Tessa Thompson, Nmandi Asomugha in SYLVIE’S LOVE

Nmandi Asomugha retired from the NFL in 2013 after 11 seasons. Eight of those were spent with the Oakland Raiders, with whom he was named to three Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro rosters while being viewed as one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

Since leaving pro football, Asomugha has been pursuing a new career in Hollywood. He dabbled in acting while still playing in the NFL, appearing in TV series like The Game and Friday Night Lights. Toward the end of his athletic career, Asomugha advanced to roles in feature films including Fire With Fire and Crown Heights. He also has producer credits on movies such as Beasts of No Nation and Harriet.

Combining those roles as actor and producer is leading to Asomugha’s highest-profile part yet. He’s starring with Tessa Thompson (Creed, Thor: Ragnarok) in the upcoming film Sylvie’s Love, which will debut on Amazon Prime Christmas Day. Asomugha portrays a jazz saxophonist who develops a relationship with Thompson’s title character, an up-and-coming TV producer in 1950s New York.

Amazon released a trailer for Sylvie’s Love on Wednesday:

Asomugha explained what appealed to him about the project in an interview with Entertainment Weekly when Sylvie’s Love premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

“It’s a love story in its pure sense, and in today’s social and political climate, I think that’s a very important story to get out there, and to celebrate,” said Asomugha, who spent a year-and-a-half learning to play the saxophone for the role.

“Seeing these young people of color falling in love in the glamorous, sophisticated world that we’ve created — I think it’s going to be empowering.”

Partnering with Amazon was a natural fit for Sylvie’s Love since Asomugha also starred and produced in Crown Heights for the streaming platform. A non-traditional outlet for movies has allowed Asomugha to pursue projects that personally appeal to him and learn the business, as he told The Undefeated’s Kelley E. Carter last year.

“Trying to jump into a profession where there are seasoned veterans that are experienced at it,” said Asomugha, “you have to try to find your way into the door. And I said, ‘Well, let me just create my own way and see if that works out.’'”

About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.