Exclusive Interview with Law & Order Actor Bambadjan Bamba
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Bambadjan Bamba is a rising star. He was in the Off- Broadway play “Till the Break of Dawn.” He played “Toulouse” a french MC. He worked on The Sopranos where he had a nice speaking role playing an African student (Somalian) and he showed off his versatility with African accents.
He played the teenage Wyclef Jean in the HBO pilot Wyclef In America. he has a hilarious scene with Chris Rock in feature I Think I Love My Wife showing off his rapping skills. He also played the lead guest star in the popular tv show Law & Order as Henry Young. People in the industry refer to him as the young Omar Epps. Bambadjan has also shot some commercials in both the U.S. and the UK. Jamati Online caught up with this rising star for this exclusive interview. Bambadjan is a pretty interesting guy.
Jamati: You left Ivory Coast when you were 10 to come to the U.S. Do you remember your time in the Ivory Coast and have you been back in recent years?
Do I remember? Loud and clear! In those 10 years, the roots were laid down. I was born in the mountain village called Man and spent the first couple of years of my life being cared for by my Grandmother and Aunties. It is said that when you’re raised in the village your immune system is extra strong for the rest of your life because of the natural and organic foods and remedies. I moved to the capital in Abidjan and attended a variety of schools from Ivorian owned to French owned. I loved going to the village every chance I got. I’ve been back but not in recent years.
Jamati: What does your name Bambadjan mean?
Bamba in the name of my tribe in Touba. It means the people who “refused oppression” and djan means “great”. It is my maternal Grandfather’s name.
Jamati: You have some distinct scars on your face. Is there a story behind the scars?
I get asked this question so much especially because I’m African that sometimes I tell the story of being in the village and fighting against a lion who was attacking my family. You should see peoples eyes! LOL. It was a childhood accident while playing with my older brother.
Jamati: You wanted to be an airline pilot or a professional tennis player. How did you go from that to being an actor?
My next door neighbor in Abidjan was an airline pilot. Seeing him come back from his trips and hearing about all those wonderful places he visited made me dream. My plan was to join the Army and go from there. When I moved to Richmond, Virginia for high school I took some junior army classes and realized that the army wasn’t the place for me. The only thing to do in the neighborhood was the swimming pool and the tennis courts. I started playing tennis as a pastime. My senior year of High School I was the captain of the varsity team and I was offered a partial scholarship to play tennis at Virgina Union University. But the same year I played the role of Orin the Dentist in my High School production of “Little Shop of Horrors” and caught the bug and just knew. I still want to get my pilots license, I travel as much as I can, and tennis is still my favorite pastime.
Jamati: What was your first acting job?
It was a MTV commercial or PSA about getting tested for HIV. It was about this kid who is bored out of his mind in his computer class taking a test and the teacher gets on him. The tag line is: “do you wanna take a test that really matters…” I got the job while I was still in my first year at the acting school I attended in NYC. I was proud to be apart of an HIV awareness campaign.
Jamati: Law & Order is huge! How did you get that part?
It was about a year after I graduated and by this time I had a couple of non-union theater and Independent film credits on my resume and with that I was able to get a manager who got me the audition. The call back was a couple of hours after the initial audition and I was probably competing with 20 other guys for that role and to put it simply, I just brought it! I gave them a lot of different colors to choose from.
Jamati: You had a part on The Sopranos in it’s final season. You played a Somalian cyclist. Did people call you asking you what happened when the final episode aired and the screen just went black? LOL
I have people stop me on the street all the time about that character I played. I always tell them that he was a fighter and didn’t go down without a fight. I feel very fortunate that I was able to be a part of such a great show thats forever in the history books. As far as the last episode, in my opinion they just left an open door for continuation.
Jamati: You were in I Think I Love My Wife, the Chris Rock written and directed movie. How was that experience?
Chris Rock is as brilliant in front and behind the camera. I was so inspired to start writing and directing after that experience. It was an Amazing time because I took a couple of hours off from shooting the Wyclef Jean Pilot to knock out that scene in I Think I Love My Wife.
Jamati: Speaking of the Wyclef Jean movie where you played Wyclef at age 17, when did it air? I don’t remember hearing about the movie.
Wyclef Jean in America was a HBO pilot. It is the story about how Wyclef came over to America barely speaking any English, working at McDonald’s and the journey he took to the Star that he is today. The cast and storyline was amazing but for some reason HBO decided to go with the Flight of the Concord for that specific season. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed.
Jamati: You’re an Activist too. In fact you have a cool slide show at your myspace page about Africa and the world and Black Adom. Tell us more about your activist work and Black Adom.
I think every artist is an activist in his own respect. Standing for what you believe and expressing it is so vital for me as an artist. Just last week I was Marching for the innocent that are being killed and displaced in Kenya because of corrupt leaders. I also stand along with Didier Awadi, Alpha Blondy and all the African artiste, leaders around the world, and organizations who are fighting against the EU’s unfair trade deal “APE” or “EPA” that will cripple the economy in African and lead to more poverty and wars.
Black Adom is the MC within. BLACK equals African, Wisdom, Courage and ADOM is a cross between Adam in Genesis and an Atom (Indivisible with God and all Humanity). His mission is to bridge the gap between the Diaspora, find a common solution to our common problem of poverty, fight for the liberation of our minds, and against oppression.
Jamati: You’re an MC too. In fact we saw a bit of that in the short movie Battle Scars. Is an album coming?
Ever since Battle Scars I’ve recorded a couple of songs and yes something is in the works. Revolutionary Music.
Jamati: I saw you bust some moves too in Ida Onyango’s Come As u R video. You were shaking it like you meant it. LOL. You’re a dancer too, huh?
Being an actor is such a blessing because you can dab into anything! I’m not a dancer by profession but I’m African so I can get down! Ida Onyango is a good friend of mine and I feel privileged to have been apart of such a hot video. Look out for her next Album! Everyone is going to know her name very soon.
Jamati: Let’s talk about the mohawk you’re rocking in a picture I’ve seen. Pretty cool. Is this just your style or was it for a role?
My wife Ganohon runs Art of Braiding in Los Angeles and whenever she has a new creation my head is her canvas. I can’t tell you how many people stopped me on the streets because of that Mohawk.
Jamati: Oh my goodness! How sweet! Your head is her canvas. I hear a collective aahhh across the world for women who read this. You’re a good husband. This is Valentine’s month, the month of love. What has been your Valentine’s Day favorite moment?
It was probably our first or second Valentine together and I think she forgot and I grilled some BBQ chicken and made a candlelight dinner on the porch she was so surprised.
Jamati: More collective aahhs with that response. What are you working on right now. What is coming up for Bambadjan?
Right now I’m working on my short called “Papa” It’s about an African father who’s fighting to raise his children with African values in America. It is my writing and directorial debut.
Jamati: Congratulations on that. We all look forward to supporting you in that. Thank you so much for your time Bambadjan. You make Africa proud! Anything you would like to say to your fans?
The only people who can save Africa are Africans. Dream Big!!!
Watch Bambadjan in action in the Law & Order clip below.