he’s going to die, is begging for his life,” Essandoh mentioned. “That was emotionally draining and in addition figuring out 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 position. 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 Individuals in lockdown.

“I believe all of us did a implausible job on it,” Essandoh says of the 10-episode sequence “Away.” “As an actor, you’re at all times taking a look at your performances and going, ‘Oh, I might have executed 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 position.”

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 at the moment utilizing his additional free time to co-host two podcasts.

“Unrelated,” recorded along with his buddy 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 wished to form of juxtapose our two lives and attempt to form 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 mentioned. 

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

Little does Esssandoh know, his personal story would make fairly the podcast. Whereas each reveals are protecting 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 or not, he needs you to know that he’s “Schenectady born and raised.”

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



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