AICN ON THE MAT: The Writing Rambler goes toe to toe with David Otunga on THE CALL, Harvard Law, and of course, wrestling!
@’s by Dave Otunga!!!
WRITING RAMBLER (WR): Hey, David--how’s it going?
DAVID OTUNGA (DO): Very good.
WR: Thanks for taking some time to talk with us today.
DO: Oh, No problem.
WR: My wife and I recently got to watch THE CALL and we both enjoyed it. I think it was something really different than what most people expect from WWE films. It definitely just had a general thriller feel to it. Some of the other WWE films that have been released already are more or less starring vehicles for some of the superstars--company films, if you will. This is something different, and I think it shows with the success it had. There was a cool feel to the film, and it definitely wasn’t what we were expecting. I know it was WWE Studios’ most successful film to date. What was it like to just be part of that experience?
DO: You know, it was very cool. It was just a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to be an actor, and how cool is it for in my first film to be starring with Halle Berry, an academy award winner? Then you have Abigail Breslin in there, Morris Chestnut, Michael Imperioli from “The Sopranos”, which is one of my favorite shows of all time. It was just very, very cool for me. Very surreal.
WR: I can definitely imagine it being overwhelming at first. Now, what is the whole process like as far as a WWE superstar being cast in a WWE studios film? Maybe it was a little different with this one with Halle Berry being in it as the starring role. Is it something where they come to you and say “David, we have a part for you”, or is a normal casting process? How does it all work?
DO: Well, it was a pretty normal type of casting, you know, like I said this wasn’t an exclusively WWE Studios project. It was also Troika and Sony, so I actually had to read for it and do their regular casting process. I had to go in and read for the director, Brad Anderson. Luckily, he loved me and cast me in the film. It was one of those things that was very cool for me because I've been going on auditions for years and never got the part, and then this time I go in for the biggest audition of my life and I got the part, so it was very, very cool.
WR: I definitely think you came off really naturally in the film. It wasn’t the biggest part in the world, but I think you did a great job with what you had. Definitely believable as a police officer, so congrats on all of the hard work you put into it.
DO: Thank you.
WR: Now, being a WWE superstar and performing in front of huge live crowds, does that help you with your prep for an acting role, or does it hinder you?
DO: Well, you know what? It helps but it also makes things difficult in one way. Acting in front of a live crowd of like 20,000 people or more is very different than acting for just the camera. Just two completely different things. However, my training in WWE prepared me so well for this, because a lot of what we do is improv and things will be changed a lot, so I’m able to memorize stuff really quick and I also feel comfortable where I can improv if something doesn’t go right, we just go with it. Actually, one of the first scenes I have in the film with Halle, it went off script and I never stopped, I just improvised it and kept going, and then the coolest thing was when I saw the final cut that’s the scene they used. They kept it, like that wasn’t written in and we improvised it and they ended up going with it. So I thought that was awesome.
WR: That’s definitely gotta feel great that your choice is what they went with, that they thought it was the right choice to make.
DO: Yeah, I mean it validated me. To be like "hey, this guy knows what he's doing, he improvised this scene and it was so good that we used it".
WR: One of the things I found interesting following your career so far ( I think everyone at this point who follows you knows that you have a Harvard Law degree) was that you also have a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I can imagine that coming into play a lot between the wrestling business and the acting business; there’s so much as far as understanding the way people think and the way people act. Has having that background helped you a lot?
DO: Most definitely. I mean, that is such a valuable degree (psychology) because you can really use it to do anything. That’s actually why I chose to get into psychology. I had a few psychology courses in high school and I just loved it, I thought "this is great" and when I got into college I was just trying to find out what I wanted to do and I felt with the degree in psychology you can do so many different things. I don't know if a lot of people know this, but I actually almost went to medical school. That was what I was thinking about when I was an undergrad. I took all the science courses, the chemistry, the biology and everything that went along with that, but then I just decided “you know, I want to go to law school” (laughter). I found out when the LSAT (Law School Entrance Exam) was and I think I signed up just barely before the deadline. I think maybe I had three weeks, I had to pay all these late fees. So I hardly had time to prepare, but you know, I nailed it and ended up getting into Harvard, so I was like “yup, this is definitely what I'm going to do”.
WR: Yeah, I guess settling for Harvard Law is not really a bad thing (laughter). So you’ve done THE CALL and all of the media touring, as well as your work with the Be a S.T.A.R. (Show Tolerance and Respect) anti-bullying campaign, and you’ve been away from the camera as far as WWE goes for a little while now. Are you looking forward to getting back into the ring and getting back into character and on camera, or do you like what you're doing now as far as branching out into new areas of work?
DO: You know what? I am enjoying what I'm doing right now, but at the same time I do want to get back and be in front of the camera. I really enjoy that, and that’s what I want to do. This other stuff is cool and its fun and I'm definitely enjoying spending time with my son, which has been great. I have a 3 year old son, and so just spending that quality time, theres nothing like it. But at the same time I do really want to get back into the ring.
WR: Yeah, you know, I have kids of my own and that whole schedule you deal with must be really hectic. Do you find it hard to find time to have with him? Going from doing these interviews, to the actual work itself, back to WWE, is it hard to balance that and still be a family man at home?
DO: It is, just being on the road so much, but I make a very strong effort to be able to spend the time and that’s really what it comes down to. Making the effort, knowing what projects to take on and then knowing when to say no. You know, you have got to put family first.
WR: One of the things I think is really cool, and I'm not sure if a lot of people really know this about you, is that you have been contributing more and more to HLN (Headline News). How do you like doing that? Theres obviously so much interest in legal cases in our country right now from the George Zimmerman trial to whats going on with Eric Snowden. Do you find that outlet as another way to really get yourself out there and show people another side of yourself?
