How To Make it in LA with: Yvonne Orji
AimerAmour: How long have you been in LA?
Yvonne Orji: I’ve officially LIVED in LA since April 2012, however, prior to relocating I was frequently visiting to lay a foundation and test the waters for a good six months.
AA: Where are you originally from?
YO: I was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, so I claim NAIJA all day, but I’ve lived in Maryland for most of my time in the US. I moved to LA from Harlem, New York.
AA: What have you found to be the most effective way to network within the entertainment industry?
YO: This is LA! EVERYWHERE you go, from Chipotle to H&M is great grounds for networking. I personally like things to happen organically not forcefully. There’s a time and place to be aggressive and there’s also a time to just do good work, and let that speak for itself. It’s really about balancing the two and knowing when to exercise patience or grinding.
AA: What inspired you to move to LA? How did you overcome any fear or uncertainty about moving?
YO: The FIRST time I seriously considered [moving to] LA, was motivated by a slight (very slight) case of jealousy. I had a friend that was coming to meet with casting directors and I thought, “I wanna go to LA too!” And I heard God say, “What’s stopping you? All it takes is a plane ticket.” So I bought one and started reaching out to ANYONE I knew with ties to LA. I Facebooked a writer and Producer that I’d heard about but I had NEVER met, by the name of Michael Ajakwe. He was SO generous with his time, advice and priceless wisdom. I sent him a DVD of some of my comedy performances and he recommended me for an internship in the Writer’s Room of the hit TV ONE show, “Love That Girl”, with director Bentley Kyle Evans and Executive Producer, Stacey Evans Morgan. It just so happened to start the DAY I planned to move to LA (God worked it all out!)
I really didn’t have any FEAR about moving. After I did the internship in the summer of 2011, I came back to LA twice and stayed for two months at a time. So I felt like I knew the lay of the land before moving.
AA: Where did you go (specific places/events) to meet and network with new people?
YO: I attended Industry Minds, which is a weekly gathering of up and coming artists and seasoned industry personnel. The African Artists Association, Broken Barriers, which brings together writers and actors to showcase their work, and also, as a comic, I went to a lot of comedy clubs.
AA:How have you grown as a person since you’ve moved? What have you learned about yourself?
YO: Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can possibly do this business without a deep level of faith. My trust and love for God has grown immensely throughout this journey. I’ve learned that I’m not just pursuing a dream, I’m chasing after purpose; that for me is bigger than any role and any stage.
AA: What are some necessities a newbie needs when they arrive in LA?
YO: A CAR! I went 8 months without one, and all I can say is BLESS GOD FOR GOOD FRIENDS!!! Taking the subway in LA is NOT AT ALL like taking it in NYC. A comfortable place to stay is also important. It just puts you in a better space to be more creative!
AA: Are there any regrets/mistakes you made in relocating that you would relay to a person in the process of moving?
YO: I actually don’t have any regrets. If you can save a good chunk of money before coming…DO SO. Also, I would also follow up with any leads you get sooner rather than later. I.e. Email people when you get their business card.
AA: What successes & blessings have you had since moving? What are something’s you have left to accomplish?
YO: God has really blessed my move in AMAZING ways. 2013 has been a great year: I booked two national commercials, a spot on the new season of BET’s Comic View and to top it all off, I wrote my very first TV script for the show “Love That Girl”, which will be airing this fall on TV One. I’m working on developing a pilot, so I would LOVE to see that take off and find a great home on TV. My goal this year was to become a Series Regular on a TV show. While it currently hasn’t materialized, I’m optimistic, because the year ain’t over yet!