Enuka Okuma Interview: Star of ABC's 'Rookie Blue' in Tom Hanks' Film 'Larry Crowne'
Canadian actress Enuka Okuma portrays Traci Nash, one of the stars of the ABC police drama Rookie Blue. The series made history in 2010 when it drew in over 9 million U.S. and Canadian viewers making it ABC’s best summer scripted show in more than five years.
Nash is of Nigerian descent and is known by anime fans as the voice of Lady Une in Gundam Wing, as Jade in the Canadian animated series War Planets and also in an episode of MythQuest. Other television appearances include Medium, Grey’s Anatomy, 24, Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, and Cold Case. In films she is most known for roles in Double Jeopardy, Reindeer Games, and Stolen.
"They definitely explore all sides of what it takes to be a cop. You’re exactly right. Traci’s got this tough exterior but she’s vulnerable and has a lot to prove to herself."
The talented starlet can also be seen in Larry Crowne, where she shares the big screen with Julia Roberts and the movie’s writer/director Tom Hanks. She recently added film director to her resume when she wrote, produced, and directed the short film Cookie starring Jennifer Finnigan and Jonathan Silverman.
The second season of Rookie Blue premiered on Thursday, June 23, 2011 and the complete first season is available now on Blu-ray. ABC just recently announced early renewal of season three and production is scheduled to get underway later this summer.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Enuka, I’m a big fan of Rookie Blue and was delighted that it was renewed for a second season.
Enuka Okuma: Me, too, I’m a big fan (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Last year it was ABC’s best summer scripted show in more than 5 years with over 9 million U.S. and Canadian viewers. Why do you think the series is so popular?
Enuka Okuma: I think the show appeals to both men and women and that’s the big reason it has done so well and connected with people as well as it has. Missy is pretty irresistible as that tomboy, right? She’s the girl that all the guys have a crush on and the girl that all the girls want to be. She’s perfect in the lead role. There’s crime for the guys and there’s romance for the girls.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It is filmed in Tononto. Is that where you’re from?
Enuka Okuma: No. I’m from Vancouver actually. I’m on the west coast. I worked on a series called Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye for a few years that shot in Toronto so I moved here for that time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And you’re still there.
Enuka Okuma: I’m only here because I’m getting married in a couple of weeks here in Toronto. I live in Los Angeles part of the time.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have fans in Toronto that want to watch the filming?
Enuka Okuma: When we were shooting season two it was a little different than season one because the show had gone out and connected with people and people started to show up on our sets. It was pretty exciting and fun to see the response.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you know Missy Peregrym before the series?
Enuka Okuma: No I didn’t and we grew up about 20 minutes from each other and never met until the show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you become friends off the set as well?
Enuka Okuma: Missy’s a great girl and we’re good friends. The whole cast has bonded and we’re pretty close.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did the actors have specific police training to prepare them for the roles?
Enuka Okuma: Believe it or not, we only had one day of training before shooting the first season. We had a couple of very good police officers come in and give us a very quick rundown on how to read someone their rights, how to handcuff, how to lead someone and put them in a cop car. But it was far too quick (laughs).
The funny thing was that in season one we’re supposed to be rookies and supposed to not know what we’re doing and it worked because we didn’t know what we were doing. That fear you see on our faces is genuine fear (laughs). In season two we’re supposed to have a little bit more of a handle on things. Well, you watch and tell me if it does improve (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have any training for that killer right hook?
Enuka Okuma: Do you mean the boxing? I did train for that. Once we started rehearsals the first week they said, “Oh, by the way, you’re going to be boxing in episode three.” I was like, “What? Are you serious?” But, right away I got into some boxing training and did that for a couple of months. Hopefully it worked. They found a great body double for me, a good boxing double, and she made me look really good.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): If you were a police officer, would you want someone like Traci Nash to have your back?
Enuka Okuma: That’s a great question. I think you would be in good hands if Traci Nash was your partner. The character is tough and she’s street smart so it makes her a little more relatable to many people that she takes in. Even though she’s tough she’s a mother as well so she definitely has a lot of compassion. I’ve seen it actually in the last couple of episodes in season two. I’ve seen Traci’s heart go out to people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): At first glance she appears to have it all together, but there are some insecurities underneath that tough exterior.
Enuka Okuma: There are and I love that about the writers on the show. They definitely explore all sides of what it takes to be a cop. You’re exactly right. Traci’s got this tough exterior but she’s vulnerable and has a lot to prove to herself.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Noam Jenkins plays Traci’s love interest, Jerry Barber. Do you enjoy the love scenes?
