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Exclusive interview: Uyoata Udi plays Inspectah Deck on Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga

Udi is cast as Inspectah Deck for Hulu's hit series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga.
Uyoata Udi is cast as Inspectah Deck for Hulu’s hit series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga Pic credit: Hulu

Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga is back on the streamer September 8. Actor Uyoata Udi, most recently seen in NBC’s This Is Us and HBO’s Watchmen, is on board as ‘Inspectah Deck’ in the highly-anticipated second season. 

Joey Bada$$ played that role in the first season and left the series for reasons not publically shared. However, executive producer Bobby Diggs (RZA), who created the series with Alex Tse, has shared in interviews that this season will focus on the recording of the Clan’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).  

Along with the TV roles mentioned above, Udi has also appeared in short films like For the Record, and I am Vladdy Lipshitz. He also starred in the three-time Tony-winning musical Fela! on Broadway and starred in Amazing Grace, the Musical.

Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga tells the band’s story starting in early 1990s New York. The narrative centers on the core group’s members who came up during the crack cocaine epidemic, and their formation with a violent backdrop thanks to the endemic drug business to the area where death or prison were the bookends to what is a bleak life for many.

Along with newcomer Udi, the Season 2 cast includes Zolee Griggs as Shurrie, T.J. Atoms as Ason, Dave East as Shotgun, Johnell Young as Gary, Erika Alexander as Linda Diggs, and Damani Sease as U-God.

Real-life Wu-Tang Clan members RZA and Method Man are executive producers Alex Tse, Brian Grazer, and Francie Calfo.

The first three episodes of the new season will drop all at once, followed by one episode installments on subsequent Wednesdays.

Exclusive interview with Uyoata Udi

Monsters & Critics: You started acting in high school. Who spotted your talent there? Tell me about that moment you realized you loved it and could make a future doing this?

Uyoata Udi: My first drama class was thanks to my teacher calling me out from the football team and asking me to add acting as an elective course. I decided to do so. 

For my first scene, I was told to “mime with intention.” I remember that scene like it was yesterday. I mimed an older man walking to the bus stop and having a seat. 

The beauty of this scene was the struggle in such a simple task. This brought my drama teacher to tears, and she told me, “One day, you will be an incredible actor. You will go extremely far.” 

It was at that very moment that it was clear that acting was a talent of mine. So I graduated from a performing arts high school, Alexander Hamilton High School, a performing arts school that I consider my stomping grounds. 

A year after graduation, I was blessed to work on Broadway shows such as “Fela!” and “Amazing Grace the Musical” while furthering my education at The University of the Arts. 

M&C: You are a self-described “enigma” and fashionable, multi-hyphenate talent. Is acting your first love and superpower in this artistic universe?

Uyoata Udi: My mom, Catherine Udi, was a performer herself. Unfortunately, she had to put her love for the arts aside to raise my brothers and me. 

She made it a point to introduce us to the arts. Specifically singing and dancing. I performed locally as a part of my mother’s cultural dance group. Also, I grew up singing in church. 

I found love in both dancing and singing. However, discovering acting at age 15 allowed me to use all my gifts and led me to realize the similarities between the different facets of artistry, which gave me a one-up in the majority of my performances. 

M&C: The best track on entering the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers, in your opinion?

Uyoata Udi: That’s hard to say. I find my favorite songs change depending on the season or mood I’m in. This season, I’m in a Triumph/Cherchez La Ghost mood, so for now, that’s my favorite for now. 

M&C: A lot of fans feel the writers didn’t dig too deep into Inspectah’s story in season one, which in a way is good since they had to recast the role for Season 2. How did you feel when you were the producers’ choice for the Inspectah, and how deep do we get into his backstory?

Uyoata Udi: It was truly an honor, and I still am just as excited, if not even more. In my opinion, most people don’t get to hear too much about Deck’s backstory; this season does a great job of highlighting that.

I can’t say too much, so tune in to find out. I’m honored to embody and portray a living legend.

M&C: You are an LA kid. What did New York City, East Coast hip hop Wu-Tang Clan mean to you when you first heard their music?

Uyoata Udi: I was very young when I heard it. However, songs like CREAM really spoke to my youth. Cash Ruled Everything Around Me growing up. That was my experience. 

The grittiness reminded me of NWA, and both groups are a reflection of young black men changing their environment inside and out. 

M&C: Inspectah was/is enigmatic himself. What did you find out about this elusive man when you researched the role? Did anyone who knows/knew him personally give you any insight?

Uyoata Udi:  As you may know, you don’t find too much of his personal life online when you Google Deck. I was blessed to have an extensive phone conversation with him, and he gave me a lot of [anecdotal] gems and jewels. 

One that stood out to me most was when he broke down the difference between Inspectah Deck vs. RebelINS. This really helped shaped how I embodied this role. 

M&C: One of the things I love about the S2 Trailer for Wu-Tang was that Hip hop, especially in the 1990s, was fun. The ending sequence of the trailer named every Wu-Tang Clan member like superheroes. Talk about these real-life characters who stood out to you outside of Deck?

Uyoata Udi: I think that there’s something to take from each member of the Wu for every season and person. I truly had an appreciation for all of them. 

RZA’s ideas, knowledge, faith, courage, and trust speaks to me the most. But, most importantly, his passion is to unite his brothers and stand with, beside, and behind them to create something bigger than them all.

M&C: The chess quote, “You must think first before you move,” was played in the trailer. Talk about Clan’s sheer will to fight the status quo of their poverty and oppressive crime-filled surroundings?

Uyoata Udi: Evidently, our reality depicts limits on the black population in which they overcame. Each member of the Clan had to take their situation and make the decision not to allow their circumstance, environment, and race to not lock them down. It required grit, passion, belief, faith, and daily hustle. 

When you believe in something, anything is possible. The Clan is indeed a living testament, just as I grew up in Inglewood, which is commonly known as a poorer, oppressive, and crime-filled environment.

However, I’m here today and made my dreams come true. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

Wu-Tang: An American Saga returns for Season September 2 8th, only on Hulu.

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