From Lagos to Interlochen: Nigerian Actor is Lead in Production of Othello

It took a while for Ademide Akintillo to come to terms with his role in Shakespeare’s “Othello.” “He is someone who is very opposite from my own personality; he’s large and powerful and can make an audience stop in their tracks. I am more quiet and reserved,” said Ademide. But the more he explored the character, the more he found that he could relate to him, ultimately giving a striking performance of one of Western theatre's most enduring classics.
David Montee, instructor of theatre at the Arts Academy, had wanted to do a production of “Othello” for years but waited for the right actor to play the part. “We needed someone who fit its steep emotional and technical demands as well as someone who has been here in our program for the appropriate amount of time for the proper preparation.” As a four-year student with a unique background, Ademide fit the bill. “He's gifted with a beautiful speaking voice and a surprising depth of emotional resources.” 

It was an unlikely journey for the Nigerian-born actor who began his acting career under the guidance of a middle school band teacher, who also ran an extra-curricular theatre club. Ademide played snare drum and xylophone in band but it was his acting that caught the attention of his teacher. After playing Snoopy in “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” and Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” his teacher suggested that he look into Interlochen. 

“I first worked with Ademide as a freshman, and it is remarkable to see the growth he has exhibited in his time at Interlochen,” said Bill Church, director of the theatre program. “He has developed into a young actor capable of taking on one of Shakespeare's most memorable roles. Ademide's riveting performance as Othello was a testament to his hard work and dedication over the past four years.” 

Coming to the United States was not unexpected for Ademide, whose siblings also studied in the U.S. But despite his deep familiarity with the United States he, like anyone who has lived in a foreign country, is often reminded of the differences between cultures. “I have a sense of pride about being the only Nigerian at the Academy but its also intimidating: there is still so much about American culture that I am clueless about: how some things work and how people communicate.” But for Ademide, this experience gave him deeper insight for his role in “Othello.” 

“Working with Ademide alongside the rest of a very talented cast and design team made ‘Othello’ a grand directing experience after my year's sabbatical leave,” noted Montee. “I've now directed 17 Shakespeare productions at Interlochen - nearly half the accepted canon - and I think this was one of the best.”  

Ademide is still in the final stages of his college search but hopes to stay in the United States to pursue a bachelor’s degree in acting. He hopes to perform on stage or as a voice actor.