Olayode Juliana never believed that she would one day act alongside her screen idol, Funke Akindele. That explains her joy when she was chosen to act as Toyosi in the acclaimed TV series, Jenifa’s Diary. In this chat, she speaks more on how she clinched the major role. Excerpts…
How did you find yourself on the set of Jenifa’s Diary?
I always say that it’s a miracle because I just went for the auditions like every other person. The audition was supposed to start by 10’o clock but I got there around 8am thinking that I was very early, but I was number 273 on the list. I was so surprised because the crowd was so much and at a point, I felt like going back home, but my mum encouraged me to stay. When I got into the audition room, I saw Aunty Funke, the director and some other people that were auditioning.
I read the script, though I was nervous because I knew that a lot of people had auditioned before me, so I wasn’t really expecting anything. After the audition, they said they’ll get back to me, and I said okay because that’s what everybody says. Then Aunty Funke promised to call every one of us that even if we don’t get major roles, we will all appear on Jenifa’s diary. And so far so good, she has kept to her words because so many people who did not get major roles have appeared in the series one way or the other.
How did you feel on the day you were called back to appear in the series?
Like I said earlier, I wasn’t expect the call at all because after the first audition, we were called back three other times to appear for script reading, so it was competitive because there were many people reading for the role of Toyosi. However, at the end of the day, I got the role and I was moved to tears. Aunty Funke then hugged me, and asked why I was crying. I told her that I didn’t believe I would get the role, that I just tried it for the experience.
Is this your first time on set?
I’ve been on about four sets, but Jenifa’s Diary was, and is still a big deal to me because I love Aunty Funke so much. I have watched all the Jenifa movies, and I admire her so much. Being on set with her has been so amazing.
How has the experience been like working with her?
She is an amazing person, because she respects you no matter the role you’re playing, and how big or small you are. She loves making everybody happy, and she’s also a disciplinarian. She gives advice, and she wants to assist in everything. She helps the make-up artist, and she sometimes helps to fuel the generator just to make sure that everything is going right.
How do you find her character, Jenifa?
Jenifa is very hilarious. She could be lousy, but she is also a very loyal person. She is funny but at the same time you can learn a lot from her character. She is someone who is a hustler, and she wants to make it big. She is also caring; sometimes, Toyosi gets home tired and Jenifa would have already prepared her food. Basically, Jenifa is not just a funny character, it’s a character that people should watch out for and learn a lot from.
Would you like to have Jenifa as a friend in real life?
It’s a yes and no for me. Yes, because she is honest, loyal and caring. No, because it’s difficult to put Jenifa in her place; she always wants to be in everyone’s business, whether or not she is called.
Some of the things treated in the series are funny but do you think they are close to reality?
Everything in Jenifa’s Diary is realistic. A couple of times, some people say is there anybody in the world that speaks the kind of bad English Jenifa speaks. But recently, I met somebody who spoke even worse English than Jenifa. We were communicating and she said something that made me think this is Jenifa for real. Many of the characters in Jenifa’s Diary can be found in people out there.
What has being on Jenifa’s Diary changed about you?
It has brought fame, because sometimes, I walk out of my house and people walk up to me saying they know me. And when I go to church just wanting to be myself, people also come to me. Since so many people are big fans of Jenifa, they always like to watch the show, and they get to see other characters and the people playing them. Acting as Toyosi has taught me to be patient and tolerant because she tolerates Jenifa so much.