Vaishnavi Suryaprakash: If you could use your acting platform to change one thing about the Australian performance scene, what would it be?
Chika Ikogwe: I would love to see a more diverse and inclusive industry here in Australia. I know there are a lot of people that are tired of hearing this, and even people that believe that the pendulum has swung so far, that now the industry only favours diversity. Which is just completely false. The majority of work on stage and screen still majorly lacks First Nations people, People of Colour and minorities in general. And there’s also a lack of stories that are being created / written by people from these minority groups. I absolutely acknowledge the amazing work and the great strides that have been made in the last few years to create a more diverse and inclusive industry, but there’s so much more work to be done on that front. I just want to see the Australia that I see as I walk down the street, as I catch the bus and as I do my grocery shopping, being reflected on stage and screen here in Australia. That’s what I’d change ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What has it been like growing up with the name “Chika Ikogwe”?
It has changed a lot over time. When I was younger, there were times when I absolutely hated my name, and wished I was called something else. I distinctly remember my first day of prep when the teacher called out my name on the roll, and all the kids just burst into laughter because for some reason they found my name so funny. One kid even yelled out ‘Chicken! Her name is chicken!’ That was the first time in my life I’d felt any kind of shame regarding my name. Then there’ve been other times when I’ve done over-the-phone job interviews, secured the job and have been greeted with perplexed facial expressions on my first day of work. Turns out some people don’t know Chika is also a Nigerian name. There’s been so much I’ve lost out on because of my name, but to balance that so much I’ve gained. Life is just funny like that though, and I kinda love it. It gives character. I wouldn’t trade my name for anything else… Except maybe Beyoncé?! Just kidding. I think…
What do you most love about the character you play in Good People?
Jess is an actor and she takes her best pals on a holiday so they can reunite and just, like, hang out?! That’s awesome and I hope one day I can do that with my friends. #Goals.
When you think about the vastness and contents of the universe, how do you feel?
Bruh, I feel a LOT. Sometimes I feel super overwhelmed at the fact that there’s so much out there that we don’t even know about. Sometimes I feel like I can do anything, and the world really is my oyster. Sometimes I feel incredibly small. Sometimes I wonder if the world’s richest people congregate monthly to discuss their plans to leave everyone on Earth behind to start a new life on Mars or Europa or something. Sometimes I wonder if Beyoncé remembers me from that one time we locked eyes at her concert back in 2013 (probably not, but I’ll keep lying to myself). Sometimes I ask myself, “Who the hell let Donald Trump, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson occupy any kind of political space, AT THE SAME TIME?!” I feel many feels.
Who’s your favourite tennis player and why?
The Williams sisters are my forever Queens. Particularly Serena Williams. I played tennis for about 6 years growing up, and Serena was one of the only players I could identify with. Not only was she a black woman, but she also had broad shoulders and a muscular build amongst players that were mostly tall, white and skinny. She played with such force and passion. I remember wanting to be just like her when I grew up. She made me feel so seen and inspired me so much.
Chika Ikogwe: If you could use your acting platform to change one thing about the Australian performance scene, what would it be?
Vaishnavi Suryaprakash: I would get more young people from CALD backgrounds involved in theatre and performance art. I want an artistic career path to be contemplated by more of these children, and for them to feel encouraged to create art.
What’s the worst Christmas present you’ve ever received?
I actually can’t remember – nothing stands out! I think I’ve been pretty lucky. On a related note, I think Harry Potter’s worst Christmas present would be the tissue from the Dursleys (yes, I am currently re-reading Harry Potter, how did you know). Though I have often wondered how they sent their presents to Harry. Does Hedwig turn up every year a few days before Christmas? How do they know the reason she has turned up? How come they give Harry Christmas presents, but never birthday presents?
If your character in Shandy’s Corner had a catch phrase, what would it be?
“A lady never discusses the size of her yarn stash.”
You win a million dollars. What are the first 3 things you spend the money on?
The very thought makes me stress out… so let me tell you instead what I love to buy: good quality tea, books (a guilty habit because libraries exist!), and hiking gear (ooh nothing beats the feeling of the perfect supportive backpack resting on your shoulders…)
Which actor would you cast to play “Vaishnavi Suryaprakash” in your biopic?
Definitely Scarlett Johansson.
Chika Ikogwe and Vaishnavi Suryaprakash can be seen in Blue Christmas, a double bill featuring two new Australian plays, by Katy Warner and Gretel Vella.
Dates: 11 – 22 Dec, 2019
Venue: Kings Cross Theatre