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Tony Okungbow talks ‘Restless City’ and why Ellen DeGeneres is his role model…

Posted by | RayCornelius

Everyday Tony Okungbow brings just a little more laughter and funk to the already popular daytime talk-show, The Ellen DeGeneres show. Not only is he her resident DJ and side-kick but he is often times the bud of many of her jokes.

But there is more to Tony than making the audience members laugh and shake their rumps. He is a rising actor that is starring in the much talked about indie film “Restless City” which opens this weekend in select theaters in NYC, LA and ATL.

The film is being distributed by AFFRM [African American Film Festival Releasing Movement] and has already created quite a stir at the Sundance Film Festival.  The Nigerian-British star recently sat down with to discuss his new found passion, why he sees AFFRM as the new model for distributing indie films and why Ellen is more than his boss but an inspiration.

On what attracted him to the Restless City script…

It’s the story of the invisible person. People we see every day, be it the guy selling fruit on the corner or the guy you buy a bootleg bag from on Canal Street — this is the story of those people, they just happen to be African, but it’s a story that transcends race.

On the importance of AFFRM releasing this film…

In my heart of hearts, I really do believe this is the new model for the distribution of indie films. They are doing some incredible things. I don’t know if you’ve followed the press for Restless City so far, but we are a tiny film and we’ve gotten such incredible exposure. We were in 13,000 taxis, we’re on Billboards — it really is amazing. I really do believe this in the new model that’s going to develop for independent film releasing. What this means to Restless City is someone who understands and has an investment in your film is distributing it. We’ve all heard the stories of films that are great, someone comes and snatches them up and we never hear from them again. We never see the right publicity, we never see the right distribution and the film disappears. With this, everything that we want to see in a distributor is what AFFRM and Ava [DuVernay] have brought to the table.

On Ellen being a role model and her best piece of advice…

Years ago, I went into her dressing room and she showed me a lot of the feedback in terms of what people were saying, “My dad is sick but every time your show comes on he gets up and he moves,” or “My mom is depressed and she hears Tony’s contagious laugh and she feels better.” She said, “Never think that what you’re doing is not affecting people.” When she told me that I viewed my job in a different way. Also, just by watching her and the amount of things she tackles, she is branding herself and becoming this incredible person in the industry — I copy her. I definitely do and I’m proud to say I do. I have a great role model, watching her be a CoverGirl, activist, vegan, talk show host and producer. So that for me is the best advice she gives me on a daily basis.

Click here for the full interview and check out the trailer of Restless City

[youtube id=”z4VjY0h4YuI” width=”600″ height=”350″]

By admin

Ray Cornelius is an entertainment news blogger and media personality. He is also the host of Jazz 91.9 WCLK's arts and entertainment show "UPFRONT." He lives in Atlanta.

41 replies on “Tony Okungbow talks ‘Restless City’ and why Ellen DeGeneres is his role model…”

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