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 while Deyemi Okanlawon, Genoveva Umeh, and Gabriel Afolayan play siblings of a rather dysfunctional family.
TheCable’s Stephen Kenechi caught up with Okanlawon, Umeh, and Afolayan prior to the movie’s release for a flash interview where the actors share their experiences starring in the crime drama.
Stephen Kenechi: You’d remember that the last we had a conversation of this sort, you spoke of being inclined to play roles that reflect that alpha-male trait. In ‘Blood Sisters’, you exerted your dominance.
Deyemi, what was it like transitioning mentally to be Kola?
Deyemi Okanlawon: In truth, I have no preferences as an actor toward any character. I will literally play any character that makes sense for me to play. If I agree with it, I will do it.
I believe you speak of characters that are a bit subservient and submissive.
As a person, I’ve never had that trait. That’s what I was talking about in that instance.
I’ve never been the kind of person I was in ‘Blood Sisters’ as well. Finding the amount of rage and vitriol enough to raise my hands towards a lover or anybody at all was very strange. I had to go to a really dark place to get that.
After the project, I had to figure out a way to get out of that.
Stephen Kenechi: Speak to me about the thematic focus of the movie in relation to the current social issues that have become topical in our Nigerian context.
Deyemi Okanlawon: It’s actually really a story of friendship and family; the bonds that exist between people.
We see the dynamics in that relationship where my character Kola cannot stand his older brother played by Gabriel Afolayan.
In contrast, Kola has a special bond with Genevoeva which doesn’t compare to what he has with his mother Uduak (Kate Henshaw). Then we have the ‘blood sisters’ Nancy Isime and Ini Dima-Okojie; the bond.
We now see the intricacies and the violence in these relationships which is a huge topic right now in our society. That’s why we think the relationship is very relatable.
Stephen Kenechi: So, at what point does a victim in an abusive relationship call it quits?
Deyemi Okanlawon: The very first time there’s a semblance of violence, where physical touch doesn’t even have to happen, move. That’s my opinion. From a distance, you can start the healing process and try and repair things.
This is depending on the type of relationship you have, say you are married with kids.
Stephen Kenechi: Onto Gabriel now, what do you make of sibling rivalry in relation to the movie? Also, to what extent did you go with research to achieve realism?
Gabriel Afolayan: Sibling rivalry is very real. Beyond the movie script, it’s in each and everyone’s home. It’s very potent, yet, less talked about. You can have your enemy at a distance and not feel any kind of worry.
But once your sibling becomes your enemy, it makes it much tougher for you to get over because these are people that really do know you well and you guys grew up together. I did my research by going into lots of homes.
I read and leveraged the stories of some of my friends who have had similar experiences. I used to have a friend who had this issue with his brother all the time because their mom always made a point about his elder brother.
It gets to him and you can tell the tension is depressing, especially if you’re the type always looking for validation. Even in poor families, some kids try to impress their parents to be in the good books.
This societal ill has eaten deep into the culture and it’s one of the things I had to make apparent.
Stephen Kenechi: So what would you say is the place of parenting here?
Gabriel Afolayan: Oh, they just need to do better; make sure they don’t let the kids perceive their preference of one sibling over another, even if it’s there. Don’t let it be an enterprising factor in the home.
Level things up and see these kids for who they are and the skills each possesses. Some, for example, have a thing for Law. You can’t say because yours is a home of lawyers, then the other sibling who is not interested is inferior.
Some kids just want to do something different. There has to be that leeway where we let things happen for them.
Genoveva Umeh: Hmm!
Stephen Kenechi: Genoveva, talk to me about what your process was like in role interpretation and character embodiment. You played a drug addict. Did you have to visit a real rehab centre to get an idea of how things work?
Genoveva Umeh: (Laughs) That’s a good question. Timeyin is someone looking for love but is unfortunately born into a dysfunctional family that has a high expectations of her, having a lack of trust in her ability to win.
That leads her to find love elsewhere, in narcotics, men, and different other things. Prepping for her, I had to come to terms with the fact that addiction is a real thing people deal with.
I did my research. I didn’t actually go into a real rehab centre (giggles). But I spent time watching lots of videos involving real-life stories. We have ‘Underbelly’ which spotlighted people who are dealing with these conditions.
Again, it’s psychology as well, where we’re playing human beings, taking into account what drugs do to the body and how it affects behaviour. I did all of that to play Timeyin. It also helped that I had Deyemi and Gabriel (laughs).
In terms of the relationship with the siblings — Timeyin, Femi, and Kola — Femi is the opposite of Timeyin.
Timeyin knows who she is but is just not getting the support she wants, despite wanting so badly to quit drugs.
Her older brother passes on after her dad and there’s no more support. So the story touches on what happens to such a person who essentially needs to function in love. It was great working with her and I absolutely enjoyed it.
Deyemi Okanlawon: I think one of the really interesting things is the fact that we brought into the characters the real relationships that we actually have.
Gabriel Afolayan: Yeah, outside (nods).
Deyemi Okanlawon: Genoveva has been amazing. If you ask me one of the actors I look out for and say there’s a [script] reading, and you mention Gabriel too among those involved, it’s like I’d have to put in the extra effort.
There’s already that going on. He’s a legend, a mini legend actually (laughs).
Genoveva Umeh: (Cuts in) So much pressure.
Gabriel Afolayan: Listen, I appreciate these guys a lot because they understand the gravity of handling a role.
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