Landi Oshinowo Speaks to TBB’s Nellie Tandoh About Getting Her Act Together!!! 

Landi Oshinowo

Landi Oshinowo

With the opening night of highly acclaimed ‘controversial sensation’ West End musical ‘I’m Getting my Act Together and Taking it on the Road’ opening this week, I speak with Landi Oshinowo on being part of this ground-breaking musical with its return to London after 35 years; and her future within the industry. 

Could you tell our TBB readers a little about yourself and your background?

Well, first of all I’d like to extend a warm hello to the TBB readers! I’m a British actress / singer of Nigerian heritage, living in London I’ve been in the business professionally for about 14 years. I always knew I wanted to sing and have done from the age of 7. Before I got into musical theatre, I was in a girl group for about 4 years. When that came to an end, I had some small roles in a couple of films and just naturally progressed into musicals. I’ve appeared in shows such as Sister Act, Shrek, Barnum, The Light Princess, Dancing In The Streets and Tommy.

You must be excited to be part of bringing back such a highly acclaimed production back to London – has it been overwhelming knowing the reviews it has received in the past?

I am really excited to be a part of the production. It was ground-breaking when it had it’s first opening off Broadway at The New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theatre in 1978. Apparently the critics didn’t take to it but the public loved it, a guaranteed success! It is now our job to carry on that success, so yes I guess you can say it’s pretty overwhelming.

The title of this production sounds like a major statement being made to the audience about to embark on a musical journey with these characters – what does it mean to you?

For me, it’s a statement I can truly identify with. Having worked thus far in the industry it is inevitable that you will come to a career crossroad due to age, available roles, career path or just simply what you’re willing to put up with… or not. You realise that your career or your ‘act’ is in your hands. You can choose to do nothing or you can use the courage and self-belief, with which you embarked on your career in the first place, to take a leap of faith and do something different. Or simply put – ‘Screw this, I’m doing my own thing!’

‘I’m Getting my Act Together…’ is a very well know musical – were you familiar with it before landing the role?

I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t familiar with the show or how pivotal and relevant a lot of the content was and still is.

actWhat has been the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

The lines! Oooh Mama’s gotta lotta lines to learn! When I saw my script I thought – ‘I bess’ git on my knees and pray to Jesus!!’

When you first read the script, what about it stood out to you and why?

I think the first thing that stood out for me was Heather’s determination to do something different. No matter the advice and objections from her manager, even though it could mean the end of a successful career, she still wanted to break out and let the world see just who she really is. The more you read the script the more layers you discover. I know it’s a cliché but word onion comes to mind! It really is thought-provoking.

What do you love or have found challenging about this character?

Heather Jones is a successful singer/actress and a divorced, 39-year-old, mother of two living in America in the late’70s. She’s living in a time where she’s earning her own money and making her own rules about love, life and her identity. It’s the need to establish this identity that I love the most about the character.

Without giving anything away, what is your favourite line of dialogue from the show?

I could give you a whole page of favourite lines but this one’s really poignant: “If you can’t give me room to grow, you’ve gotta get out of my life.”

As this is a major return of this production to the West End after 35 years, why do you think it works with modern day audiences and has anything new been brought to the story?

The show works with today’s audiences because a lot of the content is still very relevant today. The relationships between men and women, the subject of age and how the rules differ between men and women, marriage and divorce, establishing one’s own identity in a conformist arena and the ultimate pursuit of love.

What motivates you to act and how have you matured as an actress since starting out in the industry?

I think what motivates me the most is that I can act and that I still have so much that’s untapped in me with regards to roles. I didn’t train like some of my peers, so my growth as an actress has come for work and life experience. Working with amazing directors and actors has also contributed to how much I’ve matured as an actress. One fond memory is of me playing opposite Sheila Hancock in Sister Act. She gave me acting advice, which I absolutely loved her for because it brought out the best in me; and when Sheila Hancock gives you advice, you take it!

What is the last thing you do before you step out on stage? Do you have any particular traditions?

I have to say a prayer before I go on stage. Quite a few people know me for that and even join me or ask me to, whether they believe or not.

Are there any future roles you would love to get an opportunity to perform?

Effie White in Dreamgirls, Celie in The Color Purple; Rachel Merron in Bodyguard; Ursula in A Little Mermaid; Tina Turner in a musical about her life! I’d also love to play Donkey in Shrek!

I’m Getting my Act Together and Taking it on the Road kicks off its run at the Jermyn Street Theatre from Wednesday 6th – Sat, 23rd July 2016. 

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Interview for The British Blacklist by Nellie Tandoh / @Nellie_Ville