Actor Thomas Antony Olajide stars in the highly acclaimed feature Learn To Swim which made its premiere at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, and made its theatrical release March 25th, 2022.
In addition, Thomas was nominated for a 2022 Canadian Screen Awards for his role in the film under the category of “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.”
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thyrone Tommy, Learn to Swim is a surrealist romantic drama that follows Toronto jazz saxophonist Dezi Williams played by Thomas, as he attempts to escape a recent tragedy. He’s withdrawn from his band and tries to spend his days in solitude as an instrument repair technician, but is haunted by his memories, a mounting pain in his jaw, and an intrusive new neighbour. When Dezi’s band tracks him down, he is no longer able to hold all the pieces together. Soon the line between reality and memory blur, and he is forced to confront the truths of his past.
We had the opportunity to chat with Thomas about his role, what he learned about himself and what’s next.
Kat: You portray Toronto jazz saxophonist Dezi Williams who is attempting to escape a recent tragedy, in “Learn To Swim”. How did you prepare for your role?
Thomas: My preparation is pretty simple. I do my best to learn the text and whatever technicalities are needed and then leave things to the moment on the day. With Learn to Swim, the saxophone was a large component of my technical preparation. I was helped by a brilliant musician by the name of Yves Charuest who provided insight into the fundamentals of the instrument as well as a musician’s daily life.
Kat: Did you learn anything about yourself while filming?
Thomas: I learned that fun and rest were as much a part of the creative practice as the more brooding aspects of the work like text analysis and memorization. The work is paradoxical in that it is sometimes easier to reach those “heavier” emotions if they are approached with a sense of levity.
Kat: Was there anything about your role that was particularly challenging?
Thomas: That prosthetic I had to wear in my mouth was no treat. Ha! But otherwise not really. I try to keep things very simple.
Kat: What have been some of your favorite scenes to shoot and why?
Thomas: I did a short film a few years back with Learn To Swim director, Thyrone Tommy. One of the scenes took place underwater. Having come from theatre up until that point I thought doing a scene underwater was totally unique. It was definitely one of my favourite scenes to shoot. It expanded my imagination on how and where stories could be told in the medium.
Kat: What do you hope the audience takes from the film?
Thomas: I never say what I would like an audience member to take away in fact. I think they are more than capable of discerning for themselves how a story resonates with them without an actor chiming in with their hopes.
Kat: Is there a type of character that you’d like to portray, that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Thomas: Not particularly. I am open to being surprised and seeing what time brings.
Kat: What’s next?
Thomas: Later this year I will be part of the AMC television series “Interview with he Vampire”!