DO: I do. I really enjoy doing that stuff. I think I offer a different perspective because the typical legal analyst you have up there is just very, very professional, straight laced and kind of, well pretty much boring. They're just going to give you the facts and whatever, but then to have me on there is so different and refreshing. I definitely have the education and the credentials to back it up, but then also I'm just a regular person, Im a real guy. So I'll ask the questions and make the points that everyone is thinking at home, and I just have a really good time with it.
WR: Now as far as you on screen character in WWE goes, some of the best characters that have worked have been people who have been themselves but have dialed it up a little bit. I've heard The Rock say that in the past, and Stone Cold I believe as well. On the flip-side I’ve also spoken to Booker T and he mentioned how no one has ever seen the real him on screen. Do you feel like your character is you dialed up a notch, or maybe something you’ve come up with?
DO: You know what? What my character is, is kind of just this stereotype that people might view me as. Having the Harvard degree, there’s this stereotype of being a stuck up, Ivy League type of guy who's real snotty and thinks he's smarter than everyone else. So I would say my character is actually pretty much the opposite of who I am in real life. I mean, I consider myself pretty kind and a pretty nice guy and so its fun to play the opposite of that. Like I'll think “what would I say in real life?” and then I'll say “okay, well, my character is going to say the opposite of that” and its just fun to be able to do that. Its fun to be something that you're not.
WR: I think people like that type of character, the type that they can love to hate. You know, as your character started to shape itself I remember you doing the legal proceedings with Ricardo (Rodriguez) and it just being fun to have one of those heels who plays on all of the loopholes. Its definitely a good fit for you and you do a great job with it.
DO: Thank you.
WR: So you started out in developmental in 2008 and here we are roughly 5 years later. I know one of the biggest moments in your career so far for wrestling fans was that moment with the Nexus when you guys all came out together. Probably in the past 5 years or more, it was one of those really unexpected things that you don’t get to see as much nowadays. It just seems harder and harder to keep things a secret with each passing year and surprise people. Did you feel like that moment was a coming out for you and the guys in that group? Was it an exciting moment, the same way it was for the fans?
DO: Yeah. I mean, it was amazing how the whole thing went down. NXT had just finished, and all of us were at TV the next week and we didn’t know what was going to happen. We just didn’t know what was going to happen to us. We didn’t know if they were going to send us back to developmental; we really didn’t know what was going to happen. Then we all got called in to this little office probably half an hour before the show started, and they told us what they wanted us to do and said “Don’t tell anybody!” and we were just like “Okay, Wow. This is top secret. This is cool”. This was the first time since we had been there that there was something that no one knew about and no one knew what was going to happen. So then, when we came out we just did what they wanted. Because we had so much pressure on us, we wanted to deliver, to do a very good job, and the reaction was unbelievable. Even still when I go back and watch that, it’s just so cool. One of the coolest things ever for me. People got into it so much, there was even a point where people were so scared somebody (a fan) reached over and started ringing the bell for help, because they didn’t know what was going on. They thought we had went crazy and were going to start taking people out of the crowd or something, I don’t know (laughter), but it was a very special moment.
WR: Yeah, I mean its definitely one of those moments where if people don’t understand why you're still a wrestling fan you can point them to it. Those moments that as a fan are just the best. So as far as your WWE character goes, is there a goal that you have, or something you’re working towards that you know you want to do?
DO: Yeah. I want to win a singles championship. That’s definitely what my character wants.
WR: On the flipside of that, in your acting career is there somewhere specific you want to go with that? I know you were saying you want to get back to WWE, but is there an acting goal you’ve set for yourself or just something that you think would be cool to get to do?
DO: Yeah, I want to be the lead in a film. Obviously I want to do a couple of more supporting roles and then eventually want to be the lead actor in a movie role.
WR: Well, I definitely think you have the chops for it. You have the charisma and I definitely think you have a good road ahead of you with the acting. Now, going back to speaking about THE CALL, with it being WWE Studios’ most successful film to date, I've heard some talk of a sequel. Have you heard anything about that, or it being something you'd look forward to doing if they were going to do it?
DO: You know, I’ve just heard the rumors and stuff. I haven’t heard anything formally, but yeah, I would definitely look forward to that. I mean, it was so successful I don’t see why they wouldn’t make a sequel, and well, I don’t want to give away the ending but the way it ends there definitely could be a sequel. You never know.
WR: One final question. You’ve been doing this since 2008 and really working towards it your whole life. Even though it hasn’t been a huge amount of time, is there something that stands out to you, even if its not in wrestling, that was that moment where you were like “okay, this was all worth it”?
DO: Well you know what, it definitely has been THE CALL and just being able to do the film. Also though, not only that, but the reaction from the WWE fans. That means the most to me. Hearing from them, reading their comments on social media, they're so proud that “one of their own”, one of the superstars that they watch every week, is in this film that has been so successful. That is really cool, just hearing from the WWE fans. The comments I love the most are the ones that say “David, I hate your character so much but I respect you. I respect what your doing on HLN and I loved you in THE CALL and I just want to say you’ve gained a new fan out of me”. I think that’s the coolest. When someone doesn’t like you and now they see you in a different way, that’s definitely made it all worth it.
WR: Well, I definitely appreciate talking with you today, David. I know you’ve got a busy day ahead of you with promoting the film. I think your fans are happy to see what you’ve done so far and there’s definitely a lot to look forward to. We wish you all the best of luck.
DO: Thank you very much.
WR: THE CALL is available on Video On Demand and BluRay/DVD now!
You can follow The Writing Rambler on his blog here and follow on Twitter @Writing_Rambler !
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