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Treading the boards and pursuing his dreams

Studying theatre in the land of Shakespeare is an opportunity just up the alley of Elmira’s Emeka Agada. He’s off to the UK in the fall, in fact, to attend the Guildford School of Acting.

It’s an exciting chance to develop new skills in an elite facility, he says.

“When the pandemic happened, I sat down and evaluated a lot of things like a lot of people did, and that was one of those things on the list of my five-year plan: I wanted to get my masters, and here I am, about to go,” said Agada.

“Guildford is one of the top programs in the UK – I had a chance to speak with a graduate from the program who is currently one of the main actors on the Apple TV show ‘Ted Lasso,’ who had some great information to give that helped during my decision process.

“I had a select few schools that I was really interested in, and Guildford was one of them.  They accepted me, so that was a pretty good feeling. It was good because I was originally waitlisted at one of my top choices – I’m excited because the UK has a very strong reputation of having great training for actors,” added Agada.

The Guildford School of Acting in the UK has been turning out musical theatre performers for more than 85 years, and is a highly recognized school for their training.

Agada notes that it can be a struggle for Canadian actors to get a foothold in the industry, as there are fewer opportunities here than in the U.S. or UK, but he says he is seeing a change in the industry as more companies invest in ‘Hollywood North.’

“Breaking out in Canada as an actor can take some years. I’ve been doing this for close to four years and it is just now that the industry is sort of turning their heads to say ‘hey, this guy is interesting, let’s see what else he’s got,’” said Agada.

“As a young Nigerian-Canadian actor, I’m amped about the work that is to come. But I do recognize for Canadian actors, the industry runs a bit differently than in the U.S. I think what a lot of us forget is that we are part of show business, emphasis on the business. Actors are self-employed and we are selling a product. To succeed in this business, you’ve got to be up to speed about what’s going on, understand marketing and, most importantly, embrace who you are.”

Coming off of his recent stage performance for Green Light Art’s ‘We Could Be,’ Agada said he was happy to be able to be in front of an audience again for the first time since the pandemic started. Theatre isn’t Agada’s main goal, but he appreciates the work actors do to make the stage come alive during a performance.

“Green Light Arts production of We Could Be is my first live production since the pandemic. The director of the theatre, Matt White, had reached out to me about coming on board. As an actor, film and TV is great, but it is very much the filmmaker’s medium. There are so many ways they can turn a bad performance into a strong one. However, in theatre it’s completely raw. It’s truly an actor’s medium. As far as artistic expression, you really get to stretch yourself. The entire production has been a fun challenge, which I like. There were about six pieces and I was in five of them.”

Agada has had other TV roles during the pandemic that helped boost his career, noting that the pandemic didn’t slow him down at all, but inspired him to work harder.

“One of the first parts I did during the pandemic was my Nurses episode. That process is interesting because it was a guest star role and main part of the storyline, which is pretty cool. I had a chance to work with some of these actors who’ve been on shows like Riverdale –that’s something that I don’t think would have happened if the pandemic didn’t happen. I’ve been able to work on some pretty cool projects. I have another project coming out later that’s going to be on Amazon,” said Agada, not wanting to give away the name of the show before it’s aired.

“In the past a lot of us were very much in service to the American media, TV and all that. So I think when I was first starting a lot of the projects were kind of just you’re coming in for the day you shoot. But now, I think Netflix is pretty much investing in Canadian content, which is good. So we’re seeing more projects being created under the Canadian umbrella – it’s a good time to be a Canadian actor.”

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