Annie Ilonzeh (@AnnieIlonzeh)Was born and raised in Grapevine, Texas, which is located about 19 miles outside of Dallas. She is the oldest of five girls. Her mother is Her mother is Caucasian and her father is Nigerian. During her college years, she attended the University of Texas at Arlington on an athletic scholarship and majored in finance.
During her senior year of college, she decided to pursue careers as an actress after taking a trip to Los Angles. After being invited to a movie set where she had the opportunity to meet Robin Thicke and Paula Patton. Upon her return from vacation, she made the decision to pack her bag for Los Angeles.
Her father told her, “I’m giving you one year to become a superstar and if you’re not, you’re coming home.”
Soon after those words of encouragement from her father, Annie was able to book some entry level roles on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Melrose Place,” “Entourage” and “Frenemies.” Her breakthrough was on the soap “General Hospital.” Where she appeared on over 75 episodes as Maya Ward.
She has also been featured in television series such Arrow, Charlie’s Angels the reboot, Empire, Person of Interest and more. This summer Annie was cast in the Benny Boom-directed Tupac Biopic “All Eyez On Me” as Kidada Jones. Kidada was engaged to Tupac at the time of his death.
Annie talks about what it was like working with Benny Boom and Demetrius Shipp Jr. In addition, she gives us here at The Hype Magazine some insight on her project “Til Death Do Us Part” and her passion for creating her own content.
Can you describe what it was like working with Benny Boom on “All Eyez On Me”?
Benny is great and really guy personally. He has a high-energy personality and that is something you want in a director. He always gave us great feedback and if you were a hundred percent he would make sure things were running smoothly. Don’t get me wrong, he was assertive when he needed to and he was supportive at the same time. You need that type of balance from your director. I really enjoyed my time with him I only heard of him for his work as a music video director, but it was a great experience and really refreshing.
What are some of the characteristics you brought to the character Kidada Jones?
I really hoped to bring an honest, loving, and a passionate woman. That is some of the characteristics that I was to gather while studying her relationship with 2pac. In addition, she was very supportive of him. She was able to change his perspective in regards to women and help him become a better person overall.
What is your favorite single from Tupac if you could just pick one?
Dear Mama is my favorite of all time. Tupac came from a place that you could relate to emotionally and pain in the stories that he was telling through his music. Every time that song comes on, I call my mom because the energy in that song makes you want to reflect and allows you to put things in perspective. She is my rock and I wouldn’t be here without her.
What was the energy that Demetrius Shipp Jr. brought to the project of Tupac?
The way he was able to transform into Tupac was incredible we are not just talking about someone that you just create. Tupac was an icon and people like that don’t come around very often. So, for Demetrius to the energy that he brought to the set was amazing and can’t wait for people to see the movie.
It has been ten years since you first appeared as Becky on “How I Met Your Mother”, can you tell us how you have been able to consistently land roles year after year?
Honestly, listening and not listening to people and more myself being able to know when fear is standing in your way. By me listening to myself, I understand fear and knowledge it, but we as individuals have to know when to kick it out the F***** door and move on. It’s just fear and the only reason it seems foreign to you because it feels different. So, listening to myself more than other and I remember when I first started, I book that role quickly and I was not a seasoned artist. I was an athlete that decided to try something new and thank god, I did because it was the right decision for me. I have always had a very strong visual and that has helped get to where I am today.
What sports did you play growing up?
I played basketball, soccer and ran track growing up, but when I went to college basketball and soccer was my focus. I played guard sometimes that meant running point, the shooting guard position and I ran the three positions. But, I cannot tell a seasoned power forward or a center how to conduct their job in those situations. So, when people tell you it takes this amount of time they are not seeing things from your perspective.
Did you go to college for acting or did you go on an athletic scholarship and then decided to pursue acting later?
I attended college on an athletic scholarship for a few years in college, but never acted before I landed my first role on How I Met Your Mother.
You were featured as one of the main characters on General Hospital for over 75 episodes during 2010 to 2011. With the soup opera platform diminishing rapidly what do you as a replacement for actors and actresses as a transition into the entertainment business?
Honestly, being able to create our own content instead of waiting for Hollywood to create the opportunity for you. Especially, in black Hollywood, we are seeing this more and more of them, creating and financing their own projects. For example, Donald Glover and Shonda Rhimes are a couple people making their own content and creating opportunities.
What else can we expect from you headed into the latter part of 2017?
You will see me writing more and telling my stories. There is another film that I will be part of called “Til Death Do Us Part” featuring Taye Diggs and Stephen Bishop. Both are amazing talents and it was a joy to work with them.
Being that you grew up in Grapevine, TX and this 15 minutes away from AT&T Stadium and 20 minutes away from where Texas Stadium used to be. Is it safe to say you grow up a Cowboys fan?
During the time Troy Aikman, Deon Sanders, Michael Irving I was a Cowboys fan and still am. I am also a Mavericks fan Steve Nash was one of my favorite players. It was such a treat to be able to watch him when played in Dallas.
Out of all the roles, you have played to date was the most challenging for you?
When I get a project, there is always a time where I have a freak out moment. If I audition for the role I am always excited to read my lines and showcase my personality as that character. I would have to say at that moment during the research process is the most challenging to me, but once that portion is finished it like riding a bike. The role I play in “Til Death Do Us Part” is challenging because my character is a survivor if domestic and verbal violence and in All Eyez On Me I wanted to portray this character honestly and do a good job as well.
What other ambitions do you have outside of the entertainment business that you want to pursue?
I want to travel the world and visit Egypt and I would love to open a sanctuary for animals.
Who are some of the artists you are listening to?
There is this station call Funk on Apple Music and it features artists like Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Parliament, and a lot of old school jams.