DC Comics and gladiator fans have grown to love Cynthia Addai-Robinson. The English-born actress did a stint as Amanda Waller on the CW’s “Arrow” before she was surprisingly killed off the show. She also portrayed the San Francisco Woman in the sci-fi action adventure Star Trek Into Darkness, and she co-starred alongside Zoe Saldana in Colombiana as Alicia. Her biggest TV role to date was portraying the love of Crixus’ life, Naevia, in the Starz TV series “Spartacus: War of the Damned.” She scored 18 episodes in the second season of the hit show.
Addai-Robinson moved to the United States when she was 4 years old and was raised by her mother, who is of Ghanaian descent. She fell in love with acting as a teenager and pursued her passion at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in theater. In addition, she trained at Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and in the dance forms ballet, jazz and tap. She received Navy Seal and New Zealand Special Forces training during the filming of “Spartacus.” She actually took up sword training for the role.
Here, the Silver Spring, Maryland-bred actress lands on the cover of rolling out for her latest role portraying Marybeth Medina alongside Oscar winner Ben Affleck in The Accountant. Marybeth spends most of her time in the film chasing Christian Wolff, the elusive man who works as a freelance accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations. Marybeth lied on her job application, which is leverage for her Treasury Department’s Crime Enforcement Division director Ray King, who forces her hand to betray her sense of integrity — she wishes her checkered past would just disappear. The stakes are too high for her to buck the system, so she has no choice but to oblige.
Addai-Robinson was such a good fit to play Marybeth that director Gavin O’Connor said this about her: “I must have seen more than a hundred actresses for Marybeth. But when Cynthia came in, [I] said to the producers, ‘I think she is the one.’ She’s a terrifically talented actress and I was really happy to have her in the movie.
“Part of my job as a director,” O’Connor continues, “is surrounding myself with people who are really good at what they do — people who are going to constantly lift up the material and make me better and make the movie the best it can be. All of these actors are of that caliber.”
Addai-Robinson on working with Ben Affleck.
It’s really me spending half the movie looking for his character, Christian Wolff. Even though the characters are interconnected, we don’t necessarily share the screen at the same time. The table read was an opportunity to learn about how the actors will approach the role. What I love about Ben’s performance is the nuance. It isn’t too much of this, or too much of that. It was honest in its portrayal of a certain demeanor or behavior.
We were all drawn to this project. It all starts with a great story. We have an amazing script by Bill Dubuque and an incredible visionary, our director, Gavin O’Connor. There’s something special about these characters; they are interesting and complex.
What did you learn in working on The Accountant?
This was my most prominent role doing a feature film. There was a lot to learn. I’ve worked on a couple of other movies in much smaller roles and I’ve done some television. Nothing prepares you for a movie with this kind of cast, on this scale. It was about trusting I would be OK and everything that I’d worked on previously would essentially prepare me for an opportunity like this.
It was a nice feeling to realize I can do this. It was a very daunting task as far as the caliber of people I’d be working with. The number of award winners around … I felt I earned my right to be here and deserved to be here and I would work as hard and rise to the challenge to tell this story.
Do you ever feel like a fan on set of The Accountant?
Yes, you do. You want to be cool. I was, of course, having the two moments. On one hand, I am like “Oh my gosh! [These are] people who I have been watching and people whose work I have admired for years.” Then on the other hand, you recognize these are my peers who I am working alongside. You want to have a sense of professionalism. With J.K. [Simmons, who portrays Ray King] for example, someone whose work I have admired for a really long time, I didn’t want to say anything to start because I felt would be awkward. I was a huge fan of his work in “Oz.” Towards the end, once I had more rapport with him, I had that moment where I said, “Listen, I haven’t said anything yet; I have to tell you…” I think it’s always appreciated.
You realize everyone has the same goal: to find yourself among those people who are your peers. I don’t take it for granted. It’s really a rewarding moment in my career.
What are the differences in casting between TV and feature films?
The mediums are different. But things are changing. Before, there were actors and directors you’d work with in only one of the mediums. I consider myself lucky. All of the projects I have had an opportunity to work on, whether TV or film, all feel quite different from one another. The roles themselves feel very complex; they are fully drawn out characters that I get to come in and add my own thinking to. TV is a different process. It tends to go fast but you have time to really learn about a character. It’s stretched out over several episodes. But for a movie, the role is pretty efficient, a shorter shoot, but the days felt like we had time to discover, play and do a lot of takes.
To be able to work in film and TV, mediums that I love, I feel really lucky to do so.
How did you prepare to audition for your role in The Accountant?
I had a good sense of who she was because it was in the details of the script. I have [had] hundreds of auditions over the years. Practice makes perfect. You learn how to very efficiently get the essence of the character and embody that for the context of the audition. A lot of Marybeth Medina’s essence was already on the page. It’s interesting: as you move forward in the industry and get older, you have a better sense of how people perceive you. There’s a part of me that is shy and pretty reserved and it’s sometimes perceived as intensity. People read it how they read it, which used to surprise me that people would think I was intimidating or whatever they thought. There’s a certain intensity that I have naturally. It is not something you can act. It just so happened to work for this particular project.
This fall, catch Addai-Robinson as the female lead in USA Network’s newest conspiracy series, “Shooter,” opposite Ryan Phillippe. According to Deadline, she will play “FBI agent Nadine Memphis who possesses a strong intuition and dogged determination which has made her a rising star in the Bureau, but her headstrong personality has also landed her in trouble in the past. As the arresting officer of a would-be-assassin, she may have set her career back on the fast track, but her gut tells her there’s more to this case. Not realizing the depth of the conspiracy, she unwittingly puts both her investigation and her life in jeopardy.”
The Accountant opens in theaters Friday, Oct. 14, 2016.
Story by Yvette Caslin
Interview by Gina Moreno
Photos by Michael Melendy