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28 November 2013

Nonso Anozie, actor

British actor Nonso Anozie is known for his tough guy roles in films such as Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian and Ender's Game. In his early career he played the title role in William Shakespeare's King Lear and won the Ian Charleson award in 2004 for his performance in Othello. He plays strong man Samson in The Bible series starting this Saturday on Channel 5.

What got you into acting?
From eight years old the Catholic school headmaster used to pull me out to the front to take part in improvising Bible stories. I remember the audience's reaction, they loved it. I didn't know then that I wanted to be an actor but I knew I liked the stage. I went on to choose drama, train at the Central School of Speech and Drama and join the Royal Shakespeare Company.

What are your career highlights?
My first big job was playing King Lear for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I was the youngest person ever to play that role. Then Cass was also a highlight for me. Cass is a movie about a football hooligan with a life of crime who turned his life around. Now, to play the role of Samson!

The Bible - SamsonWhat did you feel when you were offered the part of Samson?
Just before heading to LA and New Orleans to film Ender's Game I went to my family church in Hendon. My pastor regularly gives me passages to read from the Bible and she gave me a piece from Judges – the story of Samson. After filming Ender's Game I got a phone call from my agent saying that I had been offered a role in The Bible shooting in Morocco and it is the part of Samson. At that moment it felt like God's hand was on it.

Did you relate to his character?
Yes. It helped me remember that even when we fail, walk away from God or give into temptation - as Samson did - God will always be there. When filming the moment where Samson is in the stocks and relates to God, I felt God speaking to me personally too. I was praying and acting as a character and as me. It is hard to describe that moment. It is rare that people get a real confirmation of God's presence in their lives but for me it felt like concrete evidence: God is there, God has guided me. It was an overwhelming feeling. Playing this part has been a time when my career has met my faith.

How do you choose the roles you accept?
I have had amazing opportunities. Whenever I choose a role I always pray on it and let God be the guide and normally, after sleeping on it, I know which way I will lean. After drama school I had a tough decision between a big rating TV show and a theatre play but I chose the play and felt it was right. It was a good challenge early in my career because that conviction and decision process has only become stronger.

What was it like on the set of The Bible?
We would have evenings where people of faith would talk about what we were doing and fiery conversations would follow. I am convinced that some of the actors gave their best performances for this. That, to me says that God will use everybody. Roma Downey said that the best thing was seeing all the actors, many of whom are not believers, sitting down reading the Bible to get their head around their part. I really felt the presence of God on set - it was peaceful, unusual.

What are your hopes through The Bible series?
The series has moving, tender moments but is also full of dynamic, action-packed scenes which people will tune into. It has done a good job of reaching the whole market, not just Christians. Maybe people will question what they know of the Bible and pick up a Bible themselves.

Where the Americans have shouted about its success, we British are more modest. Audiences like to expect the worst and be suprised rather than expect the best and be disappointed. The good thing about that is when you can prove the nay-sayers wrong. I hope that is what The Bible will do. Piece by piece, little by little, the words that we say, the things that we do and TV shows that we make are going to have an effect.

Reader competition! Describe the Bible in three words. Leave your description in the comments feed on this article or tweet @eauknews #Biblein3words and you could win a souvenir guide to The Bible series signed by Nonso Anozie himself.