We had the chance to chat with actor Thomas Olajide who stars as Dezi Williams in the new feature film Learn to Swim which recently premiered at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Thyrone Tommy, Learn to Swim follows Toronto jazz saxophonist Dezi Williams as he attempts to deal with a recent tragedy.
Image credit: Alejandro Santiago

Here’s what Thomas Olajide had to say.

When did you decide that storytelling and acting was something you wanted to do?

TO: I decided to become an actor in my late teens. I had met two great teachers by the name of Jodi Derkson and Brenda Crichlow who fostered my passion for acting and encouraged me to further my training at the National Theatre School of Canada. 

What advice would you give to people pursuing acting? 

TO: That’s interesting. I don’t think it is my place to give advice. If I do give advice it needs to be solicited and specific. That said, for me, there is acting, and then there is the acting industry. Both are very different practices in my mind. What I can say is that I never entered the film and TV industry before having a chance to explore my personal and “artistic” identities on stage. The stage was where I felt most able to practice acting without the pressures of potential film/tv fame. If there was one thing I found worse than never “making it”, it was “making it” before feeling ready. 

What was your first acting role? 

TO: I think my first role was in a short film called “Little Black Caddy”. Can you guess who I played?? Yeah….Very long time ago.

What do you enjoy the most about acting? 

TO: I love dancing in the uncertainty of it all. 

What can you tell us about Learn To Swim?

TO: Learn to swim is about a Toronto-based jazz musician who is haunted by his past. The more he pushes away from his past the more his past seeps and invades his present life which forces him to face his inadequacies. Learn to swim is a meditation on jazz, romance, and grief. It is incense, and cigarettes, and brass. Learn to swim is a musical poem. 

When people watch Learn To Swim, what are you hoping they get out of it?

TO: I hope our work resonates in some way. What the audience gets out of the film, I leave in their very capable hands.


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