Anti-LGBTQ+ laws and cultural clashes are among the themes explored in Breaking Bounds, a film now out On Demand via Vision Films that stars Kenneth Okolie, Dawn Halfkenny, Erica Hubbard and Corey Hendrix (the latter known for his role in the hit series The Bear).
In Breaking Bounds, Okoliea Nigerian actor, LGBTQ+ ally and former Mr. Nigeriaportrays a Nigerian-born attorney who struggles to define his own cultural identity and live the life he wants with his American girlfriend. One client (portrayed by Hendrix) is a young gay man faces deportation and anti-gay persecution if returned to his homeland of Uganda.
Okolie (who currently lives in Chicagoland and hopes to be a U.S. citizen next year) talked about the film, anti-LGBTQ+ laws and politics.
Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.
Windy City Times: I almost called you "Mr. Nigeria," and you know that's going to follow you the rest of your life. [Okolie laughs.] So how did you fall into acting?
Kenneth Okolie: I fell into acting when I was at the Mr. World contest, which was after Mr. Nigeria. Each contestant had to perform a talentand I did a freestyle, unscripted monologue, and I got a standing ovation. I watched it [back] a few times and I said, "Let's give [acting] a try." People asked if I was an actor and I said, "NoI just model." So I met a few people and the rest is history.
WCT: An unscripted monologue? So you were the Meryl Streep of Mr. World.
KO: [Laughs] Well, I was willing to win it. And I came in third at the end of the day, so that says something.
WCT: Yeah, but no one's heard of what's happened with the top two, so there you go. [Both laugh.]
KO: Right, right…
WCT: You've done plenty of moviescomedies and dramas. Which are more difficult?
KO: Dramas. I've done action movies, romances (which come easily) and comedies, but dramas because putting yourself in that character is quite difficult. The [process] can be pretty intense and even stressful, at timesbut it's always interesting. With the personality that the director wants me to portray, sometimes things can go off script. It's work on its own, but I love it.
WCT: I know that Nigeria isn't the most progressive when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. Did you have any reluctance about taking this role, even though it's a non-LGBTQ+ one, because of what's happening there?
KO: I didn't have any reluctance or doubts. You are who you are. I have friends who are [LGBTQ+] and I support them and those who have the courage to come out. There is a friend who hasn't come out but I knowand when he's ready, he'll do so.
WCT: For our readers, could you talk about the plot of Breaking Bounds?
KO: Breaking Bounds is about a young Black man who is a Ugandan immigrant who unfortunately finds himself in a [situation] that involves a gun. So he's arrested and faces deportation. His family recruits a Nigerian-American lawyer who is dealing with issues with his girlfriend, who's a Black American lady. Eventually, he finds out that [his client] is being deported because he's gay.
WCT: And how much of this movie reflects your own life?
KO: [Smiles] Well… I was pretty open to dating whoeverexcept that I'm married now. My parents are pretty [open] but other people have parents who would say, "Never, never."
WCT: I saw an interview in which you said you could see yourself being a politician down the road [in Nigeria].
KO: Yes, actually. So it's in the works now. We're working with a pretty progressive community back in Nigeria.
WCT: What do you find attractive about politics?
KO: I see it as an opportunity to assist people. To me, it's important to use your influence to help people and bring about change, if you can.
WCT: Is there anything you wanted to add?
KO: Breaking Bounds is not just about one thing. The movie deals with issues in a dramatic but very understandable way. It's pretty interesting.