Having starred in the likes of Dredd, Doom, Alien 3 and Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, DeObia Oparei is adding another big-budget title to his CV in the form of Independence Day: Resurgence. We spoke to the actor about his upcoming role, playing Areo Hotah in Game Of Thrones, and why he keeps getting drawn back into film…
Can you tell us a bit about your character in Independence Day: Resurgence?
He’s a warlord, and he is from Oxford, a fine arts major, and he decides to come back to his country to help fight the aliens. His father refuses help from outside people, and his brother ends up dying, and he feels a sense of guilt, so he comes back to help fight the aliens, and then eventually leads his country.
His people suffer from something called the ‘alien residual’ condition, which is an affliction that kind of sends them crazy from being close to the aliens for so long. So the movie starts when he calls on Charlotte Gainsbourg and Jeff Goldblum’s characters to come to his country to help him deal with that situation.
Were you particularly familiar with the first film before you became involved?
Yeah, I loved it. I really found it was groundbreaking. It featured, for the first time in a blockbuster, a black male lead, I felt like Roland was iconoclastic in that. I think also that the way the characters were: Vivica Fox’s character, the stripper, she was really redeemed in the movie by the end of it. That hadn’t really been shown in films where they had this stripper on the pole suddenly being able to have a family and be in love, and hold it down. That hadn’t really been shown in a blockbuster, so that was great, so I really felt like it broke the rules in so many ways, and of course, Jeff Goldblum’s performance – he’s such an incredible actor. So yeah, I loved the first movie, and I think this movie is just as good.
Speaking of Jeff, how was he to act alongside?
Really great, really funny guy, easy to work with. On the first day on set he brought Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman, and he gave everyone parts when we weren’t shooting, and he would come around each of us and read roles, and it was a really good way of bonding as a cast and relaxing. I thought that was a really genius, clever thing to do. And he’s always singing something – then when Roland shouts cut he jumps back into the scene as David Levinson. He was really great to work with, as were Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner – and Liam [Hemsworth].
How does shooting something huge like Independence Day compare to something like Game Of Thrones?
It’s not too dissimilar. Game Of Thrones definitely doesn’t feel like working on TV at all, just because of the scale of the visions and the scale of things, period. It feels very filmic, more so because it’s multi-locational, and the locations are incredible, certainly for the season I did, a lot of which was in the Alkazar palace in Spain, so it felt very filmic. I think green screen, whether it’s Independence Day or Game Of Thrones, you don’t notice – I don’t. You get taken over by what the scenes about – there isn’t this sense of what’s behind.
I’ve done a lot of green-screen stuff, to be honest with you I don’t really notice it.
You played Areo Hotah in Game Of Thrones – were you familiar with his character beforehand?
Yeah, I loved the books. I read the books he featured in, and I loved that, and yes I was aware that he was a strong character in the books. Game Of Thrones was such a great experience, and such a positive one, and certainly playing Areo was really good, but it’s such a happy memory for me. My stint on it felt brief, but that’s the nature of the show! Heads will roll at some point?
Were you aware of how long you’d be on the show for – did it come as a shock when you were killed off?
It definitely came as a shock, of course I thought I’d be on the show longer, if not until the end, but at the same time I’d watched the show, so I knew people could die in a New York hearbeat, you’re always aware of the nature of the show. But also the time I spent on it was really good, behind the scenes and in front, and I’m really proud to have been part of such a great event in history in terms of being the most popular TV show ever – it’s a great calling card.
You’ve starred in a lot of SF-tinged films. Is it a conscious decision to pick films from the genre?
I’d love to say yes, but it’s what has stuck on the canvas for me. I guess these movies, the very big ones, I’ve often found seek me more than I seek them. I literally come from drama and theatre – classical theatre – that’s all I did for many years: Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal National Theatre, and it was a lot of classical stuff, a lot of Jacobean drama, and so I saw – and still do – see myself in more dramatic roles and films. At the same time, I’m not complaining; I love blockbusters, I love sci-fi, and there’s a lot of drama in those roles.
I’ve moved to the US, and I’m also discovering that I love comedies, so as an actor I think it’s great once you have a foundation in theatre – it just gives you a really strong base with which to do so many different kinds of genres. So the sci-fi blockbuster realm I feel very comfortable in, but I kind of don’t see it too dissimilar from doing a huge Shakespeare play, I find it very similar; the drama, the high stakes, the characters, it’s not that dissimilar, and that’s possibly why I’m connecting with that kind of work, because I really revel in doing some shows that have multi-story arcs and are big, and if you like kind of bombastic in vision and execution. But also I feel like a career is about longevity, so I loom forward to more dramatic roles like Game Of Thrones and more dramas – and comedy too, I look forward to that.
Independence Day: Resurgence will be released in cinemas on 24 June 2016. For more about the latest movies, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.