In this Q&A we talk with actor Andrew Onochie who portrays U.S. Marine Keller in the short action/war film Devil Dogs.
Q: What attracted you to the project?
ANDREW ONOCHIE (Keller): My talent agency submitted me for the project and when I read the description for the character Keller I was immediately drawn to him. I’ve played a Marine in another film, and my brother serves in the Army. I was attracted to Keller – he’s a man who wants to make something of his life and do something positive. I loved that about him.
Q: Are there any similarities between you and the character you played?
ANDREW ONOCHIE (Keller): Keller’s background is one of poverty, he grew up in a suburb of Detroit, and coming from Nigeria and immigrating to Brooklyn, New York, that’s an experience I share with the character. He’s also an intellectual – and I always studied and loved education. I’m an avid reader. He has a great relationship with his pops as shown in the film, which I do as well. I felt like I could relate to him.
Q: What do you think you brought to your character?
ANDREW ONOCHIE (Keller): I felt I could bring a lot of authenticity to this character because we share a similar upbringing. I give a lot of credit to Laura [the writer], everything was really already on the page.
Q: How did you prepare for your role?
ANDREW ONOCHIE (Keller): My brother was the first call I made, and he just began sharing his own experiences in the military [U.S. Army]. He told me how to cut my hair, how to carry myself, how to speak. And the consultants on set were just incredible with insights on how to hold the weapons, how to move, the jargon, all the little technical details.
When I am hired for a role I begin keeping a diary of the character. And I literally start at the beginning: where I was born, what hospital I was born in, what time I was born, how I grew up, who are my parents and siblings. It was apparent that Keller is written as an intellectual and he reads a lot, so I assumed he would have eye problems and needed to wear glasses when he reads – so I showed up on set with a pair of eye glasses. I was able to incorporate little things like that into the character.
Q: What was the experience on set and working with the other actors?
ANDREW ONOCHIE (Keller): It was like love at first sight with the other actors… ha-ha. We became like brothers on the set. I had met Greg and Raihan at the auditions. I spoke with both of them at that time, and we connected immediately. Obviously, Greg has a lot of military background and he shared information with me before we even went into the audition room. I walked into the audition with a lot of confidence. I had never auditioned before as a group [the way the filmmakers conducted the auditions], and I have to say it was one of the best audition experiences I have ever had. I was so comfortable in the room with the other actors. The writer/producer made the whole process very comfortable. There was no feeling of pressure, and I bonded with the other guys. It was so easy and relaxed.
Everyone on set gave us incredible leeway to do things we wanted, to try things. It was an incredible collaboration with the director and the writer/producer. It was a great shoot. I had a lot of fun. It’s an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and be appreciative of.