Chido Nwokocha: Filming ‘Sistas’ during pandemic was like summer camp

Chido Nwokocha's dramedy "Sistas" returns for a second season on BET Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Pinnacle Public Relations

NEW YORK, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Nigerian-born actor Chido Nwokocha said filming “Sistas” at Tyler Perry’s Atlanta studio compound during the coronavirus pandemic reminded him of going to football camp when he was a kid.

“I woke up, worked out, ate good food, went in to act, went on set, came back, hung out with the cast, enjoyed my downtime and just woke up [the next day] and did it all over again. It was a lot of fun,” Nwokocha told UPI in a recent phone interview.

The cast and crew were tested multiple times and sequestered together on the compound as they taped 22 episodes of the relationship dramedy over the course of three weeks.

“We felt safe, felt good about ourselves and got the chance to just focus on our work and do a good job and put something together for our audience,” Nwokocha said. “I was in good hands. I wasn’t nervous at all. I was eager to get back to work.”

Perry may be the head of his own studio, but he also still acts, writes and directs for film and television. His intense schedule and enormous success don’t keep him from being playful and kind to the people who work for him, though.

Nwokocha joked that after spending considerable time with Perry, he still doesn’t know when or if the man ever sleeps.

“I’m an early riser, so I can get my workouts in and he’s up working out, too,” Nwokocha said. “It’s very cool to see a billionaire at work on one of his projects. It’s very inspiring, very motivating and just lets you know there is always more that can be done.”

Starring K.J. Smith, Novi Brown, Mignon Von and Ebony Obsidian as young, Black, single friends, “Sistas”‘┬ánew season debuts on BET Wednesday.

Nwokocha — who plays Gary Marshall Borders, a married man having an affair with Smith’s character Andi — thinks viewers connect to the story lines about friendship, work and romance and see themselves in the characters.

The fact that most of the show’s stars are up-and-coming actors also helps in the relatability department.

“A lot of us are new faces,” Nwokocha said, noting viewers see the cast and characters they play as people they can “latch on to early, that they haven’t seen before, that they are excited about, that they are rooting for. It kind of inspires them to keep chasing their dreams.”

The actor knows from social media that the show has a loyal following who can’t wait for the new episodes.

One of the best parts of his job, he said, is seeing “Sistas” memes, as well fan discussions about what they want to see happen on the show or which characters they hate.

“We moved our date from Oct. 14 to Oct. 28 and back to Oct. 14 because people were just like: ‘Yo! When is the time? I’m ready! I’m excited!'” Nwokocha said.

The actor had landed a bartending gig in Los Angeles days before getting the call to audition for “Sistas.” In a leap of faith, he flew to Georgia to try out, and was promptly fired.

“So, I went into the audition, thinking, ‘This has to go my way,'” he laughed, remembering the stressful weeks in between when he read for the role and learned he had gotten it.

“I’m kind of just sitting there going: ‘Alright. I need a job. I had a job. I lost a job. I went and auditioned for this. I didn’t get the job. What in the world? What is this for?’ And, then, that Friday afternoon, I got a call saying I got the part and I was so happy.”

Nwokocha also will be seen soon in the eagerly awaited film, “Top Gun: Maverick.”

He couldn’t divulge much about his character, other than to say he did not have to go through the rigorous flight training some of his castmates, including Tom Cruise, endured.

Nwokocha had always dreamed of appearing in a big-budget blockbuster and was thrilled for the opportunity to work in this setting.

His performance was his top priority, but he also enjoyed “taking everything in and watching all the moving parts and what it takes to put this thing together.”

“It was incredible to see and incredible to book a role in there and now we’ll see whenever it comes out. It keeps getting pushed back [because of the pandemic], understandably, but whenever it comes out, I’ll be ready for it,” he said.

He added: “It’s going to be a big deal. I guess, part of this process is just being patient.”

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