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Live for Films talks to rising star Emmanuel Imani


Emerging South London actor Emmanuel Imani is set to star in his first Hollywood film – Criminal –alongside Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, and Gary Oldman, and recently took the time out for a chat with us at Live For Films.

Imani began his acting career in 2013, debuting in the critically acclaimed Harold Finley directed play A Thousand Miles Of History, and starred in his first feature film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit in 2014, with Chris Pine and Keira Knightley. He went on to star in the Channel 4 supported indie film Invisible Men last year, which premiered at the British Urban Film Festival.

Along with his role in Criminal with Costner, Lee Jones and Oldman, Imani will also be starring in British Horror film Servants Quarters this year, and heading back to the theatre to star in Oliva Tweest, which will debut in Africa as part of the Lagos Theatre Festival, after premiering at London’s West End in 2013 and a short run at Hackney Empire last year.


Hi Emmanuel. I’m Alan from Live for Films. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. You have just starred in your first Hollywood film :Criminal. What can you tell us about the movie, your role, and what attracted you to the part?

Criminal is a movie which centres around Kevin Costner’s character (the criminal) who gets his brain switched with Ryan Reynolds’s CIA brain. Gary Oldman plays the head of the CIA with Tommy Lee Jones as the doctor who does this complex surgery.

I play the character of Agent  Butler who is brought in by Gary Oldman to “handle” Kevin Costner’s character. I essentially transport him everywhere and ensure he doesn’t harm the general public pre and post surgery.

I loved playing this role but the thing that attracted me to the role was the fact this character was so different to myself. The character was older than myself by ten years and far more serious than myself.


You star alongside an excellent cast: Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman, what was it like to work with these legends, and did you spend much time with them off set?

These men are definitely some fine actors. I think I was most taken aback by Gary Oldman and Kevin Costner. Gary is a fireball and he hails from New Cross which is round the corner from my house. He is incredible when it comes to accents.

Kevin is very particular about his work which is amazing to see after so many years, these men still love what they do and they want the best from what they do. Kevin took me under his wing a little bit which was very overwhelming – in a good way! He didn’t have to look out for me or give me advice but he did. He’s a wonderful person.



Your acting career began when you made your debut in Harold Finley’s A Thousand Miles of History. Was that at all daunting, and what do you like best about working on the stage?

That was actually one of the most frightening and sobering experiences I’ve ever had. I normally don’t get nervous but I felt extremely nervous working with these professionals as I was just starting out. I love the instant feedback of working on stage. If you are entertaining the audience they’ll let you know it and if you’re not entertaining the audience guess what? They’ll let you know it.


Your first film was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. How did you get involved? What did you get up to? And when did you know that this was where you saw your career going forwards?

Funny thing is this was the job that left me feeling like “You know what Emmanuel? Maybe you can do this!” I booked this job, I turned up to set to film with Chris Pine, Kevin Costner and I was feeling extremely humbled to be working with such established actors/directors. I felt like a kid again! I was strapped in this giant helicopter ‘thing’ as it shook for ten minutes non-stop. So much fun. I auditioned for this role on a Tuesday and I got a call Wednesday morning that I’d been booked for the role. I remember doing a little dance in my living room for at least five minutes to no music!


Did you see much of Chris Pine and Kiera Knightley on Jack Ryan?

I didn’t get to see much of my fellow Brit Kiera Knightley on set which was unfortunate but I got to see quite a bit of Chris. I had an interesting convo with him about his amazing trailer and he assured me that I’d get a trailer of similar size one day – I’m still hoping/waiting on that day! He was a very humble and kind actor.


You have also worked in TV, on the BBC’s Doctors, and you starred in The British Urban Film Festival/C4’s Invisible Men. What are the big differences between acting for the small, vs. big screen?

I enjoy working on independent movies as you have a lot more creative control when it comes to developing the character and working closely with the director. Bigger production movies are great too as I feel I have to step up my game sometimes to keep up with these ‘stars’.


We love horror at Live for Films, so would really like to know more about your next film ‘Servants Quarters’.

I love horror films too! I play a smart character called Rhys who is called upon by Amy to help her with a haunted house. This is a clever horror film similar to The Babadook, so I’m super excited for you guys to see it and to see me playing a fun, clever film fanatic!


What can you tell us about ‘Oliva Tweest’?

It’s an Afrobeat Musical, a Nigerian rendition of the classic Oliver Twist tale but instead of wanting more food the lead character Toby wants more and more women. I play Pastor Bayodele who I model on my own parents as they seem incredibly similar to Pastor Bayodele. He is so much fun to play, I literally cannot wait to get back on stage, dust off my stage bible and work some crazy magic that is Pastor B! Right now the production team are currently in Nigeria laying some foundations and further developing the project, we hope to take it to Nigeria later this year.


Going back to your very beginnings, when did you know that you wanted to act?

I got into acting because it was the only thing that made sense to me. I’ve been acting since I was 6 and I’ve always loved it but I thought I wanted to be a psychiatrist more. When I got to college, I realised I hated certain elements of Chemistry (no pun intended), however I thought I should follow my heart instead of my brain. Acting was the only thing I could imagine myself doing for the rest of my life and being happy and content. If you do something you love then you never have to work a day in your life – I believe this saying 100%.


Is your heart on the stage or in front of the camera?

I think I’m a greedy actor. I love both equally! I love the thrill of the theatre as it’s live, there’s adrenaline going, you have instant feedback from the audience, you have one shot to get this right etc. I also love film as you often get complicated scenes which are quite draining – in a good way. Once you’ve done them and the scenes are recorded your able to relax – shake it off!


If you could be killed by any movie monster, which one would it be, and what would your last words be?

I’d love to be killed by Godzilla! I would want him to throw me off the Empire State Building. My last words. I have never thought of what my last words could be. I think I’d say something like “I have no regrets. I did it well!”


If you could star in the remake of any film, which one would it be, and what part would you like to play?

Blade!!! Blade all the way. I would love to be in Blade and go figure I’d love to play… Blade. He is a badass superhero that was possibly shown ahead of his time. Wesley did an amazing job but I do think the world wasn’t ready for him or that character. I would love to play Blade all day!


Do you prefer salted or sweet popcorn?

You guys are making me feel greedy again, I actually love both. I really like sweet and salt popcorn, I used to be a ‘sweet’ kinda guy but my taste has evolved! I’m a sweet and salt kinda guy.


To keep up to speed with what Emmanuel is getting up to to you can follow him on his social networks:




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