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Mpho Koaho Loves His Job- And The Fans

Mpho Koaho of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is the "nerd's nerd," and proud of it.

Andrew Cristi
  • Marc Cartwright
  • Courtesy BBC America
  • Courtesy BBC America
  • Marc Cartwright

We start the interview at four in the afternoon, and Mpho Koaho is as mellow as can be.

Then he starts talking about his work, and immediately it's as though someone plugged in the animated performer as he begins talking about his craft with a smile and vibrance that makes him truly come alive. It's apparent that the actor loves what he does. He speaks as though acting gives him oxygen. Even though the work itself seems to send chills up the rising star's spine, what gets him more excited is the love he has for the fans.

A fan first and foremost, Koaho clearly went into this industry for all the right reasons, as he seems to just want to bring his favorite cartoons and comic books to life. A verteran of multiple sci-fi projects, including the widely hailed SyFy series The Expanse, and Steven Spielberg's TNT series Falling Skies, the actor seems to have fulfilled his destiny, and he clearly couldn't be happier to have become a fandom universe icon.

He is clearly one of the performers who does this for the fans. With many stigmas out there about "geeks," "nerds," and fandom universes and many negative judgments against them, Koaho instead praises these loyal viewers for their love and says he deeply understand their passion, not just as a mega-fan of these types of shows himself, but also as a clever cat who gets where this all comes from: the need to belong and not care what anyone thinks.

Noting that he has grown up feeling like an outsider, and oftentimes disenfranchised, Koaho applauds fandom for giving people a community to feel like they matter, and for telling audiences that it's okay to be who they are and like what they like- a great underlying message that not many take away.

And, of course, the Dirk Gently star also can't help but praise the genre for allowing actors so much creative freedom to play.

On Dirk Gently's Holistic  Detective Agency, Koaho has been given what he feels to be his greatest gift yet as he plays computer hacker Ken, who is constantly finding himself in one wacky adventure after the next alongside holistic assassin Bart (Fiona Dourif).

For Ken, these predicaments might seem less than favorable, but for Koaho, he has found himself living in a dream playing his excitable character and every inch of the energy he brings to the show makes it all that much more enjoyable.

Next up, the young actor gets to show off a much darker side as he joins an all-star cast including Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Henry Cavill, and Nathan Fillion for the thriller Nomis. Yet again, just the very mention of the project seems to ignite a fire in Koaho as he excitedly gives the details on what fans can expect. He praises his director David Raymond and beams abouthis cast, and shows his love for the people he gets to work with.

With his star clearly on the rise and Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency now in season two, we got a chance to catch up with Koaho and hear all about what we can expect from Ken, Bart and the rest of the crew, what he would like to happen in the future for his show, what other type of roles he would love to play, and why this genre is so important to him.

We left off last season of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency with Ken imprisoned in Blackwing. Ken's really smart. It must be fun playing a character that always knows how to turn things around to his advantage.

I would agree with that, for sure. I don't know if Ken really knows how to use that all the time though. As smart as he is, I don't know if he always knows how to take advantage of the situation at the time. That's something I'd like to see more of this season and going forward, definitely, because he is a very smart guy.

When it comes to Ken, I think he's a really fun character because he's very contradictory to stereotypes and has a lot of contradictions within himself. He's anxious, but calculating, and he's nerdy, but doesn't necessarily fit the typical nerd look appearance-wise. He's very unexpected. Touch on that.

Well, obviously his relationship with Bart really plays right into what you're saying. I think how calculating he might appear is just really in reaction to him playing off how much on the other side of the world Bart is, you know? Anyone would react the same way to a character that crazy.

She puts him in such extreme situations that of course it appears as though Ken is so calculating, but really, he's very much forced to be that guy. He's never seen, heard of, or been around anyone like this. And then naturally, that is probably who he's always been, so it all comes out of him more. Bart brings out a lot of Ken that he didn't even know was inside of him. Those emotions inside of Ken were dormant until Bart came along.

So, what else can audiences expect from season two?

Every character really progresses more in their own right and respect. Literally, everyone journeys forward, and maybe not in the way everyone expects. There may be things that you like and expect for Ken, and then there may be things you won't. But, I do think people will be pleasantly pleased in Ken and certain abilities he possesses.

There's a belief everyone has in Ken right now that I think everyone should hold on to, and I love the character being endeared to the audience. There's a bunch more characters coming in- tons of great new actors join the cast.Tyler Levine, Alan Tudyk, and John Hannah, just to name a few, and that's really fun.

And personally, I'm just really excited for where my character goes and the story arc here. I wish I could tell everyone and shout it from the roof.

You really are a fan of sci-fi yourself, as is your cast mate Elijah Wood, and even your writer/creator Max Landis. This is like a love letter to nerdy fans everywhere, for nerds, by nerds.

That's definitely who I am at my core. I was just sitting here this morning before this interview, having my breakfast, and I was about to watch Batman: The Animated Series- that's my stuff. I love a lot of animated stuff. I'm a Trekkie and a Star Wars guy! I don't even know which I love more, but I really love both.

