I had the opportunity to ask the talented and very busy actress Olunike Adeliyi, who will be appearing in the upcoming Darken movie, about some of her recent work and her many outside of acting achievements. In this digital exchange she shared a great deal of insight into who she is and her talents.
1) You were in the feature film that release on March 2nd, Boost, could you tell me a little bit more about it?
Boost follows an adolescent boy named Hakeem who is living in Montreal’s tough Parc-Ex neighbourhood. Along with his best friend A-Mac, the two work at Hakeem’s uncle’s car wash ’spotting’ luxury sports cars for a local crime syndicate. A-Mac eventually persuades Hakeem to boost a car on their own leading to a windfall of cash that has dire consequences down the road. Boost is packed with action, suspense, and also the ups and downs of an immigrant family trying to survive.
2) In Boost you play the lead character Hakeem’s mother, Amina, how would you describe your character?
Amina Nour is a hard worker and wants to become a part of the Canadian fabric. She’s raising two sons on her own and with very little income. Her tasks as a single mother get harder as her sons start to age, especially with Hakeem who is trying to find his identity as a teenager while being an African immigrant. He struggles between family responsibility and childhood freedom. Amina is focused on keeping the family afloat and safe, but the seams of their family life come undone daily. However, Amina never gives up on Hakeem and tries her hardest to set him straight and not follow in his father’s foot steps of boosting cars.
3) You will be appearing in the sci-fi fantasy feature Darken as Kali, a fierce warrior character, what was it like getting into character for this role?
Shifting gears for Kali…see what I did there? lol…It’s a transition that I usually undertake when switching characters by using animal work to build my characters. Where Amina was a beaver who worked to build her dam and prevent it from being washed away, I decided Kali was going to be a panther is the wild jungle. Kali is a warrior and also moves around the world of Darken smoothly without being detected. Soft in the feet with hyper awareness of smell, sound, and sight. So the senses are engaged at all times when working on the animal before standing it up into human form. When the animal is completely human, it holds on to some of the animal traits, which become the characteristics of the character. So that said, Kali is not to be messed with. She’s fiercely loyal and protective of her loved ones, but will kill you where you stand the moment she can’t trust you. Her stares are deadly enough.
4) How has this role differed from some of your previous roles?
All of my roles are different, because they are different people. I try to pick my roles with an eye for difference. Otherwise I’d be a very bored actor. There was a time I felt stereotyped in my career and I worked hard to try to break that. I see myself as so many different things and live in difference dimensions of my soul. I aim to reveal different parts of myself through each character. So, when the role comes I look to see what is to be revealed. Amina’s character was an easy one for me, but also one of the hardest. I had to reveal my life as a single mother and the imperfect mother that doesn’t always have the answers, yet desperately tries to appear like she does to keep her family together. Her husband was deported and taken away from her. Her heart is not just broken, it’s ripped to shreds and the only solace is through her children. So many single mothers live this life, but have to exhibit strength to survive it. My challenge was Amina’s vulnerability. Kali’s character revealed my inability to trust people after they have hurt me so deeply. My childhood trauma is abandonment issues. My father wasn’t always around when I was little and that affected me deeply as an adult. I worked through that trauma through characters and Kali’s trauma seemed to almost match. Kali had some really traumatic things happen to her as a child. Abandonment is why she is over protective and shielded. So character development becomes a form of therapy, by looking at the personal life we try to lock away and instead freeing it through art.
5) The world of Darken has been briefly introduced through a companion web series on KindaTV, how would you describe the world and how it may have changed for the movie?
Darken in the eleven part series is a world before Clarity takes it over completely as a dictatorship. You get to follow some of the characters from the series into the film. It’s a continuos feeling for the audience to get attached to characters. Brilliant story telling I might say. I cannot speak to the series much, because I don’t want to ruin it for the audience goers, but I can say they are in for a crazy ride. I hope it continues after the movie ends. There’s so much going on and a lot more story lines to develop.
6) What were some of your favorite moments on set?
My favourite moments are the blooper moments. I hope they make a behind the scenes outtakes. One shoot day I planned to blow a take. I held in my shenanigans for the whole scene and it was a dramatic scene. I kept my serious face on throughout the entire take and once the last words were spoken I blew an awesome fart and held my serious face and the cast and crew went wild with laughter. I loved that I brought joy to the set. That’s my favourite thing to do. Not just fart, but bring joy lol. I believe what we are doing is making art and that should be fun.
7) I saw that you had also appeared in two of my favorite series, Lost Girl and Killjoys. What was it like being on those shows?
