Ijeoma Grace Agu is one of Nollywood’s most impressive talents. From ‘Taxi Driver’ to ‘Hoodrush’, the actress is an undisputed delight both on and off-screen. Lately, the actress has made online trends for her outstanding performance in Kunle Afolayan’s latest film adaptation of Sefi Atta’s ‘Swallow’ where she plays the character Rose. Agu in this interview opened up on her role in the new Netflix Nigeria original where she talked about working with Afolayan and embodying the role. Excerpts…
What did you do differently with Rose that you feel you haven’t done in any of the previous characters that you’ve played?
I think that will be the setting and the period the film was set in. I think that was what was different. Also not relying on your modern day speak. Not relying on the language of today, being conscious of that on set with every line you say because they spoke differently in the 80s. I had to learn that and I think that is what was different.
This was your first time working with the revered Kunle Afolayan. What was the experience like?
I have looked forward to working with Kunle for over 10 years and that is because I respect him as a creative.
I respect him even more as a producer; so I had always looked forward to being in his film. Interestingly, I auditioned for ‘October 1’ but I don’t speak Yoruba so I lost the role.
So when he contacted me and asked me to read the book, I called him back and said you want me to play Rose right? We had a couple of meetings after that; so from get go I knew that he was a director that I could work with.
Something that’s very important to me as an actor is the fact that I can trust my director and he in trusts me. We had that from day one.
There was such mutual respect and trust for each other and as an actor on set knowing that your director trusts that you can bring this character to life is important.
That helps me as an actor anytime any day. Kunle trusted me as an actor and it was easy to embody roles.
What particularly struck you with the story?
What stood out for me in the book was how we all hail feminism, feminist and all that movement but we forget that there are some of our mothers and aunties in those days who were those things but not supported by the system.
Rose believed in the quality of the human being be you man or woman. It’s funny because I believe the same thing Rose believes in.
A lot of us believe in those things like I shouldn’t be made to do what I don’t want to do but we’re supported today by a system that’s enabled by people who fought and won over and over again. That stood out for me in the book – that there were strong women those days.
I consider them strong, warriors, pacesetters to be able to have such defining voice in that era when women did not speak. I found that very profound, it was a running theme all through for Rose in the book and in the film.
‘Swallow’ premiered on Netflix on October 1, 2021. The film produced and directed by Afolayan follows the story of a naïve secretary whom, after a series of career woes, considers a drug trafficking offer from her roommate.