Quick Talk with Funke Akindele-Bello, Akin Lewis, Eku Edewor on ‘Your Excellency’

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Cast on the set of ‘Your Excellency

Vanessa Obioha

Recently, the cast of the upcoming EbonyLife Films production ‘Your Excellency’ gathered in Lagos to share their experience working on the Mo Abudu produced film. Set for cinemas on December 13, the film which is premised on the impact of social media in the political landscape today will be having its premiere on Sunday, December 8. As with every Abudu’s production, the premiere’s dress code is ‘The Inauguration Ball’ is bruited about online and offline. It is expected to be one of the fashionable movie premieres of the year.

‘Your Excellency’ tells the story of a boisterous billionaire businessman and failed presidential candidate, Olalekan Ajadi who becomes a credible contender when his dance moves and gaffes ignite social media. The intrigues and intricacies involved in making his dream come true is advertised as the trump card of the film co-written by Abudu. The film also parades a rich list of actors like veteran actor Akin Lewis, Bimbo Manuel, Shaffy Bello, Kunle Coker,Osas Ighodaro, Eku Edewor, Ikechukwu Onunaku, Deyemi Okanlawon among others.

The film marks the feature film directorial debut for Funke Akindele-Bello who is famous for comedy drama TV series ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ and more recently ‘Aiyetoro Town’. Having cut her teeth in TV production, handling a bigger set was not an easy walk in the park for the director who also acted in the film.

“From the angles shot and other technical creativity involved, directing a film is more serious than TV series,” she said.

What was more challenging for the filmmaker is the ability to work outside her comfort zone. Having spent most of her years working in her studio and producing content, ‘Your Excellency’ was a litmus test for her to determine how accommodating she could be on set. One of the things she disclosed she learnt on set was to be open to learn from others.

For a long while, Akindele-Bello had toyed with the idea of directing her feature film. But then, Abudu beat her to it by offering her the opportunity to direct the film. She commended the EbonyLife founder for not only encouraging her to take the leap of faith but also building a support system for women in the industry.

Lewis plays the lead character Ajadi. He described his character as a “boisterous billionaire who is so full of life. He actually enjoys life. Every four years he comes out to contest for the presidency but eventually fails. Yet he moves on.”

One of the things that attracted him to the character is his honest disposition.

“He is a Nigerian politician and he is honest. He really wants to be a president but he is honest. That really got me.”

It is a trait he said that is lacking in our politicians today. He sees his character as an embodiment of different politicians, which in a way placed an emotional demand on him.

“Ajadi is a potpourri of politicians that I know that have been put together. It takes the grace of God to enable you to bring it to life. It took a lot from me. Four weeks of intense work. Sometimes you don’t get home till midnight.”

Nevertheless, he is very proud of the production. He predicts that the movie will be the best production of the year.

“And I’m not saying it because I acted in it. It is one of those films that puts Nigeria out there in a lot of ways. You will see the culture, the dressing, you will see the honesty in the main character who wants to change Nigeria.”

Lewis is full of praise for Akindele-Bello. He willingly gave her an A for her directorial efforts.

“Funke did a good job. She puts everything in it. It shows that when you have talent, you have talent. She has done a lot of work on TV. She has done a lot of work on films but not as a director. Actors are the best directors because we understand all the nuances and intricacies,” he concluded.

Model and TV host Edewor played a part that was synonymous with her real-life profession, TV presenter. Only that, her character reports hard news. Another semblance of her character to her persona is the name. Her fictional character is called Eki. The last letter is the only difference between the name and her original first name.

The similarities in no way made her job a simple one.

“Even if you are playing a character that is similar to who you are in reality, you still have to show that you are acting. You still want to show that you are bringing something new and refreshing to the character so that the audience can relate with it. Eki is a hard news presenter and I am in reality a soft news presenter, so the way I approached her was with a lot more formality, not so much fun. She is more about getting the nitty gritty details of news events.”

She disclosed that she was particularly attracted to the plot of the story.

“I was very excited with this because when I read it, it was a real page turner. I love the way that they wanted to make a lot of social commentary in a way that was fun. They dealt with topics that are serious and relevant but made them easy to digest. I think that it is also a good way to tell stories at times, because we don’t want to go to the cinemas sometimes and feel that we are morally taught. So sometimes when you have messages that are packaged nicely just like the dangers of social media and the impact that it has had, people can watch, learn and laugh about it.”

For rapper and actor Ikechukwu, his character John played a supporting role.

“John happens to be the appointed campaign manager by the political party the main character is allied to. The party tried to utilise me as a spy within.” He calls his character a demolisher of democracy.

On the import of social media driven political satire, Ikechukwu said that the film shows how dictating social media is in society today.

“It is the new order of the day.”

‘Your Excellency’ is expected to follow the box office successes of ‘The Wedding Party’, and ‘Chief Daddy’ which are also productions of EbonyLife Films.