Eric Shango speaks to GUAP about his career so far and what he hopes for in the new year.
Can you recall your first experience of film and drama? Was acting your childhood dream?
My first film experience was watching Coming to America at my dad’s house – I was absolutely hooked on it. I knew it word for word and almost always got a telling off from my siblings for speaking over the different scenes. It’s a timeless classic. Acting became a childhood dream after I watched Hook in ’92. It was the first time I became fully conscious of a little black boy being in a film and wondered how he got there, wondering if I could do the same and with prayer and a little elbow grease, here we are. Long may it continue.
Tell me about your childhood? Where did you grow up? Etc.
I grew up in North London, Islington. But I have family all around London, so I kinda bounced in between Hackney in East London and Camden in North West. I lived on a rough estate witnessing the very typical story, unfortunately, for a lot of young men from my demographic. It’s funny cos people think Islington is quite uptown, but there are different parts that aren’t so glamorous. I’m just glad it’s the home of Arsenal FC! Growing up there was tough cos there’s a lot going on and it was so easy to get dragged into the wrong things, but I had a strict mum and a praying grandma – God rest her soul – so I was able to avoid a few things.
What has been your experience in your acting career so far and why?
My experience as an actor thus far has been a mixed one full of a plethora of experiences. Going to drama school (which I didn’t even know existed right up until a week before I applied) felt like a risk due to a lot of the stigmas attached to it still being quite elitist, particularly in 2016 when I went. I heard about the industry being whitewashed, but that didn’t deter me. Coming straight out, I’ve been very fortunate to do some of my roles and tell stories that I genuinely care about. COVID did throw a huge spanner in the works for the whole world, not being able to anticipate what would happen next, but thankfully, God’s plan is working.
Do you prefer theatre or TV Drama?
Admittedly, I narcissistically love the stage. Knowing there are eyes on you. I thrive under pressure, so people watching live doesn’t throw me. The ability to tell the story as effectively as possible but use the audience’s energy to occasionally… ‘influence’ the performance is always fun to do, rehearsing and just the sense of connection and creation with the cast, the crew just the whole process is just unexplainable when it all comes together. The screen feels a little less organic at times but again, watching it all come together at the end on screen is equally as satisfying. As of right now, I’m feeling more screen-oriented.
What can you tell me about your new role on ‘Trigger Point?’
‘Danny’ is the name of the character I’m playing in ITV’s new action crime drama series, Trigger Point. The series essentially follows an ex-military, current bomb expert officer (starring Line of Duty & This is England ’86’s, sensational Vicky McClure and Adrian Lester). Vicky, who plays Lana Washington, deals with counterterrorism during a summer heatwave in London. In that, we get to see how her career, family and love life all intertwine, and my character Danny who is her assigned ‘Number Two’ is a young, hungry zealous professional who’s keen to impress his boss but quickly turns into her anchor at work as the series develops.
How do you and Danny connect or differ in personality?
I connect to Danny through that shared experience of wanting to impress or prove yourself to those you revere. It was similar to myself growing up in my area or at school trying to impress some of the older guys and get that validation or, for instance, wanting to always be there for his boss, ready to help, similarly to how I like to be available to those I love and care about whenever possible in my own life. We do differ in the fact that the character was initially written to be quite anxious and unsure of himself. However, the top-class writer in Daniel Brierley and genius of a director, Gilles Bannier, along with the producers, were cool with hearing my take on what I thought would be consistent with Danny’s through-line, so I was able to take him on a different journey which was dope.
How do you usually prepare to get into character? Any secrets you’d like to let us in on.
For the most part, I usually get into character by reading the script and trying to know it better than the writer themselves. Then just looking at the characters’ circumstances and seeing where we connect and where we differ, and figuring out what experiences I’ve had in my own life could help inform how I’d need to feel in a certain scene. When the roles get a little more complex, I’m sure I’ll figure it out somehow.
What are your hopes for your career in the next couple of years?
In the next couple of years for my career, I hope to keep doing good work. Getting to pick the stories I’d like to tell and then working to a position to put on shows, plays films and tell stories that usually aren’t told. I guess it sounds a little cliched, but unfortunately, in our industry, as much as there has been some progress made, we’re still not there yet.
Photographer – Shenell Kennedy
Videographer – Sam Adjaye
Stylist – Amardeep Singh Sura
Make-Up – Vaneza Lopez