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Catching up with Emmanuel Kabongo: Canadian actor and producer

Canadian actor Emmanuel Kabongo chatted about starring in “Sway,” where he also served as an executive producer.

Emmanuel Kabongo in 'Sway'
Emmanuel Kabongo in 'Sway.' Photo Credit: Chris Morsby
Emmanuel Kabongo in 'Sway.' Photo Credit: Chris Morsby

Canadian actor Emmanuel Kabongo chatted about starring in “Sway,” where he also served as an executive producer.

“Sway” was written by Charlie Hamilton, who directed it along with Zachary Ramelan.

The movie just won “Best Picture” and “Best Actor” for Emmanuel Kabongo at the Inaugural 2024 Canadian Black Screen Awards, and Jury Prizes to Mishael Morgan and Emmanuel Kabongo.

It will have its world premiere Screening at Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.

Experience starring and executive producing this film

On his experience on this movie, Kabongo said, “My experience working on the film Sway was a wild roller coaster. There were so many moments filled with all sorts of emotions, various learning opportunities, and many points that contributed to my growth as an artist.”

“So, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity and glad to have taken the responsibility to lead both in front of and behind the camera. I’m fortunate that the cast and crew trusted me,” he said.

Playing the title character

On playing the title character in the thriller, Kabongo said, “The thing I loved most about this character was the love he had for his family. The ‘whatever it takes’ attitude, in some ways, reminded me of myself.”

“When I first read the script, there were so many similarities between ‘Sway’ and me, so I had a lot of personal experiences to draw from to portray the character and bring the story to life as best as I could,” he said.

“It’s a redemption story about a man dealing with his own personal trauma while trying to handle an unpredictable situation that keeps unfolding into a more complex maze, which, to me, mirrors the human experience that many of us face,” he said.

“Unfortunately, some of us don’t always make good choices because of fear. I took on Sway to resonate with an audience that thinks outside the box and, in a way, to teach them about the human condition that some experience on this planet,” he observed.

“Originally, the title was ‘Spiral,’ so Charlie Hamilton, who wrote this tremendous script, and I decided to change the name to ‘Sway’ because it made more sense. So really, the spiraling of Sway is what truly intrigued me,” he said.

Working with the entire cast of actors

“I first want to shout out the rest of the cast members who were so incredible,” he said.

Kabongo remarked, “I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with other award winners like Lovell Adams-Gray, Brittany Raymond, and Paul Amos. ‘Sway’ wouldn’t be what it is without the supporting cast, which includes Karl Campbell, Blake Johnston, Prosha Hussein, Tony Ofori, Carlisle J. Williams, Ashton Ayres, Husnain Sher, Conni Miu, Chad Andrews, and Mishael Morgan.”

Working with Emmy winner Mishael Morgan

Speaking of Morgan, he stated that “it was such an honor to have worked alongside the talented Mishael Morgan.”

“I mean, she’s an Emmy Award Winner, and that speaks volumes,” he admitted. “Her work and approach to the art form are extremely inspiring because she’s so graceful, charming, and commands your full attention.”

“She’s an actor who knows how to listen with her entire instrument but doesn’t make it about herself because she’s serving the story first. This is rare, and it’s special,” he acknowledged.

“Her input and creativity behind the camera as an ‘Executive Producer’ added value to the project, and I couldn’t ask for more from the leading lady of ‘Sway.’ We’ve been friends for years; this was the first time we worked together, and it certainly won’t be the last time,” he elaborated.

Emmy winner Mishael Morgan in 'Sway'
Emmy winner Mishael Morgan in ‘Sway.’ Photo Credit: Chris Morsby

Lessons learned from this movie

On the lessons learned from “Sway,” he said, “What I learned from this movie was the depth of what it means for one to have ‘agape love.’ The kind of love that Jesus Christ portrays toward us is what I tried to discover throughout this film, both in front of and behind the camera.”

“So yes, the theme I focused on was love. I learned that sometimes what we think is love is actually lust—the lust of the flesh—and that’s something the character Sway battles with within himself as he seeks the truest and purest meaning of love. This movie taught me to always choose love first above all else,” he elaborated.

“Love for many of us can be subjective, but true agape unconditional love—this is something that most can’t achieve. Sway has allowed me to embark on this journey to discover more of this kind of love, and I’m enjoying every moment of it,” he said.

Taking on the role of producer

Kabongo spoke about taking on the role of producer for this project. “Like any producer out there I’m sure would say, it was very exciting in beginning but when we started to face some challenges, there were things I had to learn on the go,” he said.

He continued, “This experience felt empowering and also humbling at the same time. I couldn’t have done this alone though because there was a lot of work in front of the camera as well, so having my co-producers/EP’s such as Eric Yensu, Daniel Govia, Chris Morsby, Sari Colt and James Stewart, it really balanced out the energy and work load of the project.”

“Without Eric Yensu, I wouldn’t have felt calm because he did an amazing job with the schedule, even when we had a sick member at one point. Without Daniel Govia, I wouldn’t have felt trust because he locked in our location, crew and delicious food everyday,” he said.

“Without Chris Morsby, I wouldn’t have felt safe because he supplied our equipment and he knew how to set up lighting for the black actors on set, as a DOP. Without Sari Colt, I wouldn’t have felt hope because she was the first one who agreed to invest in ‘Sway’ before anyone else came on board,” he noted.

“Without James Stewart (and partner Liane Kotler – Executive Producer), I wouldn’t have felt worthy because he truly believed in me and this project and poured all of himself and his resources as a filmmaker, to make this the best film it could be. I guess I felt every emotion that comes with producing a feature film,” he said.

Working with James Stewart

On working with filmmaker James Stewart, he said, “Working with James Stewart for the second time—the first time was on the series ‘Chateau Laurier,’ which you can find on Apple TV—was like having a masterclass every day.”

“His patience, experience, and passion were what held the ship together. He was the big brother and best friend all at once, with a tremendous open heart for collaboration,” Kabongo said.

I learned so much from him as a filmmaker, things I will certainly apply when I produce my second feature, hopefully with James again,” he added.

Closing thoughts on ‘Sway’

Kabongo remarked about “Sway,” “What you plant and how you water it goes a long way. All of us, regardless of our race, background, or experiences, have a story to tell.”

He continued, “We each have original, authentic experiences within us that can add value to this world in a positive way. It’s the execution that matters, and you can only know what you’re made of once you take a step forward.”

“Even if the first step leads to something you weren’t expecting, there are always lessons in what we sometimes perceive as losses,” he said.

“At its core, this is what Sway is about, and the filmmaking vision of Charlie Hamilton and Zach Ramelan is something we’ve never experienced out of Canada,” he expressed.

“Their unapologetic, respectful, and compassionate approach is what storytelling is all about. They remained authentic while also being sensitive to the themes of Sway and deserve the fruits of their labor. If you look for love, you will find it, and you can find love in /Sway’,” he concluded.

For more information on Canadian actor and producer Emmanuel Kabongo, follow him on Instagram.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 21,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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