Before Sierra Leonean actor Adetokumboh M'Cormack faced off with mysterious aliens in this week's #1 movie 'Battle: Los Angeles', also starring Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez, Cory Hardrict and Bridget Moynahan, he appeared in such acclaimed TV dramas as 'Heroes,' 'Lost' and '24,' as well as the Academy Award-nominated film 'Blood Diamond' with Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.
In the Yoruba language, Ade means "crown" and Tokumboh comes from the word Tokunbo meaning "carried over waters."
M'Cormack credits his mother, a former actress and teacher, for igniting in him a passion for the performing arts. By the age of 4, this passion became a reality. His first feature film role came in George Miller's 'The Great Elephant Escape' in 1995. Set in Kenya, the film centers on the plight of an elephant and the young boys who seek to save it.
The SUNY Purchase alum worked in marketing at New York's Roundabout Theater Company shortly after graduating magna cum laude. A former house captain at the school's performing arts center, Ade - as he is known - not only has a big appetite for acting, but also a big heart.
BlackVoices.com recently caught up with M'Cormack, who spoke about working on 'Battle' and whether alien life actually exists. Excerpts of the conversation are below:
BlackVoices.com: In your latest film, Los Angeles is faced with an alien threat. 2012 is theorized to be a big year for planet Earth. A year of great catastrophe. There are some doomsday theorists who say that the world will end next year and/or that life forms from other planets will descend on planet Earth. What are your thoughts on 2012?
Adetokumboh M'Cormack: I feel like there have been so many signs of the times. Look at what happened in Japan with the 8.9 earthquake; there is so much going on in the world. It really does feel as if the apocalypse is close. One does have to wonder if there might be some truth in the Mayan calendar. I like to be an optimist and think that the Earth has at least a few more years and that the world is not going to end in 2012. I do believe that things are going to continue for a lot longer. But, that being said, I do think that after having done this film, there might be alien life. Would they necessarily be hostile and try to invade and exterminate the human race, I don't know.
BV: You've lived in many countries, for instance, Sierra Leone, Kenya and Nigeria. How have your experiences in all of these countries shaped you?
AM: I'm still very much a Sierra Leonean man who has lived in these different countries. I embrace my culture. I embrace my language. It has completely shaped me and given me a strong sense of self - my cultural identity. I am very proud of who I am. I hope that's something I will never lose as the years go by.
BV: What are some of your fondest childhood memories?
AM: One of the things we used to do on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, was go on picnics in Kenya. We'd go to these waterfalls. They were beautiful. Those were some of the best times of my childhood. Just enjoying being with friends and family.
BV: Many kids as well as adults are not taught to appreciate nature.AM: When I was in New York, I remember thinking I want to see land. I want to see nature, because I miss it so much.
BV: The 2006 film 'Blood Diamond' was set in Sierra Leone during its civil war. How was it working on the film and tackling the troubling subject matter?AM: It was really intense and very personal for me. I knew a lot of people who were affected by the war. Whenever I do a movie, I like to do a lot of research. I heard stories of people being locked in houses and people being burned alive. It was really heartbreaking. It was hard and difficult to deal with. The realities were so much more than most people go through in their lifetimes. Most human beings don't ever have to deal with having to kill a family member in order to survive. There is so much havoc in the world that a lot of people would not be able to empathize with. And then, I'm playing a character directly responsible for changing people's lives. That was also difficult. Ultimately, I always strive for authenticity. I told myself that being Sierra Leonean, I needed to be as authentic as I could, and I needed to do the story justice.
BV: Not only are you an actor, but you're are also involved in some very important causes. Where do you find time for all of this?AM: As human beings, we have to think outside of a small bubble. That's basically how I try to live my life, thinking how I can help my fellow person. How I can do my part to make this world a better place. I'm very passionate about certain causes. I lost my mother to cancer. So, any cause that is cancer-related and raises awareness, I'm very close to and eager to get involved.
And, also, the arts. I love promoting the arts. The arts are important and necessary for society. I'm on the executive board member of Inception to Exhibition, and I just love the fact that we promote art and get people involved in the arts. In Africa, especially, I feel there is this certain fear of the arts - that the only way you can be successful is if you're a doctor or a lawyer.
To paraphrase Brecht, art is not the mirror we hold to society, it's the hammer with which we use to shape it. That's what we do with art. We shape society. It's undeniable the importance of that.
BV: What's next for you?AM: I'm co-producing a romantic comedy, titled 'Holiday in Africa.' We are in production right now. I'm the lead, and it's a character-driven piece about finding love but looking for it in all the wrong places. Nzinga Blake is producing it with me. I'm excited about it.