Who doesn’t enjoy watching a strong woman tackle an important challenge?
Enter British-Nigerian actress Sope Aluko, who was recently introduced as the straightforward Agent Avery Stanwood on USA Network’s dramatic series, “Graceland.” As an accomplished officer, Agent Stanwood isn’t afraid to go head-to-head with other team members whenever necessary.
Sope also faces a human rights challenge in the new short film “Joy,” currently playing on the festival circuit; and steps back onto the small screen for a few additional TV shows later this season.
Sope Aluko opens up about portraying strong women, an important issue and much more in this recent interview.
Give us an overview of your role in USA’s “Graceland.”
SOPE ALUKO: I play the role of Agent Avery Stanwood, a highly competent, no-nonsense Agent for the ATF who is able to separate her personal feelings from her duties as an accomplished officer of the law. She is introduced as Germaine Marsden’s Handler who is Charlie’s (Vanessa Ferlito’s) arch nemesis from Season 2. Clearly, Charlie and I have very opposing goals but you’ll have to tune-in to future episodes to see what happens…(or how it turns out).
Did you do anything specific to prepare for the role of Agent Avery Stanwood?
SA: Honestly, I have to give credit to the wonderful Writers of the show. Through their words, I was able to craft a compelling back-story for my character. Ultimately, I wanted the audience to understand Agent Stanwood’s strong POV as much as they understood and embraced Charlie’s. When there are two opposing strong convictions, it always gives texture to the conflict.
Do you enjoy stepping in as the strong adversary?
SA: Absolutely! As an Actor, I love playing roles that are out of range from my natural character. It’s interesting that I have been booking these type roles lately. I am not sure what it means, but I am embracing it all the same!
Any interesting details from behind-the-scenes that you can tell us?
SA: It was such a refreshing experience working with the various Directors on my episodes. I got to work with Larry Teng, Director and Co-Exec Producer of the show, Actor/Director Timothy Busfield and Actor/Director Lucy Liu. They each had such unique styles that supported me as an Actor to give the performance necessary for the role. Vanessa Ferlito was a true professional and also a pleasure to work with. It was quite hard having to act mad at her.
You also star in the confrontational short film “Joy” – tell us about this project.
SA: I play the Lead role, ‘Fimi’ in the highly provocative indie short film, JOY which tells the story of a Nigerian woman now living in America who is struggling to convince her traditionalist husband not to circumcise their ten year old daughter. The film premiered at the HBO Short film Showcase at the ABFF (American Black Film Festival) in New York in June, and has been gaining momentum in a number of film festivals including, The BlackStar Film Festival (Philadelphia), Black Harvest Festival (Chicago), SAG Foundation Short Film Showcase (LA), and most recently will screen at the prestigious LA Short Film Festival in September. HBO has also picked up the film with plans to air it on their network beginning next February during Black History Month for a 15-month cycle.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
SA: This was a social conscious/passion project for me. My hope is that the film will shed light to the fact that FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) is a traditional practice that is not only happening indigenously in Sub Saharan African countries, but is also being practiced among African Immigrants in the US and Europe. It is a major violation of International Women’s Rights and needs to be eradicated completely. Ironically, we shot the film last year, and in May of this year, the outgoing President of Nigeria announced the banning of FGM in Nigeria. My hope is that the other African nations will follow suit with more pressure from UNICEF, The UN and Western nations.
You’ll also be appearing in a couple other TV shows this fall, right?
SA: Yes, you should see me in upcoming episodes of CBS’s new drama, ZOO based on the James Patterson novel, the second season of SATISFACTION on the USA Network, and in a network show part of a Thursday night lineup. I am sorry I am unable to disclose the name of the show at this time.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
SA: I have learned that it’s never too late to change careers to what you are destined to do. It still amazes me how much I have accomplished in just 5 years, after I decided to throw in the towel from a lucrative, corporate management career. Hard work and my spiritual faith continue to propel me forward, and I am really looking forward to what else is in store!
Please follow me on Twitter: @sopealuko
and Instagram: @sopealuko
And, thank you Sope – keep embracing these strong female roles!