Interview: Nyambi Nyambi Talks Working With The Extraordinary Al Pacino, ‘The Good Fight’ & Voicing Martian Manhunter
With The Good Fight currently in the midst of its fourth season I had the chance to sit down with Nyambi Nyambi who plays Jay DiPersia in the series. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is a spin off series from The Good Wife that follows Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart. She loses her employment after an enormous financial scam destroys the reputation of her goddaughter Maia (Rose Leslie) and Diane’s savings, leading them to join Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) at one of Chicago’s preeminent law firms.
During my interview with Nyambi, we spoke about his start in theater, the moment he realized he was an actor, what it was like to work with Al Pacino on the stage and much more. We also talked about his passion for comics and what it was like for him to get to voice an iconic DC character in The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen.
Check out the interview below:
What was it like working with Al Pacino and other talented actors like him on the theater stage?
Working with Al Pacino was an absolute dream. He is hilarious, down to Earth, humble and generous. I learned so much watching him prepare and play on stage. The respect he gave me was retirement level respect. It was an incredible cast. NY Shakespeare In The Park was the most fun I’ve had on stage to date.
Can you talk about that moment you realized you had truly become an actor?
I had no idea what I was going to do with my life during my senior year at Bucknell University. My basketball dream was going to end here. I didn’t see myself sitting at a desk in a corporate office somewhere, even though I was earning a business degree. In some ways, I was lost with no idea of who I was beyond university. I had always taken drama classes as an elective from middle school through college, but never thought to call myself an actor. It wasn’t until I put everything I learned for fun over the years into the preparation of a speech I did for a Martin Luther King Jr. gala at Bucknell. When it came time to do the speech, it was an out of body breakthrough experience which would later be called “catching the acting bug.” When Professor Glyne Griffiths came up to me afterwards and said, “Nyambi! You’re an actor,!” it was the first time I could say for certain who I was and frankly, who I’d always wanted to be since I was 12-year-old child doing impressions: “Yes, I am an actor.”
Now let’s talk about your role on The Good Fight. Can you talk about your character for the readers who are unfamiliar with the series?
I play Jay DiPersia, an investigator for the law firm Reddick Boseman Lockhart. He came from the world of investigative reporting to join the firm. In many ways, Jay has been said to be the moral compass of the firm and when it deviates from the status quo it has long stood for, he challenges the firm to be better. I imagine him to be a version of a self I aspire to be; confident, cool under pressure, bold, a great listener, life observer, a protective family man, a better artist, a voracious reader and learner of all things new in technology and the arts. He may hold on to what you want, but he’ll always give you what you need. Information is power. For Jay, all the pieces matter.
Can you tease a little about the future of your character without giving anything away?
The future of the firm, along with Jay, is up in the air after being newly acquired by a larger firm, STR Laurie whose intentions are suspect at best. It’s now a new minefield to navigate on behalf of RBL.
What was the transition like going from theater to TV? Did you have any challenges?
The transition from theater to television was made smooth by being on a multi-cam sitcom, Mike & Molly. The similarities were so great with rehearsal towards a show date in front of a live audience. The difference, we could go back and correct a mistake in TV. In theater, you had to justify a mistake into a happy accident. Getting the opportunity to move on to The Good Fight, I had experience on-set and was ready to challenge myself to do not only something different, but something I always dreamed of doing when I first made the decision to be an actor.
Although you’re still early on in your career, you’ve worked with a lot of amazing people. What’s one lesson that’s stuck with you that you use to this day?
There are so many things that I still use daily from the amazing artists I’ve worked with over the years. The most profound lesson I got was from Janet Zarish, one of my acting teachers at NYU Grad Acting. I privately complained one day I was getting nothing from my scene partner and she responded with, “Nothing is something.” Whoa. It was an challenge to listen for what is versus my own expectations for what it ought to be.
What was the experience like voicing an iconic DC character and who would you like to see get their own solo movie next? Who do you hope to see get a live action movie?
I am a long-time fan of the DC animated movies and television shows, so playing in that universe was a high honor that I hope will continue. It was the highest honor to follow one of my favorite voice actors, Carl Lumbly, to voice Martian Manhunter. So much so, I have dreams of playing J’onn J’onnz in a live-action movie. To me, other than growing up on Earth, he’s everything Superman is and more.
There are so many characters I‘d want to see in a live-action DC movie – John Stewart, Guy Gardner in a John Stewart movie or a JSA movie (if only to get one punch knocked out by Batman), Bronze Tiger, Batwing, Aqualad, David F. Walker’s version of Cyborg, Static Shock or any of the Milestone characters, Vixen, Nubia, Bumblebee, Zatanna, etc.
What other projects do you have coming up? What are you currently working on?
I recently completed production on Billy Crystal’s incredibly funny and heartwarming film Here Today, starring Billy Crystal and Tiffany Haddish. I have also been working on a film called His Wake, which is about two sisters searching for their own identity outside the shadow of their father, an artist legend. And, I always continue to write and develop my own work.
You can catch Nyambi Nyambi as Jay DiPersia in season 4 of The Good Fight on CBS All Access.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch the series you can watch every episode for free, along with all other CBS All Access original series as well as CBS Television Network hits like Evil from Robert and Michelle King, on CBS All Access by using the promo code “ALL” for a free month of CBS All Access. Offer can be activated here: https://www.cbs.com/all-access.