Genoveva Umeh: I’m a Natural Entertainer; I’m Inspired By People’s Stories


Nollywood has birthed a fresh face in Genoveva Umeh, a young actress who gets her breakout role in “Blood Sisters”, a new Netflix and EbonyLife Studios production. Genoveva shares her acting journey, background and experience on set of the movie in this chat with Ferdinand Ekechukwu

Getting started in Nollywood

I was studying Law in 2014 and I became interested in Nollywood, because I started watching films shot by Nigerians in Nigeria. I had worked closely with the UK media consultant, DJ Abass as an usher for Nollywood London premieres.  During Q/A sessions, I’d ask the filmmakers about working in Nigeria. I had connected with a few filmmakers who then gave me background acting opportunities. I sent audition tapes for casting calls to Nigerian producers. I was even invited to an audition for Ebonylife’s ‘On The Real’. Unfortunately travelling to Nigeria for an audition in the middle of my studies wasn’t an option for me at the time. I got my first lead role in a series shot in Enugu. That was when I decided I wanted to tell authentic African stories.  I returned to Lagos, to pursue my acting career, right after my graduation in 2018. I didn’t have a family home in Lagos, so it was the most daring thing I’d ever done, but it was worth risk!

Auditioning and Getting Casted

I enrolled into Ebonylife Creative Academy for some acting training in early 2021 as part of their first intake. Honestly, I’d lost a lot of confidence in myself and the 2020 pandemic meant I hadn’t worked for months. I’d also lost a big acting opportunity in the same year too so I was looking for a safe space to reinvent myself & how I approach my career moving forward. In the three month course, our Head of Acting, Drikus Volschenk, made sure that we knew to bet on ourselves. All faculties collaborated on a few short films, Kenneth Gyang, HOD of the Directing faculty at the time, noticed my work and recommended me to the CEO of EbonyLife Media, Mo Abudu. I had to audition for the character ‘Timeyin’ in two days. After my audition, I received the offer letter for the character of Timeyin. It was dream come true because I grew up watching Nollywood films in my house in Enugu State, and as a young adult in university I started actively working to be a part of telling authentic African stories.

Experience Filming Blood Sisters

I had the time of my life working on the set of Blood Sisters. I remember sitting in our first table read and thinking how incredibly blessed I was to be working with acting legends and heavyweights that I’d either grown up watching and some that I had observed build their brand solely on the integrity of their craft. My Directors, Mr. Biyi Bandele and Kenneth Gyang were open to my opinions before we shot each scene; I enjoyed the relationship of trust and flexibility that came with filming Blood Sisters. I loved getting in makeup, SFX and costume to help embody my character’s aura and personality. I looked forward to each day. I didn’t want the shoot to end.

Hardest Decision Made to Pursue a Career in Nollywood

The hardest decision was being away from my family and friends for long periods of time. I miss my little brother (sorry – teen brother), he better not catch me calling him little), as well as my two god-daughters. Thankfully, I am able to catch up with them via video calls.  However, it is still a major adjustment, to be physically away from them. My family is proud of me and they understand my career.  I have also had the honour of developing some lasting friendships in Nigeria, so I never feel too alone. 

Training and Previous Experiences 

Drama was my favourite class in high school. At 17, I wanted to get more training and fortunately, I was accepted into Identity School of Acting, in the UK. I trained there for a term and was able to pay for my upkeep, as a retailer at Primark.  My parents are first generation immigrants, which means, formal education is a must, so I was skeptical about studying Drama as an undergrad.  Although I loved acting, I thought of it as a hobby, and studied Law instead. I performed on stage in a lot of theatre plays, watched a lot of films and read articles on filmmaking.

The Umehs Support to My Acting Pursuits

My Parents are beautiful, Igbo people from Anambra State. My Dad is a Computer Engineer and my mum is a registered nurse. We migrated permanently to London, UK in 2006. I have a 13 year-old-brother. As a kid, my parents encouraged my creative personality from church contemporary dances, to winning dance competitions at children’s parties. As an Adult, they trust me to work hard. They are my biggest fans and I feel protected by their prayers and countless face time conversations of encouragement.  My friends think that I’m as free spirited as my parents, because my parents taught me to embrace being the best of African and Black British. My Igbo name is Kenechukwu, which means ‘To thank God’.  My Dad calls me ‘Orginal K’. My Parents are my favourite people in the world and I want to reward them for the sacrifices they consistently make for us.  

If Genoveva Wasn’t an Actor

A TV Presenter; I’m a natural entertainer. I’m inspired by people’s stories. I want to know how people, especially women, break glass ceilings against all odds. It keeps me motivated and in high spirits. I might still explore having my own show, one day.

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