I spoke with Sammi Rotibi from Quentin Tarantino’s new film, Django Unchained. Sammi plays Rodney in this highly anticipated film that opens on Christmas. Sammi stars alongside Jaime Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christoph Waltz. The film also stars one of my favorite actors from Justified, Walton Goggins and Copper’s Ato Essandoh. One of my favorite films that Sammi has been in is Lord of War with Jared Leto and Nicolas Cage. You really must check out that film if you haven’t already. Sammi and the rest of the cast were phenomenal. I had a wonderful time speaking with Sammi. Don’t miss his performance in Django Unchained. He’s also in a film with Common, Danny Glover, and Boardwalk Empire’s Michael Keeneth Williams that premieres on January 18th called LUV. Sammi also stars opposite Elijah Wood in Maniac. Make sure you follow Sammi on twitter @sammirotibi.
Lena: You were great in Lord of War.
Sammi Rotibi: Thank you. I really appreciate that. A lot of people loved that movie. I had a blast shooting that and working with everyone.
Lena: Nicolas Cage and Jared Leto, what was it like working with them?
Sammi Rotibi: Amazing! Two totally different people, as far as acting wise, but they were great. That was when Jared was writing songs for his band, 30 Seconds to Mars. It was around the time of “The Kill.” I heard completely hit songs and I remember telling him that “The Kill” was going to be a number one hit and it was.
Lena: He’s an amazing singer.
Sammi Rotibi: He is an amazing talent. He’s a cool guy too. He’s so talented and he knows what he wants and goes for it. He’s inspiring. His work ethic and dedication to everything that he does is inspiring. Nick is such an amazing guy and a giving actor. He cares about the craft and he cares about his fellow actors. I have to say that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with really cool people.
Lena: Did you watch Jamie Foxx on Saturday Night Live?
Sammi Rotibi: He was so funny. I actually texted him and said, “You made me laugh so hard that I started crying.” Jamie is cool. You should see him on set in between takes. He would tell a story and everyone would just start cracking up. I feel so blessed and fortunate to be a part of Django Unchained. Everyone that worked on Django, it was kind of like a family. It was such a strong subject matter but down to the production and crew, it was just amazing. Quentin set that tone. It just made everyone’s job so easy. Quentin just rules; he’s so amazing. He’s an actor’s director.
Lena: I can imagine. Quentin is a legend.
Sammi Rotibi: He’s like the Scorsese of our generation, a younger Scorsese, Fellini, and Spielberg. They all have their own mark on everything that they do. They are just one of a kind. Quentin is really just one of a kind.
Lena: His movies have a certain feel to them. You know that it’s Tarantino.
Sammi Rotibi: Exactly! And also he is honestly really cool. He treats every single person with respect. When he talks to you he looks you in the eye; it’s just real. It’s such a breath of fresh air to work with someone like that and not have an air of arrogance. He’s just so down-to-earth.
Lena: What was your audition like?
Sammi Rotibi: I was down to one of the few people that Quentin wanted to see. I had just has surgery a month before because I play soccer for fun and I dislocated my ankle. When it came time for me to finally go in of course I injured myself [laughing]. I went in to the audition on crutches. Quentin just liked what I did compared to some of the other people that he had seen, and he put me with the other actors to see the chemistry and actually the two actors that were with me in the movie also read with me. He had a meeting with me afterwards and said, “I like your work; welcome aboard.”
Lena: That’s fantastic.
Sammi Rotibi: Yes, coming from someone like Quentin I guess that means I’m doing something right [laughing].
Lena: I can imagine working with him would be surreal.
Sammi Rotibi: I kept pinching myself in the car. Did he just say, “Welcome aboard?” Did I really get it? Let me just wait and call my folks and people and see what they say. Later they called to see what my availability was and all that good stuff.
Lena: Well, at least since your foot was in a cast you didn’t have to show him your feet.
Sammi Rotibi: Yes. Luckily they pushed the shooting back and I didn’t start shooting until April of this year. That gave me time to heal. I was doing a television show in Vancouver called The Secret Circle. It gave me time to heal and go through physical therapy because I knew Django was going to be intense.
Lena: Can you talk about the film and your character Rodney?
Sammi Rotibi: Rodney is one of the three slaves that didn’t get sold. He was brought back to Candyland. [Calvin] Candie is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character. We are Mandingos. Mandingos are fighting slaves. My character Rodney is a bit of a rebellious slave. He also doesn’t like Django because he felt like he was acting like he was better than the rest of the slaves. He came with this white guy and he got to ride around and do what he wanted. He started acting like he was one of the white guys, but then later we understood what his objective was.
Lena: You got to film a lot of scenes with Jamie and Leonardo?
Sammi Rotibi: Yeah. I did a lot of scenes with Leo. There was this big scene with Samuel L. Jackson, Leo, Jamie, and Christoph Waltz. It was when they first brought us back to Candyland. I come in half way through the movie and I’m there all the way until the end.
Lena: What an amazing cast.
Sammi Rotibi: It was an amazing cast. What trips me out is because it’s Quentin you get big actors doing small supporting roles. It was just amazing. It’s because everyone wants to work with Quentin. It’s just an honor to work with this guy and he’s so talented and his passion is so infectious. He is so passionate about filmmaking and storytelling that he just loves what he does. He makes you remember why you became an actor. He inspires you so much that you just want to do better. A lot of my actor friends that have done more and make a shitload of money are so jealous that I got to work with Quentin [laughing].
