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On Location with Mpho Koaho

The Black or White star on the charms of New Orleans

In Black or White, director Mike Binder tells a story that feels right at home in Los Angeles. The film follows Kevin Costner’s Elliot Anderson, a widower living with his young granddaughter Eloise, as he tangles with the girl’s other relatives—most notably a paternal grandmother played by Octavia Spencer—and struggles with the idea of what family means. The most impressive work in the film, however, might come from New Orleans, which Binder used as a stand-in for L.A. 

“You would have never known,” says Mpho Koaho, the Falling Skies actor who shines in the film as Eloise’s tutor. “But if you watched the film again, you’d be like, ‘Dude! Nobody has a house like that in L.A.!’”

Mpho Koaho with Kevin Costner

Mpho Koaho with Kevin Costner

Koaho, who calls Toronto home, was happy to log time in the Big Easy—even if it took some getting used to. “It’s a beautiful city with a lot of culture,” he says, “but their city moves far too slow for my liking. They move slower than California. If California is a tortoise, New Orleans is a snail.”

Even if it was slow, Koaho says he and his co-stars managed to find some fun in their time off-camera.

“We were all staying close to the French Quarter, so we had immediate access to Bourbon Street,” he says. “We were pretty central to all the madness.”

And while the summertime shoot left the actor dehydrated twice—“that place kicked my ass,” he says now—he’s glad to have had the chance to use New Orleans as a fake L.A.

“I think,” he says of the switch, “we really pulled it off.”