Nigerian-American actress Pepi Sonuga began her career by moving to Los Angeles when she was only 10 years old. During high school, she studied theater arts, improvisation, and script writing. Then at the age of 15, she won the title of Miss Teen Los Angeles in a local pageant and began modeling for Hot Topic, Sprit Hoods, Forever 21, Skechers and many other brands. Sonuga is best-known for her work on Life of a King, General Hospital, Cheerleader Death Squad, and The Fosters. Read our interview below where we discuss her current projects STARZ’s Ash vs Evil Dead and Freeform’s highly-anticipated new series Famous in Love!
What was it about Ash vs Evil Dead that made you want to join the cast/audition?
Firstly, I loved the idea of being part of something that had been a thing before I was even born. But the show itself is I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. It’s so well done, and rough. You know how when you were a kid, and there were some games you’d be content just watching, but others you always want to join in and play too? AVED is the adult equivalent of that game. I couldn’t just watch; I wanted to play.
Did you watch Season 1 before your audition?
I didn’t have much time before my audition and only got to watch the first Evil Dead film and the first episode of season 1 to understand the tone of the series. But the minute I got back home, I binged the rest of the season regardless of whether I would later get a callback or not, I just HAD to finish it! I wasn’t watching the show for research anymore, but for pleasure.
Bruce Campbell is a legend in the horror genre. What was it like working with him?
People like Bruce walk into a room and quietly demand a certain level of respect, but are still warm and approachable enough to get others to willingly give them that respect. When you’re around him, you tend to watch, because it really is fascinating to study the way he works. Honestly, I’m lucky to have worked on this show at this point in my career (the beginning), being on set with actors like Bruce and Lucy, and the entire team behind Evil Dead, I found myself building good professional habits. He is a legend, you’re right, and you’d expect him to act the part, but yet they were all very kind and welcoming to me, treated me like I had been part of the Evil Dead franchise since the beginning. They always made me feel very valuable to their story, and it brought out the best in me, I thank them for that.
In your first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead, there’s a stunt where the car drives on its own. Was it fun filming this scene?
Okay, first of all, can I just say… that this “stunt” you guys saw, a scene that lasted a few minutes maybe… took WEEKS to accomplish… that’s right… I spent weeks in that car!!! That car and I became best friends; I still wonder how she’s doing from time to time. (laughs)
But in all seriousness, it was fun. Won’t say it was a walk in the park, but we had an AMAZING 2nd unit director Charlie Haskell, who is a creative genius, patient with actors, and overall so passionate that his passion is truly contagious. I would’ve spent months in that car just to see Charlie jump with excitement after getting a sick shot. It was more so keeping up the emotion and reliving the “your friends are dying in front of you” story line that became emotionally hectic. The car itself was actually fun; it was set up on hydraulics … need I say more?
Ash vs Evil Dead can be quite gruesome at times. How do you deal with filming those scenes?
A lot of the really gruesome parts are actually done in post-production with the computer, etc. For example, in episode 3 last week, when the car’s tire drilled my friend’s face off… I didn’t see that. I had to IMAGINE that was happening and react to it. It was my imagination that could get gruesome; you won’t believe the things that come up from the dark parts of your mind when someone tells you to “imagine his face being drilled off by a tire.” (laughs)
What can you tease about Lacey’s upcoming story arc?
I can’t say much, but I will say this….. she’s a tough cookie.
You’re also starring in Famous in Love! We know you just finished filming. Any fun behind the scenes stories?
Okay here’s a fun story, we usually get the scripts a day before our table reads, and since actors never know what’s happening next in the story until we get the scripts, we were always anxious to read them prior to the table read, and therefore we never experienced it together. But then this one episode, the writers couldn’t get the scripts to us until the day of. So no one had read them, and when we got to the table read, as we’re reading along we couldn’t stop reacting in the moment as though we’re actually watching the show. Going “NOOOO!” And GASPING, and slapping our foreheads, shouting at each other “why would you do that?!?, KISS HER!!!” That’s when we realized…. “whoa, we love this show so much. Even though we’re part of it, we’re still genuinely excited to see what happens next!” It was magic. I hope that translates and the audience loves it as much as we do.
What was your audition process like for Tangey?
I remember getting the audition notice for “Tangey,” and before even reading the script in full detail, I just felt “it.” I suddenly felt very protective over her, and I knew that I was meant to play her. What’s crazy is, after auditions, I’m usually good about “letting it go” and moving on, but for some reason, I thought about Tangey A LOT. And I really wanted the part. They went a while without contacting me and just when I was sure they had moved on, one day I got the call *wipes single tear*
In what ways are you similar and different than Tangey?
Tangey and I are different because she sometimes doesn’t have control over what happens in her own life, a lot of decisions, choices and situations seem to happen to her, or without her knowledge. This is different from me because I think I’ve always been self-defined and independent to the point of even being quite stubborn at times. Unlike Tangey, I’m usually well aware of what I personally want for myself, and I tend to put that above what other people want for me.
We are similar in many other ways, though, I think her emotional levels and capacity mirror mine- obviously because I breath life into that part of her. For now, I’ll say that I understand her without trying too hard to.
What can you tell us about Tangey and how she plays into season one?
Tangey is a successful pop singer in the world on Famous in Love; she’s a nice girl who has managed to stay grounded. The show is about an unknown young actress (Bella Thorne) who lands the role of a lifetime in a huge studio film, and the series will follow her as she’s thrown into this new world and as she learns that the lights aren’t so bright behind the curtains. Tangey is one more piece to the puzzle of drama that our heroine has to deal with.
Famous in Love is based on Rebecca Serle’s book. Have you read it?
Of course! I read the first book before shooting the pilot, and then the second before starting production on the series. Some people have been asking who I play in the show since “Tangey” isn’t a character in the book. She actually is, though, she’s just called “Brittany”.. the name change to “Tangey” occurred when the book was being developed for television.
What was it like having Rebecca so involved in the series?
Rebecca is awesome, and helpful, and generous with information. Because this story is her baby, it’s really cool to create a new world with her. And it also gives the actors permission to make personal choices about their character- when you have the writer right there; there’s potential to collaborate.
Give us a one-word spoiler for season one?
And finally, our site is called Talk Nerdy With Us…do you have any nerdy hobbies?
Hmm… ehhhh, my hobbies aren’t even awesome enough to be nerdy, the closest is my fascination with astrology. (laughs) I like to read about it for hours, and look up at the stars too. There’s a cool app on the iPhone that shows the constellation on the screen when you hold up your phone to the sky. That’s pretty nerdy, dude.
New episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead air Sunday nights at 8p ET/PT.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Kobe Levi Photography