Enuka Okuma: from SFU to stardom

The SCA alum talks about her latest role and offers advice for aspiring actors

Enuka Okuma on Workin’ Moms. Photo: Jackie Browne / CBC

By: Sara Wong, Arts & Culture Editor

Enuka Okuma is no stranger to the spotlight. The SFU School for the Contemporary Arts alum has been credited in over 60 films and television series, and is best known for playing Traci Nash on the TV show Rookie Blue. Recently, Okuma joined the cast of the Canadian sitcom, Workin’ Moms. In an email interview with The Peak, she discussed her acting experience on the show and beyond.

Workin’ Moms has been full of new experiences for me. It’s the first time I’ve gotten to lose myself in a comedic role,” Okuma started. Her character, publishing executive Sloane Mitchell, was introduced in season five, which is currently on air. “Sloane Mitchell is such a fierce, energetic force,” the actress shared. “It’s been exciting figuring her out.”

Also exciting for Okuma has been working with showrunner Catherine Reitman (who also stars as Kate Foster) and fellow Canadian actress Dani Kind (who plays Anne Carlson). “Most of my scenes are with [them] and they’re both so talented and embody their roles so fully,” Okuma praised. “In my first scene on my first day, it took me a while to stop watching them as if they were on TV!”

Like many shows these days, the latest season of Workin’ Moms was shot during the pandemic, which Okuma said has been a difficult adjustment for everyone on set. “Everything seems to take longer and you never quite get used to masking and unmasking constantly. General socializing is non-existent, so it’s all a bit more lonely too,” she confessed. Prioritizing self-care has also been a bit of a challenge with a lack of craft services. “I’ve spoken with a few actor friends who have gone back to work at this time and everyone says the same thing, which is ‘I’m not drinking enough water!’” said Okuma. 

Even before the pandemic it was common for actors to face job inconsistency. “When you’re released into the wild after graduation from theatre school, it’s easy to think that the big, bad world is against you if it’s challenging to find work,” Okuma noted. However, in her experience, SFU taught her how to adopt a successful outlook, no matter how many acting jobs she booked. Aside from providing “a solid foundation in performance and the tools needed to sustain work and life as an artist,” the School of Contemporary Arts encouraged Okuma and her fellow students to connect with one other and collaborate with like-minded individuals. “Leaning on the idea that there will always be work for you if you make it yourself can save a lot of heartache and spur you on to new personal challenges,” she said

That being said, dealing with rejection remains unavoidable. Okuma cautioned that pursuing an acting career “is definitely not for the faint of heart.” When asked what advice she would give to young actors, Okuma said that developing a thick skin is essential. “[But] the ironic thing though is that artists are generally sensitive, emotional beings and the last ones you’d expect to be able to develop a thick skin,” she reflected. 

Okuma also provided words of wisdom specifically for Black actors. “Double down on the previous sentiment. The journey will potentially be extra long and arduous as a Black actor so you really have to be in love with every aspect of this career to follow through with it,” she said. “It’s definitely not impossible though and if you’re following your heart, paths will open up for you. Remember that.”

Watch Enuka Okuma on the new season of Workin’ Moms, every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on CBC or stream anytime on CBC Gem.