Toronto continues to be a growing influence on the film landscape, with more stars and productions coming from the city. One Toronto native that everybody should be paying attention to is Gemini award-winning Mpho Koaho, one of the stars of the new film, Black or White. The film stars Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer as grandparents who battle for custody of their granddaughter which leads to family tensions. Within the heart of the film is Koaho’s character, the brilliant tutor Duvan, who is one of the shining points of the film. Toronto Film Scene was able to speak with Koaho about his role in the film.
TFS: Duvan is an interesting and intelligent character within the films story. What led you to choosing this role in the film?
MK: I initially read for the Reggie character. Mike didn’t think I was right and had me read for Duvan. Duvan is a very interesting and extremely intelligent character. He breathes life into every scene he is in. A pleasure to play and such a fun, endearing young man.
TFS: How much were you able to relate to the character of the Duvan?
MK: A great deal. I can relate to his awkwardness, the way he doesn’t fit in. Culturally I can relate as well. My family in South Africa has experienced similar loss. My mother escaped Apartheid riddled South Africa to immigrate to Canada. So we know the struggle just like Duvan. One thing I can’t relate to is having written a paper on everything.
TFS: You play the role of a math tutor in the film. Would you consider math as a favorite subject of yours?
MK: No way! Math was by far my worst subject in school. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t excel at it. My math teacher in high school would always call me Al, which is my actual first name on my birth certificate. Nobody calls me Al by the way.
TFS: A majority of your scenes are alongside Academy Award winner Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell. What was the experience like working with both of them?
MK: Such a wonderful experience working with both. It was young Jillian’s first film. From day one that was my little sis. She is so sharp and multi talented. No one realizes how hard it is to carry a film as an adult, let alone as a 10-year-old. Then there is the great man Kevin Costner. Every moment with him was great for me. He was so nice to me, so kind. He was so complimentary of my ability and the work I did in the film. The time he took with me, the advice he gave me. The best set experience I’ve had in my career.
TFS: You’re a series regular on the television series Falling Skies. Was it difficult to transition between your character on that show and with your role in this film?
MK: Not really. I’m an actor, that’s what I do. I alter the way you see me from project to project. I guess it depends on the role you’re playing. Certain portrayals might be a greater transition for some than others. I know I was fortunate to not have much difficulty.
TFS: As a Toronto native, how did it feel to have your film debut at TIFF?
MK: There was no better feeling. A Toronto kid participating in a gala screening of our film, with this cast. Absolutely crazy experience. I was trying to compose myself, that’s how excited I was. Being interviewed on the red carpet by reporters and media networks I grew up watching, and watch everyday, was special.
TFS: What projects do you have lined up ahead in the future?
MK: Nothing etched in stone right now. Looking at a few projects though. I feel like taking a break and cutting some records. I would also like to shoot my own pilot at some point this year. We’ll see what happens. I’m excited for whats next.
You can see Duvan’s excellent role in Black Or White when it opens on Friday, January 30, 2015.