July 06, 2023

By Denver Mackey

Contributing Writer


Ozie Nzeribe, a dynamic actor and musician, sat down with the L.A. Watts Times to discuss his life and career. Nzeribe’s accomplishments include recurring roles in “Shameless,” “Little Fires Everywhere,” Jamie Foxx’s “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me,” as well as features in Adidas and Louis Vuitton promotions. Nzeribe will be back as Royale on Apple TV+’s sports drama series “Swagger” season two. The Sentinel discussed his upbringing and what’s next for him in the future.

L.A. Watts Times: Where are you from, where’d you grow up, how did your roots influence you to be where you are now?

Ozie Nzeribe: I was born and raised in Monrovia, California, then around freshman year of high school we moved to Calabasas. I didn’t want to go at first because Monrovia was all I knew. All my friends were there. But my brother was the reason we had moved over here, this is where it was “popping” and he wanted to be in this area. It’s rare that kids influence a decision to move, but we’re here and it’s cool.

LAWT: Tell me about your career, how you got started acting and what made you fall in love with it?

ON: Music has always been there since I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8, but I started taking it seriously around 12, and started getting into the studio. My first single was actually with Ray-J Norwood which was so random, but we knew I needed something to stand out. As far as acting, I stumbled into acting during a recording session and someone in the studio had asked me if I’d ever acted before. I hadn’t done anything in that realm, and my mom and family pushed me to just try it. My first audition was for “Shameless” and it was amazing experience, and from that on acting just took off for me.

LAWT: What made you get into music?

ON: Ever since I was a kid, I come from a musical family. I’ve had the influence of R&B, Hip-Hop, and Afro-beats, especially from my Nigerian roots. And I’ve been very connected to my roots, and with that I started working a lot with many Nigerian artists. That’s where I got my groove and foothold in music.

LAWT: What is your role on “Swagger” and what are you most excited about for this next season?

ON: I play a bright young man by the name of Royale Hughes. At first, he has kind of an acquired taste. He comes from a rich background, which creates a slight barrier between him and the other players on the team. He also has dyslexia, which the other players do not know; it impairs his ability to work out basketball plays.

It’s interesting because everything is jumping around in his head as he’s trying to learn the plays, but he wants to fit in with these kids and do everything he can to be a part of the team. He proves his worth, and he’s not just another seat to fill on the bench; he’s there with the technical basketball knowledge.

My favorite thing about working on this show is the family feeling. It took us three years to film Season 1 because it was the height of COVID. So this has been my family, the energy is fun. We’ve all stuck together and now we have reaped the benefits of this long process. This season I am excited because the players are older, wiser, and we’ll be going through new struggles. We’ve got new members as a part of the cast, and it’s just an even bigger family.

LAWT: What has it been like having Kevin Durant as a producer, and what wisdom have you gained from him?

ON: First of all, Kevin Durant is tall! You see him on TV, but he really makes every room feel so small and it’s different from watching him play on TV to being my boss. It’s been awesome, he’s a very busy man and he tries his best to make sure he is all the way involved being that the show is loosely based on his life.

He is always trying to give us knowledge about basketball and the things that players go through. He is super hands-on. He and his mom are super supportive. To be a part of something like this and this is my first series regular role, it's been an amazing experience. I'm thankful.

LAWT: What message do you have for the youth that are interested in acting or music?

ON: Acting is not for the faint of heart. Some people have that instantaneous luck, but you have to have patience. If it is something you love wholeheartedly and take the time to work on your craft, you can reap amazing experiences. It gets hard, but always be open to do things that will get you further. Look for acting classes and agencies to help you along that process.

LAWT: What are some of your future endeavors?

ON: I’d love to work on music, but I’ve had to take a step back because of acting, which is a good problem to have. But I want to start off with some EP’s and hopefully an album by the end of the year, venture into the alternative, Afro-beats, R&B and hip hop.

I’m also working on a clothing brand and wrapped up filming for a feature film, so you might see me in a few shows and movies so keep a look out for me!

LAWT: Who are people that inspire you and what inspires you to stay steadfast in progressing your career?

ON: God inspires me. It is the strongest it could ever be. He continues to show me what’s for me and even if it is not going to be right away, and that my faith cannot be shaken. I never thought I'd be on TV and in movies, and I am grateful for my faith.

My family also inspires me. I come from a Nigerian background and our culture does not do the whole acting, music, etc. Parents influence you to be a doctor or lawyer. But I’ve been blessed to have my parents who saw my aspiration and talent.

My mom has been my momager forever and we continue to learn together. My brother is always dropping everything to help me with auditions and events. My dad is always rooting for me and opening new opportunities for me. God and my family are everything.

“Swagger” airs on Apple TV+. New episodes air weekly on Fridays until August 11. Watch at apple.co/swagger.

Also follow Nzeribe on Instagram to get an inside look on his life and career @zmny4real.

Category: Arts & Culture