On Isono, Chioma Umeala Shows Her Stuff
PROMINENT Nigerian actress, Chioma Umela, has revealed why she accepted the role of Ayo Demi in the popular TV series, Isono, which made its debut in September.
The South African-based actress in an exclusive chat with Guardian, revealed that the daring character of Ayo Demi in the series inspired her to accept the role.
“Initially, what I liked about Ayo was that she wasn’t someone who was afraid to question tradition or the way things were. She was very feisty. She stood up to her parents, for a cause she felt was right. She didn’t just stand up to her parents, because she wanted to chat back; she was fighting for the life and wellbeing of her mother. I appreciated that sort of passion and the moral drive that she had to question her father and to question the religious meanings to why her dad did what he did, even though it put them all at risk. I really liked that.”
She added that, “I think Ayo sees the best in people and she is a very forgiving character. And that is such a good quality to take into my life; not to be naïve, to always meet people with compassion and never take their situation so personally. You never know what people are going through in life. You know how they say it? Forgive but don’t forget. If you give people more compassion, you tend to avoid more conflicts, because you are more understanding of where everyone comes from.” she said.
Isono is a gripping African drama, produced by BET Africa. It follows the life of Gabriel (Bohang Moeko), a heroic son born into a dysfunctional family, who finds strength within him to stand up against Mary Ndlovu (Nthati Moshesh), a powerful and evil matriarch who would do anything to serve her own needs.
In just a few weeks, Isono has managed to claim a spot as one of the leading multilingual scripted and English sub-titled daily dramas on the continent.
Umeala, who is the only Nigerian among the cast, also commented on how intriguing it was to play the role of Ayo.
“In my personal capacity, it is nice to honour my heritage in that way, as I am also Nigerian. I think it is a start. I am looking forward to more representation and stories outside of South Africa to really truly honour the name BET Africa. This is my first time playing a Nigerian role. It was interesting because I had to ensure I got the cultural makeup of the character correctly. Nigerians have a different sort of energy that I tried to embody. I mostly try to reference my family members. I go to Nigeria a lot. I just have to reference the people in my life naturally. When I was arguing with my father in the movie, I just had to reference what it felt like if I argued with my own dad.”
On her challenges playing the role, she added that “I think every character has its own challenges, and it is so hard to rank. It was interesting playing Ayo knowing that, narratively, she was a distraction to the character Gabriel. So, I think every character has their own personal simplicity and it is up to the actor to bring those little details to life. I think that was the difficulty I had coming back to the show. On the show, Ayo was a mother and I hadn’t had children yet, and I had to play someone that had had a child and lost the child. And that was a whole other prep I had to go into, beyond those other things initially. That was very exciting and challenging.”
The actress, who is also currently being cast in a Hollywood flick dubbed, The Woman King, expressed her delight at being an actress. “I love this job because I get to be anything and everything. I feel like someone living a thousand different lives at a time,” she said.
Isono airs to audiences across the African continent from Monday to Thursday, exclusively on BET Africa (DStv Channel 129) at 21:30 CAT / 20:30 WAT.