Five Miles Up with … Ato Essandoh
five miles up
BBC America’s “Copper” transports viewers to New York City in 1865, a time rife with political and societal change. A fixture on the show, Dr. Matthew Freeman, is “…bringing sexy back to Five Points,” says Ato Essandoh, who portrays the physician. Have any of the good doctor’s traits rubbed off on Essandoh? Take a peek in his carry-on and decide. Sad this season of Copper is drawing to a close? No worries. You can catch Essandoh on CBS’ “Elementary” playing Alfredo, Sherlock’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor.
What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
First aid kit, ‘cause you never know. Condoms for the same reason.
Carry-on or check-in?
Window or aisle?
Even though I’m a tall man, I like the window.
What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
No muss, no fuss. I like to immerse myself in the culture, so look for a good place in the neighborhood, where I can stay and make friends that I’ll still be emailing years later.
Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
Last year, I went to Costa Rica for a yoga and surf retreat with a pair of shorts, flip-flops, four pairs of underwear and a T-shirt. That’s how I roll. I stayed in this bare bones hotel, where I made a lot of friends who were all same age and had similar interests.
Favorite hotel you've ever stayed in?
When I was in Bahia, Brazil, I stayed at the Ambar Pousada. It’s this pretty basic hostel where you get a bed, bathroom and a fan over the bed. It’s well managed by Christine, who’s become a dear friend. The hostel has a courtyard where all the guests, an international crowd, hangs out, drinks, mixes together and moshes it up. If I’m in this type of situation, where I can meet people and form lifetime friendships, it’s the best time ever.
What’s the worst vacation you’ve taken?
When I was 17, much to my mom’s chagrin, my dad said I could go scuba diving alone in Cancun one weekend. It was awesome, until I caught Montezuma’s Revenge, which was like the flu times a thousand. I literally couldn’t get out of bed and had to call my mom. To this day, she still talks about it. I always say, “Mom, I’m alive.” Then she says (he mimics her Ghanaian accent), “I thought you were dying.” She’s awesome, but a worrywart.
Where’s your favorite destination for shooting on location?
Mozambique, where I shot “Blood Diamond” with Leonardo DiCaprio, was really beautiful. I speak Portuguese, the national language, so when I wasn’t shooting, I went into the neighborhoods and met people, who introduced me to their culture. I also loved Tokyo, Japan, where I visited Kyoto Buddhist temples. I love how the Japanese are so diligent about keeping their environment beautiful. And then there was Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where I was working with Theatre of War, an outreach theatre project for troops stationed out there.
Ever try a food you wished you hadn't?
I’m strictly a vegetarian, so when a nice lady at a restaurant in Okinawa brought me the vegetable stir fry with these delicious little bits in the mix, I asked if they were soy-based or seitan. She said they were pork and looked at me like I was a weirdo. Apparently, pigs are vegetables in Okinawa.
Favorite restaurant you’ve discovered while traveling.
After my best friend and I graduated from high school, my dad took us through Italy and France. We stopped at this nice French restaurant -- insert any restaurant name here, they’re all good in France and I can’t remember the real name -- that had herring, which I refused to try. My dad said (the Ghanaian accent returns), “Son, just taste the herring.” It was the nectar of the gods.