The Nigerian film industry, otherwise known as Nollywood, is on fire…and it’s newest star happens to be American born!! From the cult sensation “DL Chronicles” to Nollywood royalty, Ulrich Que’s got next!
The half-Black, half-German actor began his career seven years ago as the star of a local soap opera in Austin, Texas called, “Shades of Life”. Winning the Best Actor award two years in a row gave him the confidence to pack his things and move to Hollywood. After his initial fear and nervousness of the unknown, Ulrich is now full speed ahead in his career, but not without experiencing some major and minor road bumps.
Ulrich states, “I expected Los Angeles to be hard, but not as hard as it was. The most difficult part about booking roles in Hollywood is the limitations others put on you. Sometimes it can be discouraging to walk into a casting call and automatically be put in a box based on your looks and ethnicity. This experience has taught me a lot of perseverance and faith. I would never take the experience back for nothing in the world, but I hope to make it easier for the next man behind me.
THO: Your mostly known for your starring role in the racy TV Series DL Chronicles, how did you become a part of that project?
Ulrich: My manager at the time submitted me for the role. After the first audition, I was called back three more times. After the second reading, I had a good idea that I booked the role. When I first read the DL Chronicles I thought it would be challenging because it was my first gay role, but once we started shooting, it was lots of fun and enjoyable. Working with the directors Quincy LaNear and Deandre Gossett helped me get comfortable but it was a very different experience (in a good way). Quincy and Deandre rehearsed with me several times to get me comfortable with the intimate scenes. Also, working with two directors at the same time was very different than what I was used to, but it was refreshing to hear two different voices directing you, because if I didn’t understand something Quincy said, Deandre would explain it differently and vice versa.
THO: Were you hesitant to take on such a racy role?
Ulrich: Not at all. I believe as actors, we must challenge ourselves to roles that are outside the norm for us. I observed the role as a chance for me to prove that I’m leading man material. The most challenging part was being nude for the first time! I was very conscientious about my body. I wasn’t sure if it looked good enough, if my body was good enough for the big screen. I usually jog everyday, but I did extra cardio to make sure everything was nice and tight. The casting director, Sky Gaven, told me I would have some nudity and I was okay with that, hopefully everyone else was. LOL!
THO: What was people’s reaction to your role in DL?
Ulrich: They loved it. I mean, they ALL loved it. Even my mother came down from Texas for the premiere. She loved every bit of it. After listening to people’s reaction, I realized that I am leading man material.
THO: Do you feel the role hurt on hindered your career?
Ulrich: I would say it progressed my career. It’s shows my versatility with different genres, and for the first time, it generated a loyal fan base for me – which consist of women and gay men. When I go to Hollywood, people recognize me from my ‘Mark’ character. Some just stare at me, some give me a compliment on my role and acting, some fans even hit on me! I think hilarious and flattering at the same time. I wouldn’t change my fans for the world and am glad for them.
THO: How did you get cast in the Nigerian film Ije?
Ulrich: My manager submitted me for the role. When I arrived at the audition, 50 other actors who looked exactly like me were there. Imagine that! We all wore suits with briefcases. It was extremely crowded. After my first audition, it took 3 months for me to book the role. During the wait, I didn’t think I was going to get it. I was over the moon excited to get the call, but then I had 2 more rounds of auditioning. It was very intense. Finally, they cast me as Jalen Turner, the leading male actor.
THO: What made you decide to tackle a Nollywood project?
Ulrich: The exposure and the to be apart of a successful industry. I knew nothing about Nollywood, as a matter of fact, I’ve never heard of it. After I received the role, I did tons of research on Nollywood and was so happy that I would be apart of that industry. Also, I have never heard of Genevieve Nnaji. Her fame and status in Africa is parallel to Angelia Jolie here in the US. So, I thought, WOW. I not only starring next to Africa’s biggest actress, but also a leading man with huge potential to star in another project in Africa as well.
THO: Describe what is was like shooting there? The people of Nigeria?
Ulrich: We shot everything here in Los Angeles. The movie was based around the entertainment industry in LA. Visiting the country was amazing. The people were very friendly and the food was spicy. By the way, I’m from the Texas, and I love spicy food. The most memorable moment for me was seeing all the Black people and know this is possibly where my ancestors are from.
THO: What were the major differences in US vs. Nollywood filmmaking?
Ulrich: US has the technological advances than Nollywood, but, I feel that the passion and the vision are all the same. People want a good movie and no matter what it looks like, as long as people can relate to it, then it’s good. Many people bash the ‘quality’ of filmmaking in Nollywood, but I feel everyone has a criticism, but Nigerian filmmakers do the best that they can with the resources they have. At the end of the day it’s about the story , not the technology.
THO: You worked with with critically acclaimed African director Chineze Anyaene? What was that experience like?
Ulrich: I enjoyed working with her. I sat and watched her directing style and learned everything I need to know about the craft. I felt like I was taking a director’s 101 workshop. She is truly amazing.
THO: Do you feel Nollywood is a place for American actors to thrive?
Ulrich: Absolutely. I always say, all you need is one hit. Any American gets a hit overseas and the skies are the limits. Even established American actors like Kimberly Elise and Vivica A. Fox are going to Nollywood for work. I truly believe struggling Black actors here can thrive 100% in Nollywood! It’s funny because opportunities for White actors are few and far between there. It’s crazy cause it’s the complete opposite in America! Nigerians like to see people that represent their citizens, which isn’t always the case in the US. Presently, I’m exploring options in Nollywood.
THO: What barriers are in the US that are not in Nigeria?
Ulriuch: I believe the barriers are the same. All film industry depend on experiences actors. Very seldom will actors with no experience see a supporting or leading role. After speaking with Nigerians in their industry, they mentioned that they feel the popular actors are a guarantee that DVD’s will sell. It’s the same mentality here as well.
THO: How does the Nigerian community react to you? Are you a celebrity there?
Ulrich: They respond to very quite nicely. After the film’s release, I have been fortunate enough to establish a loyal fan base there as well. Fortunately, their industry is huge, so I don’t feel like I’m taking any roles from Nigerian born actors. Everyone can get their shine.
THO: What did you take away from your experience in Nollywood?
Ulrich: I learned that you don’t need a whole bunch of technology to make a great movie. All you need is vision and persistence, which encouraged me to write, direct, and star in my own projects, the first being the short, “20 Years Later”!
THO: Tell us about 20 Years Later? Why did you decide to step behind the camera?
Ulrich: After living in Hollywood for 5 years, I realized that no one was knocking at my door, scripts were not thrown at my feet, and agents and managers were not running to me. I had to create my own work. After ’20 Years Later’, I know now that I can do anything. I made so many mistakes, which is not a bad thing. Now, on my next project, I’m ready. But mostly, as an artist, this project gave me the confidence to keep pushing and pushing because this dream can soon become a reality.
THO: So what’s next for you?
Ulrich: Next is submitting my films to film festivals. During the months of June, July, August, Sept., Oct., and Nov. Will be extremely busy because those are the festivals dates. Also, I’ll be shooting my television pilot called, “Invisible Men”, which will be a project that will push the envelope and cause a lot of eyebrows to be raised! I’ll leave it at that!
THO: As a free agent, are you concerned with getting representation any time soon? How important is that?
Ulrich: Absolutely! Representation is everything in this town. Having good quality representation can get an actor in doors that others can’t. All most people need is the audition. That’s it. Once you get the audition, everything else will usually fall into place. I’m confident that by the end of the year, I will secure excellent representation.
Please watch trailer for Ulrich’s films ‘Ije’ and ’20 Years Later’ below:
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