22 Minutes re-enacts the pirate seizure of a Russian tanker in 2010. A group of Somali pirates seized a Russian tanker in the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden, prompting a swift and decisive response from the Russian military. A nearby military ship stormed the ship less than 24 hours later, violently seizing the ship and hostages from the pirates in a rescue operation that famously lasted only 22 minutes. Russian marines removed the pirates from the ship and put them on an inflatable life raft, effectively leaving them to die and sparking worldwide criticism about human rights violations. The film is slated to come out in 2013, with Eebra starring as the leader of the pirate gang. We couldn’t wait to learn more.
First off, tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Paris, but my family is from Africa, Cote De Ivoire, to be specific. I spent the early years of my life in Paris, where I worked successfully as a model, working for major fashion houses like Enzo and Yves St Laurent. I also modelled for Alpadi, an up-and-coming African designer.
I was still living in Paris when I first became interested in acting. I studied acting there and in Los Angeles. My first experience in the movie industry was in Paris, with this wonderful acting group called Comedie Francais. It is really the best in France, and I must be honest with you, it was Comedie Francais that really thrust me into the limelight of the professional acting world.
What are your acting credits to date?
In France, I was in Pedale Dure and Quartier (VIP), in addition to a number of plays. In the US, I was featured in a Spike Lee production called A Thousand Ways to Die, an independent film called Call No Man American, and a film called Kinetics. I’ve also appeared in music videos for a range of artists, including Quincy Jones, Ludacris, Soul Bossa Nostra…
Tell us a little more about what brings you to Ukraine.
I am here for work! We recently finished shooting a movie called 22 Minutes in Sevastopil. The movie is based on a true story about a skirmish between Russian marines and Somali pirates in 2010. I play the leader of the Somali pirate gang. I think the movie will be a huge success, but I don’t want to speculate. Check it out when it is released next year!
What do you think about Ukraine so far?
I have not been here for that long, nor have I met that many Ukrainians. But as someone who is well-travelled, I can tell this country has a future and a lot of potential. The people are friendly, gentle, and humble.
I envy the men here (laughs)! They are surrounded by the most beautiful women, with great bodies. I was surprised to see so many gorgeous women with well-shaped, slim bodies. It seems to me that the women here have a lot of respect for the men in the sense that they don’t trouble them that much.
Generally, I like the people here. Ukraine reminds me of my native Africa, especially some of the places I saw in Sevastopol. There, I noticed that Ukraine is one of the few European countries that retains its culture, customs, and traditions. It reminds me of Ivory Coast – and it’s great!
Can you give us a behind-the-scenes scoop on 22 Minutes?
I made a lot of friends during filming. As you know, I played a pirate leader. Kelechi Kingsley, who lives in Kyiv, plays Jama, my right-hand-man in the film.
The directors are Ukrainians. Vasil Serikov is a great guy to have on set because he is very experienced, and Yashonkov Dmitry, is a talented director and a wonderful person.
Do you see yourself primarily as an actor or as a model?
Acting for me is a fulfilled dream. I’m really happy with what I do for a living and with what I’ve achieved so far in my life. I’m focused and I have immense job satisfaction. This is what matters most in life.
Cosmos Okigbo Ojukwu