By Teryl Warren

Sometimes, it takes years and years and years of struggle before an actor’s career takes off. And other times, an actor will find himself working with A-listers like Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise within just a few years of arriving in Hollywood.

Growing up in the Sacramento, CA area, Chido Nwokocha – the son of Nigerian immigrants – didn’t grow up dreaming of, one day, seeing his name in lights. His dreams were, instead, about Friday night lights.

“I played football in high school and college, then for the San Jose Sabercats in the Arena Football League,” he shared.

Actor Chido Nwokocha. Photo by: Collin Stark. Groomed by: Jessica Stark.

But after a knee injury cut his pro football career short, Chido Nwokocha was forced to literally change directions and figure out his next move.

“I started taking acting classes in the Bay Area and fell in love with it,” he laughed. “I knew I had to make a jump if I really wanted to do this. So I packed my bags and moved to Los Angeles.”

It’s a familiar story that plays out every day in LA. Thousands flock in hopes of making their dreams of Hollywood success come true, and many find themselves, ultimately, living a disappointing reality. When Chido Nwokocha left his hometown bound for Tinsel Town, he couldn’t have predicted how things might turn out. But, come what may, he knew he was ready.

“My background in sports helped prepare me for acting. In football, you only get one game per week, so all of the other days in the week you’re practicing. Repetition, repetition, repetition. So, when it came to acting, I knew that, even if I don’t nail an audition the first time, I have to keep working, keep practicing and keep preparing for the next one. Playing football also helped me develop the mental toughness to be able to hear ‘No’ and still maintain the ability to remain coachable and persevere.“

Four years later, Chido has amassed a list of credits that include Murder in the First with veteran actor Taye Diggs, Destroyer with Nicole Kidman and a stint on the long-running daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. And in his next turn, Chido turns up the heat in the highly anticipated series Sistas written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry.

Sistas follows a group of single black females as they navigate their complicated love life, careers and friendships in the age of social media.  In the series, which premieres on BET on October 23, Chido portrays a handsome, smooth-operating, charismatic man who, despite being married with children, longs to be with one of the “sistas.”

“I play Gary Marshall Borders – a CEO for a Fortune 500 Company. He’s a guy who is very passionate about everything he does,” he teased. “Once he puts his mind toward a goal, he goes after it. He’s definitely an individual who goes after what he wants. And…(laughing) that’s all I can give away right now!”

On October 6, prolific actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry became the first African American actor-director-writer-producer to own a studio outright with no partners or corporate backing. Fresh off the heels of the star-studded grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios, Chido echoed the hope, admiration and awe that everyone from Oprah Winfrey to Halle Berry and Spike Lee shared in the wake of witnessing Tyler Perry’s historic feat.

“We shot all 25 episodes of Sistas at Tyler Perry Studios, but we only saw the part of the studio we were working in. When we went back for the grand opening, we (finally) got to see everything that was there and it was definitely one of the most life-changing moments I’ve ever had. His vision, his plan, his standard of excellence – everything he’s accomplished. It’s incredible. You can’t be around someone like Tyler Perry and not be inspired.”

Chido credits Tyler Perry and many others for not just creating opportunities for actors who look like him, but for expanding those roles, as well.

“The variety of roles available to actors of color is very important. Coming up, I always saw African Americans depicted as street thugs. But I’m not from the streets. I’m educated, from the suburbs and I never got to see people like me – businessmen, lawyers or whatever. So, now, it’s great because we see African American actors getting to play characters that are very successful…or a regular guy with a wife and kids. It’s important to show African American kids from different backgrounds that, if they watch TV, they can see people who look and live like they do.”

And, much like Tyler Perry, Chido looks forward to using his growing platform to, one day, inspire and create opportunities for others.

“I want to headline my own blockbuster trilogy – like the John Wick franchise,” he laughed. “I definitely want to get behind the camera, as well – writing and producing. But I have a few different foundations I want to get off the ground to help develop opportunities for young black men. I think a lot of young brothers could benefit from mentorship and guidance. And not to just see Black men excel at sports or in entertainment. I want to offer a platform and resources for them to excel in other areas, as well.”

Actor Chido Nwokocha. Photo by: Collin Stark. Groomed by: Jessica Stark

But before he slides behind the camera, audiences can look forward to seeing a lot more of Chido Nwokocha in front of the camera – beginning with the release of the blockbuster sequel Top Gun: Maverick on June 26th, 2020. Chido describes the experience of working on an action franchise like Top Gun as “incredible.”

Oh, and getting to say “Hi” to Tom Cruise was pretty cool, too.

But, despite his immense excitement, and his athletic prowess, Chido, somehow managed to stay in his lane when it came to, well, acting like a maverick.

“You get on a set like that, and you want to show that you can do everything, but I wasn’t required to do any stunts. But, (laughing) I did want to let them know that if there’s something physical to be done here, I can do it and I don’t need any [stunt man] to sub for me! I work out, I take care of myself. We can do this!”

If you get the sense that laughter is a big part of Chido Nwokocha’s life, you’re absolutely right. Just like physical health and fitness, emotional well-being is at the top of his list of priorities. He practices positivity as a discipline… and as a lifestyle.

“I love to have a positive mindset and I want to leave everyone I meet with the feeling that they’ve had a positive interaction,” he said. “I enjoy laughing. I believe happiness is a choice and I choose to be happy.”

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