And I've been in a lot of Sci-Fi shows which really satisfies that inner nerd in me. Getting to go to conventions now is something that I really enjoy, going as an actor and as a fan. I remember my first convention was DragonCon 2014 and I met Kevin Conroy, and that was at the hotel checking in, and obviously I just mentioned Batman: The Animated Series, so, you can imagine how I froze up like a fool.

It blew my mind just seeing him, and then he did the voice for me and I got chills. So, I get it, and I'm so honored to be on a show like this. I'm always super-hyped and proud to be part of every show I'm on, but I'm really proud to be part of this show. Max and Elijah- I have such respect for the both of them.

Elijah has inspired me since I was a child when I watched him carry movies like The Adventures Of Huck Finn. And all the sci-fi work he's done is so amazing, true classics. And Max, his movie Chronicle? So dope. That was really so good! So, yeah, we're some nerds over here. [Laughs]

You are at this point very much a comic con icon- particularly for sci-fi with The Expanse, Falling Skies, and now Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. What is it about sci-fi that intrigues you so much? Is it that you have such an open playground to be free?

Wow, thank you. It's definitely very cool to be in as many sci-fi projects and shows that I have. I certainly feel very connected to the fans, I really do. I've honestly been misunderstood my whole life, and that's the kind of people the fandom are.

They can be misunderstood sometimes with their excitement and dedication, but when you go to these cons and see some of these people and their passion, and their cosplay, and everything that goes into their love for this work, people misjudge these fans. But, me? I have nothing but respect for the fandom.

And to follow what you love, and to like what you like, it's not a difficult thing, but it's hard for people to stick to. I learned a long time ago to like what you like and not to let people get in the way of that, and that's what this fandom shows me; it shows me you should like what you like. Own it, be proud of it, and enjoy yourself.

So, this is not only for the opportunity to play roles that expand myself to really other-worldly limits. I mean, I'm on Mars! [Laughs] I get to be in the future! And that's right up my alley. But, then I go to the convention, and that's real life, and you see people dressed as these characters that you helmed, and the costumes are amazing and created with such care, and it really gives you a different outlook on everything.

It gives you such a deeper respect for these fans. I really appreciate the fans, and I appreciate the sci-fi genre, and I'm so glad I get to be a part of it.

Did you ever read the novel by Douglas Adams that Dirk Gently series was based on?

I am not overly familiar with Douglas Adams. I have yet to read the books, and I really did that on purpose. I wanted to disconnect myself from it. It would have gotten in my head.

Also, as far as I know, outside of Dirk, Max created every other character in this adaptation. So, knowing that as well didn't scare me to not read the series, but I will at some point. Maybe a bit more down the line when I'm a little removed from the project.

Ironically, I actually never read The Lord Of The Rings, or Game Of Thrones books, or any of my other fan universes. I like watching them. I prefer reading thrillers and mysteries!

You've been part of some great projects with great people; Elijah Wood, who we spoke about, Noah Wyle, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Jane, just to name a few. Who else would you like to work with?

It's funny- I call Noah "The Coyote," and we're very good friend now. He taught me so much. That's someone I never thought I would be around, and then he becomes a very close friend, and I just learned so much from him. It was wonderful.

With Tom Jane, we didn't even have any scenes together, but my very first day we go to a read-through and I get picked up in a car and we go to pick up an actor, and we waited about 25 minutes- and it was him! My jaw dropped! There's a movie he did in South Africa called Stander, and my mother is from the same exact place the movie is filmed, so I have a serious connection to that film.

I mentioned it, and he just perked up and said; "Of all the movies people mentioned, you mention THAT!" He was very taken by my knowledge of the film and we had a great connection, so that was a wonderful first interaction we shared in the short time I was around him.

In terms of actors moving forward, Jeffrey Wright is my favorite actor on the planet- working with him would be very necessary for me. I was at San Diego Comic Con, and I saw so many lovely faces that you see on TV and in film, and I turn around and see Jeffrey Wright and I was literally ripping my agents ear off. I also really love Shia Labeouf, and I would love to work with him. Viola Davis is the best and I would love to work with her.

Speaking of thrillers, you have a movie on the way called Nomis with quite an impressive cast; Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Stanley Tucci, Minka Kelly, Nathan Fillion, Ben Kingsley- tell us about that.

Yes! Speaking of thrillers …  Now those are the type of films I love watching and the books I love reading! In Nomis, we're chasing a serial killer who is kidnapping these young girls, and then they bring my character in and I get to play this guy who is part of the cyber division in the police department.

So, when they think they find the guy, they bring my character in to help hack his computer at home, and when that turns out to not be what we thought, another twist really pops up that will shock the audience. It's really suspenseful and great with many twists and turns, and the cast is amazing.

I'm really looking forward to the attention that might come with this movie, and that's not usually how I speak. I don't do a project for the attention, but I've worked a long time and I really enjoyed working on this project.

The director, David Raymond, was very good to me. Everyone was; Henry, Alexandra, Minka they're all so wonderful and we get along very well. Mr. Tucci, and Mr. Kingsley are legends. And you have to understand, Nathan Fillion and I are best friends in the film.

This reminds me when I did Haven back in 2004, the all-star cast is just incredible, and now I get to be in a different place to really enjoy it fully, so thank you for mentioning it.