Up close and personal with the essential Meg Otanwa of Moviedom
Benjamin Peters and Daniella Okeke, two key members of the Lagos Circle of Film Critics, confessed that they have watched Damilola Orimogunje’s compelling and audacious commentary on postpartum depression titled For Maria Ebun Pataki more than five times on Netflix. They revealed that they had to return to see the movie over and over again, because of Meg Otanwa’s portrayal of the role of Derin in the 76 minutes film that starred the notable actor Gabriel Afolayan.
“She was extraordinary. She nailed the role and made it look as though the role was written with her in mind,” Peters said.
Daniella cuts in and offers a one-liner, “Meg displayed an intensity and complete immersion in the character of Derin and she played the role in a manner I have not encountered before at that level.”
Indeed, critics have widely agreed that Meg’s portrayal of the role of Derin has overtaken her many career defining roles, including her role as Aisha in the groundbreaking TV series Before 30. A Polyglot who speaks five languages including Yoruba, Spanish, French, Hausa and her native Idoma Language, Moviedom caught up with the star of I will Take My Chances, Pay Day, Knock Out Blessings, Ratnik and Kpians: The Feast of Souls, and the English graduate of the Ahmadu Bello University, who holds two Master degrees (in Human Resources Management awarded by TIME University Tunis, Tunisia and in Business Administration awarded by Jean Maulin University, Lyon France) spoke about her career and life.
Attraction to the entertainment industry
I actually left a job at the African Development Bank to pursue acting. So, it couldn’t have been the money. It could not have been for fame either, because I am a very private person and if I weren’t, there are so many other things one can do for fame other than acting. My passion is what drives me.
The Journey Here
I moved back to Nigeria in 2010 and started to work my way into the Industry. Starting anything at all isn’t easy, so you can imagine how difficult it was starting off in Nollywood. But I was able to endure the rough patches because I knew the reason I wanted to be a part of filmmaking. More so, I am thankful for those days of constant auditions because they contributed in shaping me today as an actor. Always trust the process, they say.
Working on the set of “For Maria… and most pronounced movie run yet
I got to know the director Damilola Orimogunje at the time he was preparing to shoot one of his first films. He had reached to me to be a part of it to which I accepted. However, there was a scheduling conflict when he was finally ready to shoot, so I couldn’t be a part of that particular job. But Damilola and I stayed in touch.
We discovered that we had similar tastes in movies. We would talk about movies for hours and share list of movies to watch and filmmakers to study. So, we formed a bond. When he got the script for For Maria…, he shared it with me and asked if I will be willing to take on the role, seeing as we had been talking about films and looking forward to working together. I read the script and what stuck out to me instantly was the weight of the story.
It was heavy and intense and I knew it would require total commitment on my part. It was scary. I told him to let me sleep on it then we can talk about it the next day. Of course, I was going to do it. I just needed that time to be sure I was ready to give up all of myself in order to become Derin. And it was one of the most challenging roles I have ever played.
The first thing about becoming Derin was knowing who Derin was; how old she was, where she grew up, what her parents did for a living, her siblings, how she met and fell in love with her husband, her favorite colour and so on; every single detail about her. Then, there was the in-depth research around post-partum depression. How rampant it was, signs and symptoms and basically talking to women who have been through it.
Then there came the physical transformation. The director had expressed how much he would love for everything to look real and authentic so I chose to gain some weight to have a believably post natal body, I also shrunk my hair and as I did all of these things, Derin gradually came to life.
Growing Up and Career Wish List
Growing up, I knew I was passionate about acting, I just didn’t know I could do it for a living. And even when I came to know that, it was important to me to get a solid education first. Explore the world, get some international experience and come back home, which was exactly what I did.
I didn’t quite feel like giving up one career for the other, it was a matter of time. It was time to move on something that I was passionate about and I had no parental objection. My family has been supportive from the very beginning; they have always approved my decisions as such they were confident that I knew what I wanted.
Staying Power, Role Models and Career Ambition
Staying power has been God’s grace, I must say; God’s grace in addition to my passion for the craft. As for role models, I love and appreciate the works of Bimbo Akintola. I also think Viola Davis, Jessica Chastain and Rosamund Pike are incredible actors.
As for what I do as beauty routine, I am a foodie and a “foodpreneur”. I eat really healthy and I work out from time to time. And as for staying off the prying eyes of the yellow press, I am literally just being me; putting in the work and minding my business.
And for career ambition, I would like to do more than acting. I definitely hope to wear multiple hats in the future. I already started my journey as a producer and I am looking forward to doing more in that aspect.