I recently got a chance to talk with actress Annie Ilonzeh of fame from the very heralded Tupac biopic, All Eyez On Me, about her thrilling upcoming new film, Til Death Do Us Part, which opened in theaters today. In the brief interview we talk about everything from domestic abuse, which the film itself really touches upon, how she prepared to play the role of Madison Roland in the film, her almost lifelong love for writing, how she’s pretty much living out her dreams and what else we can expect from this rising force of a woman in the entertainment industry, who I expect to be around for many more years to come. Get to know more about the sweet and talented actress, who’s more than just your regular run of the mill actress, a lot of Hollywood wants you to believe can only act and do nothing else. This is a different time and era for not only woman, but people of color and many other ethnicities that I’m glad I can be apart of helping Annie and others tell.
Nello for TheHipHopDemocrat.com: Hi, Annie, how are you?
Annie Ilonzeh: Hi. How are you?
Nello: I’m good, thank you. My name is Nello Rubio, I’m with TheHipHopDemocrat.com I wanted to talk with you about you about the new movie you’re apart of, Til Death Do Us Part. So obviously this has been a pretty big year for you cause this is the second major film, you were in. You were also in the Tupac biopic, earlier this year, which I talked with L.T. Hutton during the Chicago premier earlier this year. I wanted to get your perspective on what it’s like to be apart of two big movies this year, like that?
Annie Ilonzeh: It’s pretty unbelievable. You know it feels like I’m really living out my dreams and I want to do more. You know really for my Dad, who has always been so tough on me and he’s always like, “Keep going. Come on we need more, we need more!” So as much as I have to hear, I guess when you put it in perspective, it’s like it doesn’t really register like that to me, I don’t even think about it like that cause I’m already on to the next scene or thing. But yeah, when I sit here and reflect, it’s pretty unbelievable.
Nello: The movie is talking a lot about domestic abuse and trying to get the word out more about that. So that more people are aware of that. Is that something you have experienced yourself and even had to do research for?
Annie Ilonzeh: I definitely did a lot of research. I also coached to prepare for the film. I made sure that it was the right voice, objective and message, that not only the character, but the movie was also trying to speak. Just knowing that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence, I have been around it for sure and through this process let me be open to talk about that I even experienced it some in my younger years. So this is something very personal and important to me, and a dialogue that I think we should talk about more. Be a little bit more comfortable with and especially for such an uncomfortable and dangerous issue.
Nello: Being apart of a film like this, you said that you obviously want others to know about. What else would you say to those people and the other people that want to go and see the movie?
Annie Ilonzeh: While, people, obviously as serious a topic, as we are discussing for the movie. It’s also a fun and entertaining, great roller-coaster ride that everyone can enjoy. No matter what demographic you are, it’s universally overall, a great movie with a great message behind it. But what I would also say personally to people that have experienced such a horrible trauma, as domestic violence, is, “That you have the power to write your own story. Because whether you’re currently in a situation like that or you ever have been. It doesn’t mean it has to define you or shift your life to a negative manner, as far as where you want to go.” We see that in the film and what Madison goes through. She takes a hold of her life and shifts it the way that she wants it to go and she writes her own story, and a lot of the times when victims are in situations like that, the abuser usually has all of the control. You forget that you’re an individual and that you can live your own life, and have control of yourself. It’s never ever to late to gain that back.
Nello: Besides this movie and the Tupac biopic that you worked on, is there any other major films that you’ve been working on that your supporters and others, can look forward to you being in soon?
Annie Ilonzeh: While, I hope so. *laughing about it* Yeah, really what I’m working on right now, is writing my own stories and creating my own world of characters and people and getting it on to script, and hopefully getting it onto TV and film. I’m also working on a pilot right now, which is loosely based on my upbringing, with my Dad, who’s Nigerian and my Mom, being White. Putting characters out there like that, and a movie, which I’m reading a script for right now.
Nello: Yeah, that’s something that a lot of actors seem to be doing right now, is not only wanting to be in front of the screen, but writing their own stories and characters, like you said you are. Is that something you have always wanted to do, besides acting?
Annie Ilonzeh: I always enjoyed writing, but I guess I never really thought. I never even thought I would be going down this path of being an actor. I was an athlete and a huge Tom Boy, and just thought I would play basketball for the rest of my life. So this is definitely a complete turn for me, so now just being inspired by so many creative people. Shonda Rhimes and Donald Glover. Women in the business that are producing: Drew Barrymore, Kerry Washington, and Charlize Theron. Even Oprah Winfrey. Just seeing that and being surrounded by such a good field. I have so many role models that I just want to do that too and show my voice. I want to see more people like me being represented more on TV and film. So I feel like I have a duty to not just talk about it and point it out. Whether it’s women or people of color on TV, but to do something about it. That’s something I’m also passionate about too, writing and creating. So put it all together and hopefully it will be out there soon.
Nello: You said you have always had a passion for writing. Is that something you have always had since you were young?
Annie Ilonzeh: Yeah, I did. Even back in school, high school, college. When we used to get the assignments and have to write papers, I used to really like doing that. Like writing essays, papers and stuff like that. My mom is somewhat kind of the same way. She’s a Senior Copy Editor. So it’s something with her reading scripts and copies and I would always see her doing it and thought it was something fun, that I looked up to her. So even when it was not so fun topics, I still found enjoyment in writing. I guess it just kind of continued. I probably get it from her, so I should probably thank her. So yeah, I guess it’s somewhat in my DNA too.
Nello: Yeah, I think that’s actually kind of funny cause even me being a writer myself, I think I also got it somewhat from my mother too. She was never a big-time writer, but wrote for a little bit for a dance magazine at one point. I took journalism in high school and then later in college and even I think something that I didn’t really realize till later on myself, but when I was younger, like you said you used to be into sports, I was myself too, a lot and even still am till this day. What I used to do when I was younger was keep notebooks of the players, their names and stats, that I would write down to memorize. I don’t think I really realized it till I got older, but I think that’s one of the things that inadvertently developed my love for writing, but I didn’t really realize it till later on. Which kind of gave me that, awesome pretty unbelievable, oh yeah, type of moment at the time, my earlier question gave you about what it was like for you, being in two big movies this year.
Annie Ilonzeh: Yeah, it’s one of those things that’s in you and it comes back around. It’s like once you add those pieces to the puzzle and although you can’t see the complete puzzle, yet. It hasn’t been put together yet, the pieces are all still there.
Nello: Yes, that’s true and I think that’s a perfect way for us to close this interview. I would like to thank you for your time, Annie and good luck with the movie and the rest of your career. I’m sure this isn’t the last we will hear from you and we will be hearing about your greatness for many more years to come.
Annie Ilonzeh: Yeah, thank you so much too.