Eniola Akinbo And Deyemi Okanlawon: Making ‘Swallow’ Come Alive
Eniola Akinbo, popularly known as Niyola is famous for her beautiful songs; however, she has been away from the music scene for a long time now.
Making an entry into the Nigerian film scene, Niyola plays a lead role in the Netflix Original, “Swallow”. Speaking to the Guardian Life team, she details her journey into the acting journey as Tolani.
As a musician, how were you able to fit into the acting scene?
I think working with Kunle Afolayan and his team were accommodating, which put me at ease. The cast members were also helpful, so it was quite easy.
What was your reaction when you got the call from Kunle Afolayan to act as Tolani?
I wasn’t shocked, I just wondered why he thought I could pull it off, as he’d never seen me act, and I asked him as much.
What were the challenges faced interpreting your role as Tolani?
Tolani is an intense character who lost her dad and was trying to navigate life as a young adult. That touches home for me because I know what that feels like. So there were places I had to reach into that weren’t easy to crawl out from after the film was shot.
Do you have plans to further dive into acting?
It is definitely a path I would like to explore even further. It is a whole new trajectory, and there’s no knowing where it could lead.
Which part of Tolani resonates more with you?
Tolani is every young girl out there trying to figure out adulting while balancing love, survival, a moral compass, and everything that comes with growing up.
During the period of the shoot, how did you cater for your mental health?
I listened to a lot of positive music. I remember that I intentionally listened to TY Bello’s “Spirit of Light” album on repeat at every chance I got. I can’t explain why, but it gave me everything I needed at that moment.
Are there new projects you are working on? If yes, can you let us in on some?
I can only say that I am working on projects related and unrelated to music. I am increasingly fascinated with the Yoruba language by the day, and I am working on something interesting to that effect.
With your first film coming out as a Netflix original, how do you feel about this?
You guessed right. I am excited. It’s still like a dream to me when I see it pop up on my screen. I have to exclaim sometimes
When people think of Niyola, what do you want them to remember?
I want people to remember authenticity. Someone who reminds them of their own reality through my art and, in turn, serves, leads, and inspires a generation to be their true selves in a world where identity is fast losing its meaning.
Asides Niyola, is Deyemi Okanlawon who played Sanwo in the highly anticipated film. Below is his journey to being ‘Sanwo’.
What was your reaction when you got the call from Kunle Afolayan to act as Sanwo?
First, I was thrilled when Kunle Afolayan invited me to take on the role of Sanwo in “Swallow” as I’ve been a huge fan of his for years. I got even more excited when I got to know the film was an adaptation of a book by Sefi Atta, one of Africa’s literary giants, and would be working alongside some of the best actors in Nigeria.
What were the challenges faced in interpreting your role as Sanwo?
I had to speak undiluted Yoruba all the time instead of the Lagos Yoruba that my tongue is accustomed to and I also spent a lot of time researching words, mannerisms, and slangs used during the film’s period. Also after my father and wife teased me endlessly about it, I decided to just stay indoors throughout the duration of the film to avoid getting photographed in the retro look of that time.
Which part of Sanwo resonates more with you?
Sanwo, like a lot of young men, is a young man who, though genuinely in love, was still in the process of discovering himself and had some character flaws he needed to address. Growing up, I went through a very similar process and so I could easily empathise and identify with the character.
During the period of the shoot, how did you cater to your mental health?
Every morning I spent at least an hour exercising, then thirty minutes meditating and thinking through the scenes for the day from the eyes of the character. Having a very supportive director and production crew also had the huge impact of keeping me stress-free during production.
You are in a lot of Netflix originals. How do you feel about this?
Netflix is definitely changing the game of filmmaking in Nigeria and across the world and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play such a diverse range of characters in the recent original movies and series. I’m excited to be at the forefront of this new wave of top-notch actors and filmmakers telling Nigerian stories to the world and look forward to working on Netflix originals around the world.
When people think of Deyemi, what do you want them to remember?
I want people to know and remember that I pour out my heart into my work and always strive for excellence in my craft. I want people around the world to remember an entertainer who deeply touches their heart and so they look forward to watching any film or series that I feature in.