by Griselle Rodriguez
Photography by Matt Sayles
Adetokumboh M’Cormack—or simply Ade—is a veteran on the screen in his own right. Acting since the tender age of 4, M’Cormack has made his mark in roles in successful movies and television shows from Lost to 24, as well as 2006’s Blood Diamond. This month, M’Cormack puts his ass-kicking, combat training to work in the upcoming alien warfare thriller, Battle: Los Angeles. As Navy corpsman medic, Jibril Adukwu, the Kenyan native stars alongside Aaron Eckhart, Michelle Rodriguez and Bridget Moynahan in the action-packed film that has them all trying to save L.A.
YRB: How did you first get into acting?
Ade: I have been acting professionally since I was 4 years old and was in my first film at the age of 12 (The Great Elephant Escape with Joseph Gordon-Levitt). I was first scouted [in Kenya] by a casting agent and, after booking [The Great Elephant Escape], decided to continue pursuing the craft. I went to SUNY Purchase [Acting Conservatory] and it was there that I learned about the craft of acting. It really gave me a deeper appreciation and made me fall in love with it.
YRB: Was it hard to get into acting growing up in Africa?
Ade: I was raised in Nairobi, Kenya and although there is theatre there, it is not as developed as it is in the West. The problem with the arts in Africa is that it is looked at as a pastime, not a career. A lot of my friends who are incredibly talented actors were told by their parents to become doctors, lawyers and all the usual things, so it’s really unfortunate that [the arts] aren’t really pushed over there. The talent is so rich and I think it is important to expose children to that globally.
YRB: Having acted on both television and in film, which do you find easier to do?
Ade: It’s pretty neck and neck; however, this film was hard! (Laughs). This film really changed my perception a bit, but overall, I pay respects to both mediums since they can be both challenging and easy in the same light. The big payoff in either is to see the authenticity of your character at the end of the day.
YRB: With all the other alien apocalyptic films out, what made you want to join the genre with Battle: Los Angeles?
Ade: [I decided to go with this role] specifically because of the focus and the way that it was directed. It was shot documentary style, so it’s very gritty, very “real.” What was especially unique was that the film is solely focused on this platoon of Marines, as opposed to having [multiple focal points] in other situations in other cities, so it was great to have one story being told at one time.
YRB: What was it like working with the caliber of actors in the film?
Ade: It was amazing to work with these actors. We have really dedicated, incredibly talented actors, like Cory Hardrict—he was so incredibly talented—as well as James [Liao] and Aaron [Eckhart]. It was a good ensemble of creative and supportive people. I had a personal tragedy happen right before filming and they were all really great with helping me through it, so I enjoyed the sort of family unit we had become during our time there.
YRB: How long did filming take?
Ade: Filming took about four and a half months. We spent two weeks prior to filming going through boot camp in Louisiana and we were waking up at five in the morning to do, literally, hundreds of pushups, sit-ups and jumping jacks. We were also trained to use different weapons and learned all the [Marine] terminology in order to be as authentic as we could be for the film.
YRB: How physically demanding was your role?
Ade: This had to be the most physically demanding role I’ve ever done! Since all of us did our own stunts, at the end of each day someone would go home with an injury—Aaron broke his hand, I got a concussion—it was just always something every day on the set (Laughing). [We all] knew that it was the price to pay for our craft, so not once would I ever hear anyone moan or complain about their injuries. It was just part of the process.
YRB: How hard or easy was it to channel real fear in the film?
Ade: It wasn’t hard at all because [director Jonathan Liebesman] didn’t want this to be a green screen movie so he tried to put us in as many real life situations as possible. A lot of the time when we’re interacting with the aliens, he had performers dressed up in motion reference suits for the scenes so we would be responding to “real” aliens that were later digitally inserted. We always had something to [physically] respond to.
YRB: What do you think has kept you grounded in the Hollywood scene?
Ade: My parents had a lot to do with it. No matter how successful or how big you get, stay true to yourself. Had it not been for them or my sisters keeping me in check, I probably would’ve gone buck wild (Laughs).
YRB: What else do you have in the works?
Ade: I’m writing and producing a film at the moment, where the character is essentially my ideal role. He is a lot like me in the sense that he is educated and has a ton of dimension, so I get to show a lot of sides of my acting that people haven’t really gotten to see yet, as well as showcase Africa in a whole new light. It’s really a film raising awareness to what Africa is really like and deviating from the stereotypes shown on TV and film.