The highly anticipated crime thriller ‘Blood Sisters’ had its Netflix debut on May 5, amassing rave reviews on social media as viewers quickly identified with their favourite characters.
The project, which is Netflix’s first Nigerian original TV series, follows the story of Sarah who is engaged to her dream man, Kola, and Kemi, her close friend. Kola turns out to be physically abusive and controlling.
Despite Kemi’s vocal misgivings, Sarah is determined to press on with the wedding. On the day of the traditional engagement ceremony, tragedy strikes and Kemi accidentally kills her friend’s husband-to-be.
Fearing that no one will believe she acted in self-defense, the friends decide to cover up the death, unintentionally setting off a series of unfortunate events.
The project features several movie stars including Kate Henshaw, Uche Jombo, and Ramsey Noah.
It sees Ini Dima-Okojie play Sarah and Nancy Isime handle the character Kemi.
Deyemi Okanlawon, Genoveva Umeh, and Gabriel Afolayan play siblings of a rather dysfunctional family while Daniel Etim-Effiong stars as a friend of the groom.
TheCable’s Stephen Kenechi caught up with Isime, Dima-Okojie, and Etim-Effiong in Victoria Island, Lagos prior to the movie’s release for a flash interview where the actors shared their experiences starring in the crime drama.
Stephen Kenechi: Nancy, it was perfect chemistry we saw between you and Ini by the way. Great acting as well. What was that process for you in terms of role interpretation and character embodiment?
Nancy Isime: For me, I always say this. I read my script; I did my research. But I also had two fantastic directors at different times. From the reading to the screen tests, they were closely guiding us.
We had one-on-one sessions with them to talk about the character. Initially, I had a different interpretation of Kemi, just reading from what had been written, until I had a talk with Kenneth Gyang and Biyi Bandele.
They shed some light on what they think the audience would love and what I could bring in. I was working with Ini who was just as invested in my character as she was in hers. Ini was literally our co-director.
Every time we did a scene together, we’d rub minds and banter about what could be better. We’d infuse Pidgin English here and there. Bringing the character to life was a collective effort.
Stephen Kenechi: How were you both able to achieve realism enough to convince viewers of that sister-like relationship?
Ini Dima-Okojie: The idea was never to convince anyone. We had to start our journey in words and that’s why it was very important to go through the process and really believe what it was we were trying to tell.
I literally build a world for this character because if I don’t believe it’s a person, I can’t give a true performance.
It’s important to create a world that has even past memories. That way, doing a scene means way more than what the writer has strictly put down. I achieved a world where I really believed who Sarah was.
The relationship spilled into real life on the set. Nancy felt like my backbone on the set, when I’m tired or we had all these physical activities I was scared of. We had long and grueling hours, so Nancy was my Kemi all through.
This chemistry translated even off-set. I think it just started with a deep level of mental immersion, believing the story you’re telling, and hoping people feel what you’re trying to give.
Stephen Kenechi: The film hits on abusive relationships and we could see the trepidation you grappled with as to whether or not to ditch the wedding. At what point do you consider a relationship toxic enough to call it quits?
Ini Dima-Okojie: It’s very easy to look from the outside and judge others for not speaking out earlier. I researched people who are dealing with similar situations to understand their psychology.
For me personally, if the assault happens the first time, you leave. It’s black and white. But what was interesting to see, from the victim’s perspective, is that it didn’t matter the age, social status, or class of the victims.
You come across a person of influence in a field and wonder how they keep putting up with similar situations. It’s not easy to make the decision to leave when you’re broken mentally.
The best you can do is hope they’re able to find the strength. That’s why it’s important to put things in place and ensure victims are not being shamed, creating a world where it’s easier to speak out.
Stephen Kenechi: Daniel, you have an eye for directing. Did the project being a series have any implication for the acting and role interpretation?
Daniel Etim Effiong: From a performance perspective, I didn’t take it as a series. We did the first volume before the second, both of which were further broken down into two parts to make four episodes.
For performance, I took it as one whole piece of work, further breaking it down into scenes, sequences, moments, and beats with the directors and co-performers.
Ini Dima-Okojie: (Cuts in), At least for Nancy and I, we shot the first volume before the second and that really helped because it made the transition evident when watching, especially the part where the girls are on the run.
That is something I appreciate because, normally, you shoot off sequence. Within that volume, our growth with the story was guaranteed. It felt as though everything was at stake in the second volume and we brought that energy in.
Stephen Kenechi: Daniel, what were those unique challenges on the set? What are your ideas about the thematic focus of the film?
Daniel Etim Effiong: Right, I mean, it was wonderful being on set working with my co-stars and the directors. I’d worked with Kenneth Gyang before and it was like a reunion. He’s young, yet, such a fantastic director.
It was like working with a master. Working with Biyi Bandele as well and he brings something totally different. His understanding of performance comes from a theatre background. He allows you to evolve with the character.
He uses what you personally bring to the table to organically build each scene. It was eye-opening for me as someone who does have an eye for directing to see into how someone else works.
With Nancy, Deyemi Okanlawon, and Wale Ojo, it was joy. The challenge was dealing with the idea of being torn between truth and love. His love for his best friend and the truth of what actually happened.
It was challenging to play because I’ve been in an abusive relationship before. You’re torn between love and rectitude; between the love you have for this person and exposing them, risking throwing everything away.
It’s a human dilemma. Just as Ini said, it’s sometimes not black and white. It’s really a conundrum.
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