Ato Essandoh: I look at Doctor Who; you know, he time travels, and I don’t even have gauze. It’s all deductive reasoning.
Zap2it: What’s his back story?
Ato Essandoh: We are still working it out. He is an ex-slave whose owner happened to be a slave and let Freeman accompany him. In many ways, he is self-taught. I looked it up when I got the role. I thought there were no black doctors in 1864. There were six or seven.
Zap2it: What did you study at college?
Ato Essandoh: I was in chemical engineering at Cornell University. My girlfriend at the time dared me to do a play. I knew there was something I wanted, not necessarily engineering. What’s nice about having an engineering degree is everybody thinks you are smart.
Zap2it: Was getting that degree at an Ivy League school expected in your family?
Ato Essandoh: My parents are from Ghana. Until I was 17 I thought you had to go to college. I had no idea. I didn’t know it was not an option.
Zap2it: Have your parents been accepting of your career in acting?
Ato Essandoh: My mom called and said, “Now that things are going better … .”
Zap2it: Did you talk to doctors for research to inform your character?
Ato Essandoh: Another benefit of going to Cornell is that 90 percent of your friends are doctors.