Lena: Do you have any funny stories from the set that you can share?
Sammi Rotibi: I would have to kill you [laughing]. There are a few funny stories but I don’t know if I can tell you because it involves a lot of big name actors. I remember Leo was telling me a joke in between shooting and he was playing this other character guy that he met and it was just so funny. Leo totally transformed into this guy and I just started laughing so hard. It’s just so nice to see Leo, just the guy and not the movie star, being a cool fucking guy. He’s such a cool guy. Of course when they said action a different Leo would come out. Jamie would tell jokes on the set. I think one of the funny things was when Quentin, who plays an Australian guy in the movie, was doing the Australian accent. He was practicing his Australian accent and he had us all cracking up. He had the cowboy outfit on and he was funny. Quentin is funny.
Lena: Do you have a favorite Quentin film?
Sammi Rotibi: I love all of them. It’s so hard to pick one because they are all totally different. They are all different but with his style and twist. I think Django because when you see this movie you are going to be like…wow. I’m not just saying that because I’m in it. A lot of my friends have gone to screenings and they are just raving about it. Telling a slave’s story and actually shooting on a plantation in New Orleans is just amazing.
Lena: Did you go to a screening?
Sammi Rotibi: I’m only going to go to the premiere. I don’t like to watch myself; I just want to watch the movie. I only want to watch it once. That’s just me.
Lena: A lot of actors are like that. It has to be cool to go and see the completed project.
Sammi Rotibi: Have you seen it yet?
Lena: No. It is on the top of my list of films I want to see. I also want to see the other film that you are in, Maniac.
Sammi Rotibi: Oh, yeah. You should also look out for LUV that comes out on January 18th with Common. That is a nice movie that I’m part of. It did well at Sundance. I’m looking forward to 2013. A lot of good things are coming.
Lena: Why should people go out and see Django Unchained? How do you pitch it to people?
Sammi Rotibi: I think it’s a fucking amazing movie. It’s a movie that talks about slave trade but with a twist. It’s an entertaining movie and a good movie that you can go and watch and enjoy. It has action and it’s also a love story, believe it or not. It’s a love story between Jamie Foxx’s character, Django, and Kerry Washington’s character, Broomhilda. It also has a lot of badass actors in it. It’s just a kick-ass Tarantino film.
Lena: Christoph Waltz is just amazing.
Sammi Rotibi: He’s just in his own world. He just cracks me up. You can never get shortchanged when you go and see a Tarantino movie. He gets the best actors that are just perfect. He always picks right.
Lena: I loved Inglorious Basterds.
Sammi Rotibi: I know. Can you imagine that was a movie about Nazis, Jews, and stuff and he still brought humor to it. It’s only Tarantino that could do that. Now he’s doing a slave movie and it’s going to be great. I have friends before that when they read the script they were like this is going to be so racist but honestly, I was reading the script and I was laughing all the way almost to the end. It was very intense; it’s a very intense script. I’ve never read anything that had the n word in it so much but there was also humor to it. I feel like he’s telling the story and he’s talking about this slave, Django, looking for his wife but it’s set in the slave trade. All of the circumstances and things that were going on but he was trying to bring humor to it. It’s a great script; I loved it.
Lena: I can’t wait to see it.
Lena: Did you work with Elijah Wood a lot in Maniac?
Sammi Rotibi: I only worked with Elijah Wood in Maniac. Elijah is very cool. He’s a very quiet and chill guy. I just saw him at the screening of Maniac a couple of weeks ago.
Lena: Is Maniac coming out in theaters or are they just making it available On Demand? I tried looking it up and I couldn’t get a straight answer.
Sammi Rotibi: I honestly don’t know. It will probably be out next year. It’s from the same producers of The Artist. It’s definitely coming out but I think they are just finding the right window to put it in. Sometimes they release a film in another country to see how it does before bringing it to The States. It’s also a remake of a cult classic so they have to go where the market is. I hope so because Elijah was so good and scary in that. It was a little bit disturbing.
Lena: Do you play one of his friends in the film?
Sammi Rotibi: I play the jealous boyfriend of the lead actress (Nora Arnezeder). I play her music producer boyfriend and she has this gallery showing and Elijah’s character (Frank) was there. She used his mannequins in the show. He just rubbed my character the wrong way and he and I had a little powwow [laughing].
Lena: That sounds like fun.
Sammi Rotibi: It’s a good film and the director, Franck Khalfoun, was an amazing guy. I have to say that I’ve been fortunate to work with some good people this past year. I just want to keep that going.
Lena: What are you watching on television right now?
Sammi Rotibi: I don’t really watch a lot of television but when I do I watch a lot of soccer. My team is Manchester United. When I watch shows I love Homeland and Boardwalk Empire. Those are two great fucking shows.
Lena: How has it been this season? I was so upset when they killed off Michael Pitt’s character on Boardwalk Empire.
Sammi Rotibi: You stopped watching when they killed Michael Pitt’s character off. That’s so funny. He was good. Everyone is good. Another show I watch sometimes is The Voice. I like it because they can’t see who is singing and then they turn around. I love the relationship between the judges. They are four totally different characters. What do you watch?
Lena: A little bit of everything. I love Sons of Anarchy and American Horror Story.
Sammi Rotibi: I would love to be on Sons of Anarchy.