Talented stars, killer physiques.Read article
Chibuikem Uche is having a moment. The London born actor, known as “Chib” to his friends, was inspired to get into shape after seeing Michael B. Jordan’s knockout performance in “Creed.”
At the time, he seemed destined to find a secure office job and settle down, but with a major movie now under his belt with “The Tomorrow War,” and a starring role in the suspense drama “One of Us Is Lying” (streaming on Peacock), Uche’s star is rising fast and is owed to committing himself fully in order to realize his ambitions.
The 27-year-old actor, now living in L.A., explains why he gave up a promising career in finance and how he backed himself when his ambitions seemed like an unattainable dream.
Uche was born in London to Nigerian parents and lived in the city until the age of 8, when the family then moved to Connecticut to pursue the American dream. He grew up happily in Connecticut and was inspired to work hard on his studies by both his mom and dad, because they both held doctorate degrees and understood the importance of a strong education. “My mom and dad had said that they wanted all their children to at least have first degrees,” says Uche. “So, the expectation was always that we would go to school and graduate university.”
Uche played a lot of soccer in high school, where he earned all-state honors his senior year, and was obsessed with basketball, but his strength with math drove him toward a career in actuary science. Actuaries are strategic thinkers who apply their skills to measuring risk, and are often employed in the world of finance. Uche studied the discipline for four years, gained internships, and following graduation, went straight into full-time work for an insurance company. It was a path that was pulling him toward a steady, comfortable lifestyle, but Michael B. Jordans star-turn as Creed had already lit the fuse for Uche to pursue his own dreams of success.
“In my junior year of college, I woke up one morning and the trailer for “Creed” had just come out,” he says. “Michael B. Jordan was someone who I had watched in “The Wire,” and “Friday Night Lights,” and all of a sudden I’m looking at this big, buff version of him. My best friend and I immediately looked up his fitness regimen. Uche began to learn about nutrition through reading up on MBJ, and he applied these lessons to his own lifestyle. Years later, with a more sedentary office job, Uche was still putting in countless hours to work on his physique.
Now standing at 6’ and weighing in at 185 pounds, Uche’s consistency with fitness and eating healthy foods has kept him in great shape to this day. He tracks his calories on an app and pays attention to the ingredients contained in everything that he eats. As such, Uche loves natural foods that are not processed, making meals from lean protein sources such as chicken breast, and nutrient dense foods such as green vegetables. Uche stays true to the process by allowing himself a treat at the weekend, such as a dessert, in order to reset for the following week. “You gotta live a little,” he laughs.
“I lived in West Hartford, and I would drive into Shelton, so I would get up at 7am and commute an hour into work,” recalls Uche. “I would be in the office from 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 a.m., so I couldn’t wait to get to the gym. The gym actually became something that I would do every day. I would spend two hours there because it was my release, and my opportunity to be active. I’ve always been an active, physical person, so when I was in finance, I held onto my fitness very tight.”
Chibuikem’s older brother, Chinaza, had also gone into acting and Chib respected the courage that his big bro had shown. He felt that in order to be true to himself, he would need to swap actuaries for auditions. “When I felt this thing starting to bubble up inside of me, and brew more and more, I just wanted to jump into it,” he shares. The fledgling actor signed up to a class in New York and fitted those sessions around his day-job, and the gym, until three years ago when he finally packed up his Nissan Rogue and committed himself fully to life as a prospective Hollywood star. “That was the start of a crazy, crazy, beautiful journey,” says Uche.
The meaning behind the name Chibuikem is, “God is my strength,” and the young hopeful used his faith in God, and his belief in his own abilities to get through the self-doubt that comes with seeking a career in Hollywood. “I think the biggest thing is having that mental fortitude,” he says. “That almost delusional self-belief. I’m fortunate that good things have happened along my journey to help me, but that mental fortitude and belief is so key.” Back in Connecticut, Uche had realized that the toughest part of the process would be to make the move from where he grew up, make a clean break, and start out in LA. As with many of us, the toughest part of any challenge is actually getting started, but once he did, success soon followed. “I knew if I was put in a sink-or-swim moment, I’d have no choice but to figure it out,” says Uche.
The young acting upstart took work in another financial services role to earn some cash while in LA, but felt he wasn’t progressing his art at a fast enough rate, so he once again freed himself of distraction and channelled his inner Creed to go for gold. “I felt like I had left Connecticut but put myself right back in the same situation,” recalls Uche. “Probably a month before I was out of money, I booked ‘The Tomorrow War.’” For that movie, Uche undertook weapons training and enjoyed the challenge of looking good on-screen while having to handle heavy equipment and baggage. Uche was also inspired by the films lead.
“Chris Pratt was so disciplined,” says Uche. “He’s such a superstar, puts in tremendous work and is a stud on set, with the best attitude and energy.”
Having scored victory with “The Tomorrow War “right before the final bell rang on his savings, Uche’s career is going from strength-to-strength. In role in “One of Us is Lying,” Uche stars as Cooper Clay. The mystery series’s plot sees a student murdered in detention and as the story unfolds, we learn the secrets of the four suspects, including Cooper, who is a student and baseball player.
While Uche is an avid basketball and football player in real life, he was not as familiar with baseball, so he made sure to study the players movements in order to portray one. “I’m playing this all-star pitcher, and it became a thing of ‘how do I look like a pitcher?’ ‘How does a pitcher pitch?’ ‘What do they do?’ I needed to learn the the mechanics, I don’t want to go out there and look all flimsy and sloppy.” Uche worked for many hours with one of the show’s executive producers, John Sacchi, who was a college division 1 national champion. He also trained with Steve Rodriquez, the head baseball coach at Baylor University. Uche is rightly proud of his tenacity and accomplishments, but just like “Creed,” he is already eying up the next big challenge.
While still early in his career, Uche is intent on building a respectable body of work, and is also open to playing new, further physically demanding characters, such as by entering the Marvel Universe. “As an actor, and someone that wants to display depth, I’m so interested in playing a variety of roles,” shares Uche. “But I do love being active, whether its combat or athletics. I’m very excited about what the future holds.”