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While other British actors struggle to make their name in Hollywood, CARMEN [51060 has come out of nowhere to star alongside Eddie Murphy in Metro. It's been a surprise to everyone, including her granny in Cumnock. Words: Alan Morrison
IT’S NOT JUST geography that separates the beaches in California from those scattered down the Ayrshire coast. but Carmen Ejogo is more familiar with the dunes of Troon than the surf at Santa Monica. Maybe that’s not what you’d expect from someone who shares top billing with Eddie Murphy in his latest action comedy. Metro. but Ejogo is no stranger to Scotland’s west coast. Raised in London by her Nigerian father and Scottish mother, she spent the occasional summer holiday up in Ayrshire. visiting her grandmother and other relatives in Cumnock.
Although the 23-year-old made her film debut back in 1986 with a small part in Absolute Beginners. she is adamant she has never pursued a calculated career plan. ‘l don‘t think I ever consciously decided that l was going to be an actress.’ she says. ‘lt’s just been part of me forever. My mum can remember. when l was two years old at a birthday party. me overtaking the paid magician and becoming the entertainment. That was not something I'd been prompted to do. it just came naturally. I didn’t go to stage school as a child. and I haven’t put myself out there or gone for every audition. In a sense. it has just happened around me. which is why it feels like it‘s been fated.’
Landing the part in Metro — as newspaper photographer Ronnie Tate. on-off girlfriend of hostage negotiator Scott Roper (played by Murphy) — also seems to have been a combination of fortune and talent. While up fora role in Kenneth Branagh‘s Hamlet (which she subsequently turned down). Ejogo was video-taped at an audition. and this tape was sent to top Hollywood casting director Ellen Chenoweth. The fact that British actors are hot property in America didn‘t do her any harm when it came to finding the female lead i‘Ol‘ Metro.
‘The director. Thomas Carter. had been toying with the idea of using a British actress. but it wasn‘t essential to the part.‘ Ejogo insists. ‘In the end. it was down to three girls. and the other two were American. The fact that l was British was a novel angle. but it was not. I don‘t think. the reason I got the role. America appreciates that there‘s a huge well of talent over here. both in Scotland and in the
UK as a whole. and hopefully it won’t just be a phase either.‘
Although she has plenty of experience on stage — including a trip to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a Young Vic production of Le Grand Mean/ties — Ejogo is happier acting for the camera. Dennis Potter‘s Ct)ch Lazarus gave her some television experience. but so did years presenting interview slots for the Disney Channel and GMTV. In fact. in a way it was the latter that helped calm her nerves when meeting superstar Eddie Murphy for the first time.
‘It was very nerve-wracking when I first met Eddie. not so much because of who he is. but because if there was no sense of chemistry between us. we were going to have a very hard
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Ready for Eddie: Carmen Ejogo in Metro
task on our hands to make it work on the screen.’ she says. ‘I went with absolutely no impressions of him. I‘m well aware that the persona you get on screen is very rarely what you get when you meet the person in real life. Some things I had expected were true — he‘s very funny and very charismatic — but there are other sides to him that you would never have guessed fromjust watching his films.’
Murphy speaks very highly of her too -- ‘a wonderful actress. beautiful and talented.” he has said. Praise indeed from a master charmer. And smoother than any chat-up line you‘"e likely to hear in Cumnock.
Metro goes on general release on Fri 18 Apr. See review.
18 Aprl May 199/ THE usrs