Actress Cynthia Addai-Robinson chats with us ahead of the premiere of Season 2 of her USA Network show, Shooter.
Cynthia Addai-Robinson stars opposite Ryan Phillippe on the USA show Shooter. She is best known for her role as Naevia, Roman slave turned warrior, in the Starz show Spartacus. She’s also been seen in a recurring role on Chicago Med as well as stints on the CW and the History Channel. Addai-Robinson was born in London to a Ghanaian mother and American father and moved to the U.S. when she was young. Here, Addai-Robinson talks Season 2 of Shooter, what it’s like working with co-stars like Phillippe, and growing up in a multi-cultural household.
What are you most excited about for Season 2 of Shooter?
CYNTHIA ADDAI-ROBINSON: We are about halfway through filming and I can definitely say that this season we are really upping the ante on everything, the story, the action and I’m just really excited for the audience to really see what we’ve been working on. We’re really pushing the story forward and taking advantage of the fact that we have a full television season to keep the story going and go deeper with the characters. For people who aren’t familiar with the movie, I think the first season took the movie as a jumping off point. With a movie you have two hours but with TV you have the opportunity to stay with the characters and remain invested in what happens to them.
What’s it like working with stars like Ryan Phillippe, Ben Affleck, and J.K. Simmons?
CAR: All of those actors are people that not only was it exciting for me to get the opportunity to work with them, but I had on each occasion the pinch me moment of realizing wow this is someone I’ve admired and watched their work for many years and they’ve been doing this for quite some time. Once you find yourself standing across from actors of that caliber, it’s an exciting moment to realize wow I’m really in this. That’s been really satisfying from a work standpoint. What’s also really lovely with all three of those actors specifically is that they’re my peers as well, there’s a humbleness to each of those actors in some way. Star quality is definitely there, but at the same time there’s a generosity and humbleness of working with someone on your level.
You grew up in D.C. and attended Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring. Do you consider yourself a political person and do you have any causes you care deeply about?
CAR: Well, certainly when you grow up in the D.C. area you can’t really escape the culture of D.C. and politics. Growing up I didn’t have immediate family who worked in politics. There’s always that level of awareness, there’s a culture that’s very specific to D.C. Interestingly enough, now that I’m based in LA there’s almost a parallel to D.C. political culture and Los Angeles Hollywood culture, some of the dynamics at play in both of those cities. Obviously we’re in an interesting political climate—huge understatement! It just so happens that with Shooter, the character I play, Nadine Memphis, she works as a special agent for the FBI. When I started in the first season last year, I was doing a lot of reading up on the FBI and how it functions, the different positions and the hierarchy itself. So when the current news unfolded, not only was a I fascinated by playing a character that happens to be in this world but I’m devouring the constant churn of updated headlines and the fascination politically the way politics are playing out is the most interesting, best TV show running on the air if it weren’t also real life.
How did growing up in a multicultural household affect your life today?
CAR: I think in a lot of ways that is becoming more and more the typical American story. What’s really great about growing up in the D.C. area that that sort of makeup in terms of my background is not that uncommon or unusual. I kind of feel like it makes me a citizen of the world in a lot of ways. I feel that I can comfortably move in a lot of circles or environments. It gives me a unique perspective as a human being and also as an actor, I’m constantly curious about identity and the malleability of that because I feel like I’ve lived that growing up. I’m very appreciative of my background and the way I grew up, to me it feels more and more American in a lot of ways.
What’s your dream role and who is your dream co-star?
CAR: It’s always such a tough question because what’s been really great the past few years for me is there have been roles that have fallen into my lap that I don’t even think I could have anticipated. Every opportunity I have to do something completely different from my last project or role I really relish. I like roles and opportunities that really challenge me. When I started out, I wanted to do musical theater. That’s something I was really passionate about for a long time until I realized how difficult it actually was in real life. It’s still something I aspire to do if at some point the situation came along. I still love movie musicals. Costar? I’d love to work wIth Oprah one day. I’m a big Oprah fan. I’d love to work with her, sit down and have dinner with her, I’d love to pick her brain.
What has been one of your favorite characters you’ve played and why?
CAR: My first big job was a series called Spartacus for Starz. It’s sort of been the gift that keeps on giving, I haven’t even realized how much that has been carried through to present day. I kind of think it was a precursor to Game of Thrones and the big, epic productions. On a personal level, I moved to New Zealand for the two seasons I worked on the show. It’s the kind of role I never thought I’d be asked to play. Somehow along the way I have been cast often in these tough roles, which I am really grateful for but I don’t necessarily know that’s how I feel in real life. There is something within me that people see or pick up on that allows me to inhabit those characters and transform into a female gladiator. I just saw Wonder Woman a couple weeks ago and had that visceral response to seeing all these women fighting and the athleticism and heroism. I just really felt something when I watched that movie. If people had that feeling when watching Spartacus, I hope that’s what they took away from it. It was really impactful for me.
Where do you like to hang out in LA?
CAR: I definitely like to keep tabs on local spots. I’m a bit of a foodie and love checking out places that are new. I live further east in LA. I go to Atwater Village to Dune, a cozy little Mediterranean spot. I love going there. I’m a big coffee drinker, I like my high-end coffee. It gets me out of the house. I go to Dinosaur. I’m such a creature of habit that there are places I’ve been going to for years. Lately I’ve been going to The Black Cat in Silver Lake, having my summer drink of choice which is an Aperol Spritz. I’ve been in happy hour mode, it’s become quite the little people watching spot. There’s a front area where you can watch the parade of hipsters go by. It’s a cozy little neighborhood spot to grab a drink. I like this side of town for that, it really feels like a neighborhood where you can see people and familiar faces.
Photography by: Photography courtesy Wolf Kasteler PR; Photography courtesy Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network