On the Move with Ato Essandoh!

Susie Stillwell | 7/24/2013, 9:51 p.m. | Updated on 7/24/2013, 9:51 p.m.
Hypnotizing audiences as D'Artagnan, the slave who was mauled to death by dogs in Django Unchained, Ato Essandoh stars as ...
Susie Stillwell

Hypnotizing audiences as D'Artagnan, the slave who was mauled to death by dogs in Django Unchained, Ato Essandoh stars as Dr. Matthew Freeman in the 2nd season of BBC America’s highest-rated series premiere ever, “Copper.” Born in Schenectady, New York on July 29, 1972, Ato also returns as the fan-favorite former carjacker and Watson’s (Lucy Liu) possible replacement, Alfredo Llamosa, in CBS’ “Elementary.”

On the big screen, Ato is widely recognized for his memorable performances in Garden State, Blood Diamond and Hitch, and for equally-stellar work on such TV shows as “Blue Bloods,” “Damages,” “The Good Wife” and “Law & Order,” to name a few. Prior to acting, he studied chemical engineering at Cornell University, where he took a dare to appear in a stage production of “Paper Moon.”

Ato immediately fell in love with the stage and with acting, and moved to New York City to study under the tutelage of James Price. He went on to do many Off-Broadway shows, even penning his own play and co-founding the writing/performance group “The Defiant Ones.”

Recognizing the importance of a healthy mind and body, Ato is an active yogi, practicing for the past 8 years and even recently joining a Capoeira group, the Brazilian martial art combining elements of dance and music. Additionally, he is a vegan and a strong believer in incorporating alternative/holistic medicine into one’s lifestyle.

As for hobbies, Ato has been known to bring his guitar to the set where he can be heard playing the blues during downtime. Here, he talks about life, career and the good fortune of currently having two hit TV shows.

Susie Stillwell for Juicy Culture: Hi Ato, thanks for your time and the interview.

Ato Essandoh: My pleasure, Susie.

SS/JC: You got a degree in engineering from Cornell. So, how did you end up an actor?

AE: Hah! I was randomly offered a part in a play while at school. I was going to turn it down, but my girlfriend at the time insisted that I do it. It was a singularly thrilling experience. It just stuck with me. I found myself back in New York City a few years after graduation and decided to take some acting classes at night after my consulting job. That was it. I just couldn’t shake it.

SS/JC: Congratulations on having two hit TV shows at the same time!

AE: Thanks Susie!

SS/JC: Is it hard shooting one series in Toronto and one in New York?

AE: That would certainly be a "First World Problem," if it were. So I'm going to say no. I love working! I'll take all I can get.

SS/JC: Being American, how did you come to land the role on Copper, a BBC production?

AE: I auditioned. Twice. The second time was in front of Tom Fontana, the show's creator. I didn't think I was going to get it. Months later, on Christmas Eve no less, I got the good news.

SS/JC: Tell me a little about your character, Dr. Matthew Freeman.