The Culture Interview – Chima Nsoedo and James Hamilton

Who are you and where are you based?

Chima Nsoedo: one half of Everything a Hero is Not. Based in east London of recent & Joseph Hamilton: James Hamilton -Half Jamaican;Half Trini – born and raised in London, the other half of Everything a Hero is Not.

What’s your background?
Chima: I guess for the past 6 years I’ve been trying to find my footing as a writer/director. In that period there have been many hours wasted on drugs, and nights out wanting to be more sociable. There has also been some successes; directing for the Young Vic Theatre, shooting a music vid for an artist I respect… err… well I did say some success. Becoming a spoken word artist for a little, writing short stories and feature film scripts and directing my own work and music videos for others; there was a time I would have said it was a rocky road with more fails than wins, but I’m growing to think that’s kinda how life is for person in my field of work. I just need to keep plugging.  I’ve always been into writing and films. I write but always need to write more so now I do so. I try and wake up early every morning and write something. Some mornings are better than others.

James: I got into acting when I was around 24 and never looked back, it was something that I wanted to try and when I did it hooked me! It’s something that will always bring a new challenge to the table so it’s constantly got me trying to expand myself to overcome theses challenges.

Who are your favourite characters from African film, literature or art?
Chima: I liked Melé from the film Bamako. Played by Aïssa Maïga, the character had a very understated sass about her and although she had a lot to bear throughout the film nothing she did was ever over done yet we (I) saw it all. I guess I like female characters that allow you to project your emotions over what you think they are feeling. It’s hard for a character to be portrayed as sentient in film or literature without being too literal.

James: I don’t really know many from Africa but there is one rapper who a friend introduced me to, M.I he’s got a few tunes that I like one in particular called SAFE.

Can you tell us a bit about the projects you’re involved in?
Currently I am working on many different projects. The main one is Everything a Hero is Not. It’s a web series based loosely on the lives of myself and my writing partner James Hamilton but slightly embellished in parts. It’s about two artists – a writer and a actor – who work together in a leisure centre that has only months before closure. To escape imminent redundancy they join heads and enter a script writing competition in hopes of winning £20,000.

James: I’m working on the web series everything a hero is not. It’s kind of a spin on reality tv, as it’s based on myself and chima and our lives but it’s totally heightened and to the extreme. We have made four episodes and put out two so fare. A production company called Lemonade Money want to work with us on future sketches so, ‘watch this space’, as it were… sorry.

Does your cultural background influence the comedic work you’re making?
Chima: Yes it does. My family wasn’t the most funny family in the world, but there is a lot of comedy to be drawn out of a Nigerian family so bent on being publicly perceived as up standing christians that never run into crisis. I certainly grew up  amongst a lot of repression set by christian beliefs and cultural repetition. Both, I feel, are quite stagnant and causes unique conflicts between each generation. And conflict is always the source of good comedy and drama generally.

James: I think my cultural background influences everything I do from work to leisure. I think we all draw from our cultures and put it into whatever we do. It would be hard not to as it makes us who we are.

4. What’s the most sublime artistic experience you’ve ever had?
Chima: I think i’m yet to have one of those. Most of the times I work a one when writing a script or a treatment for a music video, it’s only of recent that I am beginning to enjoy the art of collaboration. Think I’m too cynical to have a sublime artistic experience. There was a time I was in a drama class acting as a Nigerian taxi and I got so into it and the audience got so into it that I went into a little haze. That felt good.

James: My most sublime artistic moment, that’s a hard one. I’d have to say a play I was in called “coming up for air” my character was in a mental institution. I got so into the character that I used to take him home with me after rehearsal and he stayed with me for a while after the show had finished. It was so intense, I broke down on stage every night. The work I had to do for that was so challenging I’ll always remember it. I hope to have many more of those challenges ahead.
5. What’s your greatest fear – either for yourself [as an artist] – or for Africa?
Chima: My greatest fear is never being able to make a movie in Africa. Because I don’t think I can go to Africa and not speak up about the reckless bills some governments are passing to stop two people in love from being together – no matter their sexual orientation.

James: My greatest fear for Africa is that the all Africans never unite to become one, I think only then will all black people be able to do the same. They say everything starts at home and Africa is the motherland so untill then it’s not gonna happen. As an artist I actually enjoy the fear of not knowing what’s going to happen next, were my next job is coming from my next pay check!!  The fear of never reaching my potential because I believe it pushes me!

Watch Everything a Hero is Not