Enuka Okuma: As they always say and it’s very true, those scenes are all pretty awkward. At the same time, Noam is such a good actor and has also become a good friend. He, his wife, my fiancé and myself spend lots of time together. Noam is just a dream to work with.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What is next for your character and the series?
Enuka Okuma: We all get to know each other a little bit better. There’s a lot more trust and more risks being taken by the actors and by the characters. You will start to see us all getting a little deeper into our characters. I’m not sure that makes any sense, but it’s like season one dialed up a notch.
Traci’s ambitions start to show. There’s a love triangle that starts to emerge with Gail and Chris. Of course, there’s a huge love triangle between Sam, Andy, and Luke. I’d have to say that this season is stronger than the first season.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Sounds great. Enuka is such a pretty name. Does it mean anything in particular?
Enuka Okuma: It does. It sort of doesn’t translate exactly but it means "everything that we have comes from God or gift from heaven."
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you still have family in Nigeria?
Enuka Okuma: Most definitely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you visit often?
Enuka Okuma: No, I haven’t been back in many years, but I do have cousins and we’ve reached out to each other through Facebook. I know they’re out there supporting me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did you get interested in acting?
Enuka Okuma: As a kid I was always doing theater, dance, and singing. A woman named Carole Tarlington used to run the Vancouver Youth Theatre and she was giving a workshop. I credit her as the one who discovered me because she asked me to join her agency and to join her theater. If she hadn’t I don’t know whether I would have pursued it on my own.
I was quite a shy little girl and that opened up a whole different world for me. I didn’t even know how I felt about it before I was out there auditioning, but the path was set and I’m so glad it happened.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about the experience filming the Tom Hanks’ movie Larry Crowne.
Enuka Okuma: It was a brief experience but it was lots of fun. It was a great set to be on and to watch Mr. Hanks in action. I took a lot of cues from him because he wrote, directed and starred in Larry Crowne and shortly thereafter I wrote and directed a short film called Cookie.
I was just taking in as much as I could, loving how he ran things and felt very inspired. Working on that particular set was just hilarious. They were cracking jokes all the time. It’s a big budget film so it was just neat to be there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You directed Cookie and you also appear in the film?
Enuka Okuma: Not for very long (laughs). I was afraid to wear too many hats my first time around being on the other side of the camera. That was a smart decision because when I was doing both, oh boy, did I ever feel like a dog chasing his tail (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You mentioned getting married. Is this a first for you?
Enuka Okuma: Oh yes ma’am.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You waited until your 30s to tie the knot.
Enuka Okuma: I do feel that everything is different for everyone. For me, I just met the right guy and this just happened to be the right time. We’ve been together six years and have been engaged for three years.
We always knew we were going to marry each other so when it happened never really mattered to us. We just wanted all the ducks to be in a row before we took the plunge and now the time is right. The stars have aligned and here we go! It’s the craziest time of my life! I’m so busy that I don’t even know what to do with myself (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is he an actor also?
Enuka Okuma: No, he’s a musician.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Still in the arts though.
Enuka Okuma: We have lots to talk about, he and I.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will this be a huge wedding?
Enuka Okuma: Well, huge is different to some people. We’ve got over 100 guests and they’re coming in from Vancouver, Los Angeles, and lots of people from Toronto. I think it will be a great day. (Editor's Note: Since this interview was held, Enuka tied the knot with Joseph Gasparik).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What fills your days?
Enuka Okuma: The funniest thing about the answer to that question is that I like to do what I always do which is, instead of being in the movies, I like going to watch them. I’m a big fan of films, so I’m often going to see a flick or two. Of course I enjoy good conversation and good wine with good friends.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that you work out with a hula-hoop.
Enuka Okuma: I started doing that this year and I love it! I got a travel hoop, too, which is great for when I’m on the road. I was good at it as a kid but I picked it up and it was just like riding a bike except I’m not as good as I used to be (laughs).
There are benefits now because the hoop is actually weighted so it’s great for fitness and great for working out your core. It’s fun, too, because it doesn’t feel like you’re working out.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I would try it, but I’m afraid I would injure something at this late stage of the game.
Enuka Okuma: You should try it! It is a great workout!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, it definitely works for you because you appear to be very fit. Enuka, thanks for taking the time, and continued success on Rookie Blue!
Enuka Okuma: Thank you so much. I can’t wait to read the article!
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