Ényì Okoronkwo finds inspiration in many places. From bell hooks to James Baldwin, via the Black Panthers.

Whether it's growing his own food, shrinking his own crop tops, or tending to his own ant colonies, the actor is a creative force to be reckoned with.

Now, he finds himself chasing justice as Rasselas, the enslaved man at the heart of Disney+ smash-hit Renegade Nell


What upcoming project(s) are you most excited about?

I am excited about the one I’m about to start - I'm getting to work with people I admire greatly, though I can’t talk too much about it. 

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

I did a beautiful play called Junkyard by Jack Thorne – it came about at such a great time, because there was less of a tendency to automatically cast big names. The casting director, director and theatre trusted a young group with very little on their CV to work on this really special play. It had an important message about local government investment in working-class areas (specifically here in Lockleaze, Bristol).

It was so funny and free and surgically poignant in the way a piece of art with a genuine point is predestined to be. We all could sense how lucky we were, I think. Nowadays, it’s rare to get that lesson of both responsibility and freedom when you’re so green.

If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

I’d get rid of that thought. Because it all boils down to comparison and comparison is (artistic) death, isn’t it? I’ve got plenty of regrets but I’ve got lessons from them that I needed.

Ényì Okoronkwo

What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?

I’d love to grow and eat my own food for a month. Why don’t they teach us how to do that?

Outside of your family, who is / was your biggest inspiration?

Thomas Sankara, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, bell hooks and James Baldwin in a big way. I read everything they’ve written and everything that’s written about them I can find – and there’s always more to find!

But the inspiration I stay in touch with is the one that’s most fresh and I can’t stop thinking about D. Smith’s documentary Kokomo City – it’s no accident when a filmmaker can capture humanity like that.

Oh, and Boots Riley and Kelly Reichardt. Their work always inspires me, from performance to production. They don’t miss.

Tell us something nobody knows about you…

I keep harvester ants. I'm building my way up to my leaf-cutter ant colony dream.


What’s your favourite item of clothing – and what does it mean to you?

I have a big Canadian Army Coat that I love – it’s a hand me down from my brother (like a lot of my clothes are). I have always loved big things with loads of pockets since I was a kid. Great to hide things to fidget with.

Favourite accessory – watch / jewellery / etc – and why is it special to you?

I have a big pair of glasses (that I should wear more often) and it’s special to me because it’s actually practical and covers my field of vision…

I used to think of glasses purely in terms of trying not to look bad rather than, y’know, "can I see out of these things?"

What's your biggest style disaster?

Once I shrunk a favourite sweatshirt in the wash and refused to give it up for like a week. The crop at the bottom was cool (I’m a crop-tops-for-men advocate) but the sleeves and even the neck were far too small.

I got pulled aside by a friend and told to scrap it – probably a week too late.

Ényì Okoronkwo

Is there an item you threw away – or lost – that you really miss?

I had a ring that was so cool, it was gold with wood carved into it, but I wore it on my thumb like someone who goes clubbing in a suit and tie. So it could’ve been divine intervention.

What’s next on your shopping list?

I have like three pairs of shoes total and when I say this out loud some people look at me like I’ve declared something genuinely evil. So probably one more pair.

What would you buy if money was no object?

This is such a hard question. In all seriousness, I’d start a breakfast programme like the Black Panthers did and remind people/myself that politics can be local and that we can build power. I hope that would do something to break the apathy this same-faced two party system is designed to create.

But if you mean style then I’d buy a Barcelona chair. I prefer my clothes secondhand, but those chairs are so dope, so comfortable and SO expensive.

View on Instagram

Renegade Nell is streaming on Disney+