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Barber Shop Chronicles star Kenneth Omole: ‘It’s always a push to be better than I was yesterday’

Kenneth Omole Kenneth Omole

Kenneth Omole was nominated for the best actor in a play category in the inaugural The Stage Debut Awards. One year later, he is rehearsing for a major US and Canada tour of the National Theatre’s production of Barber Shop Chronicles, he tells Giverny Masso

Can you tell me about the role you were nominated for in The Stage Debut Awards?

I did Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre in London. It’s my favourite role that I have played – a young cheeky Cuban boy who wants to learn English, and is taught by Assata. I worked with [fellow The Stage Debut Award nominee] Lynette Linton, who I believe is one of the most exciting up-and-coming directors.

What effect did the nomination have?

I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was so shocked. It’s always lovely to get recognised for something you’re passionate about. The nomination has definitely got me into doors that would have been difficult to get into before. I go into auditions now where people mention it. It’s a great thing to have on your CV, and I’m extremely grateful.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently getting ready to do a tour of Barber Shop Chronicles. I’m playing Kwame, Brian and Felice – who all have different accents. Ever since I learned a Cuban accent for Assate Taught Me, that’s given me the confidence to learn any accent. If I put the hours in, I know I can do it. I actually find it really fun – it’s a cool challenge, I don’t see it as a chore. I’m loving the rehearsals and really cherish that process. When you come and see a play, you don’t think about the work that goes into it before.

What else have you been up to since your nomination?

I’ve helped set up a film production company with my brother-in-law, called Roarlight. A lot of the stuff is on YouTube. It’s spreading an incredible message. We did a pilot of The Good Samaritan re-imagined in modern times, for which I was helping behind the scenes. We’ve also done a two-part series about a man who has lost his dad to cancer and lost faith in God.

How did you get into theatre?

When I was younger, football was my first passion. Theatre was that thing I couldn’t talk about at school due to peer pressure, because it wasn’t very cool. In sixth form, I thought I’d really regret it if I didn’t do acting. A teacher took me to the side and said I should go for it, and I never looked back from there.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I want to crack TV and film. I want to do roles that have never been done; I don’t want to stay within the box. For me, the challenge after the nomination is making sure I never slip in my level of performance. It’s always a push to be  better than I was yesterday.

CV: Kenneth Omole

Training: BA acting at Rose Bruford (2013-16)
First professional role: Fanuco in Assata Taught Me at the Gate Theatre in London (2017)
Agent: Chloe Bruchez at Gordon and French

Barber Shop Chronicles is touring the US and Canada from October 2018 to January 2019. More information is available at bit.ly/fuel-barber-shop

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