It was an awesome experience. Lost Girl has such a great fan base, so I was excited to work on it and play. My character was uptight and a germophobe. So I just kept reacting and hated my things touched or being touched. It was hilarious to watch her over sterilize everything. I have that kind of person in me too. I hate mess and dirty places. I especially hate seeing dog poop. I sort of panic inside when I see it and it comes from childhood memories when my grandmother tried to put bird poop on my finger to get me to stop sucking my thumb. It worked and also created a poop phobia lol. The Lost Girl crew was so nice. Killjoys was fun too. They let me do my thing and play with accents. It’s super important that artists get the freedom to play and invent. It makes us better performers. Especially in the sci-fi world where there is so much technology and different futuristic worlds with multiply dimensions.
8) You helped create Monologue Slam with Andre Newell, where did this idea come from and can you share some details about the project?
I created Monologue Slam in New York and used it as a tool to develop young students in marginalized communities. I taught children’s theatre in Brooklyn and found it was a great way to have young people write monologues based on their lived experiences and perform it on stage in a battle, using their words to affect instead of guns, knives, and fists. I took them out on field trips to different Slam competitions so they could be inspired and it worked. My classes were full and fun. My business partner Andre Newell and I designed one specifically for Canadian artists to display their talents on stage in front of a panel of judges who are industry professionals. I get to work with such powerful people behind the scenes and wanted to share my network resources with other artist looking to be discovered. So many actors have graced our stage and has booked major productions. Kristian Bruun, one of the stars of Orphan Black, was our very first Monologue Slam winner. Monologue Slam is in its 7th season, the biggest acting showcase in Canada, and still going strong. Check us out at www.toslam.com
9) You are really involved with the organization Third World Awareness, what can you tell me about your volunteer work with them?
I met a friend in the acting community and she told me about Third World Awareness that began over 20 years ago at a high school. It’s a small charity organization that goes to give help where it’s needed without trying to impose themselves on the culture. The first year I traveled with them to Haiti was just after the devastating earthquake hit in 2010. That opened my eyes to so much that I’ve never experienced before in my life. I was so scared, but I was willing to lay down my life for the Haitian people. I’ve been going to Haiti almost every year since to help out and I’m excited to go this year to unwind and connect with the Haitian people and culture. I’ve gained some incredible friends in the organizations and in Haiti. If anyone wants to get involved check out www.thirdworldawareness.org.
It will change your perspective on life.
10) On top of everything you are doing you are also working on a college degree, what are you studying and how do you balance all of that with your very active life?
Yes, I’m quite the busy bee. I have always had this kind of busy lifestyle. I had a child very young and I had to double down on my focus. So, I worked my butt off doing the jobs necessary to put food on the table, a roof over her head, and educating her to the best of my ability. I also had exceptional help from my aunt and mother. I was very lucky. Working and having multiple activities on the go has always been a way of life. When I lived in New York to attend theatre school the same practices applied. Went to school and had multiple jobs. This new chapter in my life of going back to school and having a full career is no different with the amount of work I have to do. However, it’s more driven by passion. I’m aiming for a Psychology degree and eventually a doctorate and also doing a double minor in Caribbean and African Studies to help those that are marginalized in the black communities. Mental illness is not something spoken about freely in the black community, but we are getting better at it. I believe the illness can also be genetic and the history of black people could lend to the illness. So I feel I must study black history in order to get a better scope on how to help. Psychology will also lend to my acting practice.
11) What are some of your other current and upcoming projects and can you share a little about them?
Workin’ Moms now on (CBC); the short film Guion about the first black man that travelled to space; feature film Descendant directed by Nicholas McCarthy and stars Orange is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling; Deep Six, a hyper-realistic live-action portrayal of a deep space forward operating base at a pivotal moment for humankind 250 years in our future; and feature film The Parting Glass directed by actor Stephen Moyer where I will be working alongside Anna Paquin (True Blood), Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City), Melissa Leo (The Fighter) and Denis O’Hare (Dallas Buyer’s Club). I will also be seen working with a star-studded cast including Tom Holland (Spiderman), Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Mads Mikkelsen (Rouge One: A Star Wars Story, Hannibal), Nick Jonas (Jumanji) and David Oyelowo (Selma) in the anticipated dystopian sci-fi feature film, Chaos Walking directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow).
I can’t speak on these project too much, but I’m so grateful to be working with all these incredibly talented artists. Seeds have been planted and should come to full bloom within the year.
Follow me on Instagram @olunikeadeliyi @olunikefitness to get updates on what’s to come. Also, follow me on Twitter @olunike.
Thank you to Olunike Adeliyi for her responses and sharing so much about herself with me.
Share your thoughts with us in the comments or on Twitter, @thenerdygirlexp. You can find me on Twitter, @kleffnotes, on my blog, kleffnotes.wordpress.com, on my kleffnotes YouTube channel, and I run The Nerdy Girl Express Snapchat, thenerdygirlexp.
*Photo courtesy of Rotimi Adeliyi*