The long-awaited first season of Kunle Afolayan’s Netflix original series ‘Anikulapo‘ premiered on March 1, having gone into production hot on the heels of the commercial success seen with its eponymous feature-length prequel.


The ‘Anikulapo’ prequel tells the story of a travelling cloth weaver, Saro (Kunle Remi), who indulges in an affair with the wife of an Oyo monarch, Arolake (Bimbo Ademoye), in an act that bequeaths misfortune. His plan to elope with her leads to his demise but Saro encounters a mystical bird and gains power over death. He becomes popular in the Ojumo Village but betrays Arolake with polygamy. Pride leads to hubris and hubris becomes his downfall as he begins to make inordinate demands before agreeing to raise the dead.

‘Anikulapo: The Rise of The Spectre’ became the film’s sequel, spinning off into a series that tells the story of Saro’s return from death for the second time. A dazed Saro receives an order from the guardians of the afterlife to complete a task he would deem impossible.

The series sees Sola Sobowale reprise her role as the promiscuous trader “Awarun” while Owo Ogunde plays the war buff “Bashorun”.


Among the other actors featured in the Netflix original series are Jide Kosoko, Taiwo Hassan, Gabriel Afolayan, Lateef Adedimeji, Layi Wasabi, Eyiyemi Afolayan, Ronke Oshodi-Oke, Moji Afolayan, Aisha Lawal, Uzee Usman, Adeniyi Johnson, and Funky Mallam.

‘Anikulapo’ is one of the projects in Kunle Afolayan‘s three-film deal. The filmmaker, in a conversation with TheCable before its series premiered, reflected on the intricacies involved in its production and what he thinks is the future of Nollywood storytelling.

Stephen Kenechi: The premise for ‘Anikulapo’ didn’t start as a series. What was the production timeline for the sequel like?


Kunle Afolayan: The original idea was to do a series eight years ago. That didn’t fly. We had to try making the pilot episode as a film. That was how the initial ‘Anikulapo’ film came about. After the film was done and it was successful, that opened up discussion for the series. Netflix engaged us and asked if we were ready to do the series. This was in early 2023. We got into pre-production but had to first make ‘Ijogbon’ in February. We went into full pre-production for the ‘Anikulapo’ series in March. By April, we started building sets. Principal photography started in June. By June/July, we started shooting. The film was meant to be released in December but we realised only during post-production that the project was more demanding than we had expected. When you do a show that is meant to be released in up to 190 countries, it means the show has to be subtitled in more than 60 to 70 languages. It has to be dubbed in several languages as well. And there’s the sound that took longer. In the end, I was happy we didn’t release the film in December because that period was so busy in Nigeria. There were a lot of films that were released around that time. Campaigning and trying to get people’s attention would have left us lost in the mix. The show may not have gotten the kind of attention it deserved if we released it in December 2023 as initially planned. However, the entire project still took less than a year to do. It was a lot of work to take on.

Stephen Kenechi: For you, Madam Sola Sobowale, there was this bedroom intimacy scene where your character “Awarun” alluded to the failure of masculinity as her reason for deciding she would rather stay single and not defer to the authority of any man. In your opinion, what should be the power dynamics between men and women in your ideal African/Nigerian marriage?

Sola Sobowale: In Nigerian culture, especially among the Yoruba, women are supposed to be under the roof of a man. That’s why we as parents wish for our children to be married. We call it Adeori. You will be respected when you’re married. You run the home and take care of the children with your husband. But as it is going now, where are the men? We’re talking about quality men. That’s what happened to Awarun. She was married but didn’t marry a quality man. So she decided to be independent. That was what she did and got everything she wanted. If she needs a man, she gets one, uses him, and dumps.

Stephen Kenechi: So what was the difference for you transitioning into the sequel? Were there particularly any challenges?


Sola Sobowale: It’s always easy because I don’t see myself in another field apart from acting. I was born ready.

Stephen Kenechi: To you Mr. Owobo Ogunde, to what extent did go to ensure optimal character embodiment and role interpretation? What were those measures you had to take?

Owobo Ogunde: Well, there’s first reading the script and understanding it. Then, there was me talking to the director and trying to understand his vision. I remember the first thing he told me when I arrived at Igbojaiye. He was walking along and said to me, “This film, I’ve already seen it. I’ve shot the film already and you’ve done well. We just have to go through the ocean now with the camera.”

I didn’t know what he meant by that at the time but now I do. For my preparation, I  had to first understand the story and what the character is about. The director has a deep understanding of human emotion and how to capture that through the medium of film. I didn’t need to worry about anything else. Whatever I brought to the table is fairly standard in terms of what an actor can do with research and talking to people. The rest is down to talent which is what Sola talked about earlier.


Stephen Kenechi: Back to you, Kunle Afolayan, you would agree that we’ve been seeing more Nigerian titles telling stories around mythology and folklore. What do you think is the thematic future of Nigerian storytelling through film?

Kunle Afolayan: That is the future. But the truth is that it used to be like that. Those who started this filmmaking journey in Nigeria began with folklore stories. This dates back beyond Yoruba Nollywood to the era before the organised film industry in the country.

I’m talking about the 70s and 60s; people who crossed from theatre culture to cinema. A lot of the content we saw then was centred around folklore, history, and what Nigeria was like before civilisation. When the digital era came, it allowed for more involvement because it was then cheaper for people to tell stories without breaking the bank. People could just take a digital camera, put two people together, compromise on production values, and just tell stories. Some also believed that if the film wasn’t set in Lagos where there were beautiful mansions, then you haven’t done a film. But we had the likes of Tunde Kelani who told nice stories set back in time and rural areas with great values story-wise.

After ‘Anikulapo’ came out, a lot of people started doing what they called epics. There are quite a number of them that are not out yet and some people are currently on location shooting even more. That is how we are as Nigerians. We follow the trend. But then they will bastardise it until the content buyer claps their hands and says they’ve had enough of the same thing. The good ones will always be the good ones though. The ‘Anikulapo’ series will continue. There will be seasons two, three, four, and five. It’s the same all over the world. In Hollywood, they will do ‘Troy’, then go back to ‘Inglorious Bastard’, then do ‘Gladiators’ and go back to ‘Born’. There has to be variety. I don’t think it’s a thing of now. This is something that has been there and will be around for a long time. The one I can’t speak for is the artificial intelligence usage because that’s another thing. But technology is technology. Everything will balance itself.


Stephen Kenechi: One thing that intrigues me from seeing the ‘Anikulapo’ series is trying to imagine how much resources and effort must have gone into building out that elaborate rural settlement and replicating the feel of the Old Oyo Empire. Speak on it.

Kunle Afolayan: I don’t need to say much. You all should probably do crowdfunding for me (laughs). The thing is, from the concept of a project, you already know what you’re up against. So it’s up to you to say, “I want to do it and do it right”. In the ‘Anikulapo’ film, we had two settlements: Oyo and Ojumo. In the series, we had five settlements. When writing the story, it’s always your call to say, “No, I can’t go this far because I don’t have the budget.” Creating the set is one thing. But for some of the scenes with extras like all of those market scenes, we used about eight hundred extras (background actors). Imagine how we survived in a community where we had hotels with less than 40 rooms at that time. The crew members are like 120 without 800 extras, key actors, and others that would come in to leave the next day. We were running a show with about 200 people and shot for two months. Our diesel was about ₦40 million not to talk of accommodation and feeding. Who send you message? Who put you up to all that trouble? It’s your cross.

I went into that because I believed it could be done. If we started putting it into monetary terms, you wouldn’t get the full picture.

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