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Playing role of 12-year old girl in Hear Word, most challenging –Oluchi Odii

Hu g e l y talented, versatile, creative, focused and inspirational, these are the words that easily describe Oluchi Odii, one of the leading fast-rising Nigerian actors. She is also always delivering topnotch performances, whether on stage or screen, which explains why she is one of the highly sought-after actresses for stage and screen. Singer, song writer, composer and an actor with extraordinary talent, she has featured in several stage plays, films and television drama series. She starred as ‘Tsefino’ in Africa Magic’s newest telenovela, ‘Riona’, which was recently nominated for ‘Best African Magic epic series’ at the prestigious AMVCA (African Magic Viewers’ Choice Award).

Before that she starred in the telenovela series ‘Casino’. She is a cast member, music composer and performer of some songs in Nigeria’s first ever Full Length Animated movie ‘Lady Buckit and the Motley Mobsters’ in Nigeria on Netflix where she played Elsie. The movie was nominated for seven awards and won awards at the AMAA (Africa Movie Academy Award) and AFFRIFF (Africa International Film Festival) for best full length animated movie. She is a past contestant of MTN Project Fame season 8 and Nigerian idol Season 5. She was the lead vocalist at the viral airport (Murtala Mohammed Airport) rendition of ‘Emi ma Biko’ by the Hear word cast alongside Ajoke Sylvia, Taiwo Ajai Lycett, Elvina Ibru, Ufuoma McDermott, Zara Udofia Ejoh, Omonor, Debbie Ohiri, Rita Edward and Odenike Odetola. She featured in a short film titled ‘Jungle’ that has been selected at various festivals like the AFFRIFF, Northern Wave International film Festival and a host of others. She has also starred in stage plays across Nigeria and Germany, United States, Scotland, Ghana, and Liberia).

These plays include musicals such as ‘Hear Word’ and ‘Love and Recession’ produced and directed by Ifeoma Fafunwa, ‘Legends the Musical’, ‘Oluronmbi the musical’, produced and directed by Bolanle Austin Peters, ‘Heartbeat the Musical’, ‘Ada the Country, ‘Sisi Pelebe, Ini the musical, and a host of other amazing plays. Odii was recently featured on ‘Inside Africa’ (CNN) as a practicing thespian where she shared her life and her work as a singer and an actor. She has also been featured on several other published works on paper and on screen.

She also features on a Netflix series ‘Smart Money Woman’. Significantly, Odii is a past student of the prestigious Identity School of Acting in London. She has theatrical experience across the world and has performed at various festivals including the Edinburg International Festival in Edinburg. She has performed in United States of America, Germany, Ghana, Liberia, Edinburg and Senegal and in many cities in Nigeria. Oluchi was decorated by Chioma Ajunwa with the replica of the Olympic gold medal won by Chioma Ajunwa herself after playing the role of Chioma in a musical ‘Chioma Ajunwa the musical’.

For her, acting, singing and song writing come naturally. But for someone, who holds a masters degree in Animal Products and Processing from the University of Ibadan, and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), where and how did the performing arts come to the fore? You ask. “First of all, my love for agriculture started when I was in SS 2 at Federal Government College, Odogbolu, because then I realised that agriculture was easy for me to understand, and I could visualize and see the practical form. It made it easier for me to understand. And even when I was writing my exam because of the things I had seen, I can easily write about it. And I won’t fail my exam because it is something that I can understand. So, that was why I picked interest in agriculture.

Singing, song writing and acting

That kicked off when I went for ‘MTN Project Fame Season 8’ and the ‘Nigerian Idols’.

That was in 2015, and that was where my interest in music started, because I knew I could sing. I think I discovered my singing talent when I was in SS2. Of course, I could sing normally but I think it dawned on me when I was in SS2 that I could actually sing very well. So, I went in for MTN Project Fame and then went in for Nigerian Idols. That was when I started taking singing formally as a career, as a source of income for me.

You emerged Project Fame Season 8. Tell us how that also shaped your career as singer, songwriter and actress.

I went in for the auditions in Ibadan in 2015, and I was called to come to Lagos where the studio was. It was there that I met Aunty Joke Silva. So she was the one who actually introduced me to theatre. She told to attend an audition for a stage play, ‘Heartbeat The Musical’. I attended the audition and I got a role in it. That was where my acting career started in 2015, and that was when I decided that maybe, I should go into acting professionally. And because theatre is a combination of music, dance and drama, it just made more sense to me that I could actually combine them together and gain satisfaction. That’s how I’ve continued and I have never stopped.

Did you really set out to become an actor from the onset?

I actually was to be a singer; acting came in later on. I liked to act, but music for me, was my first love. I wanted to be able to compose music and be a performer, before I was introduced into acting. And, of course, because music is also a form of art, so it just made more sense to do that as well.

How about animal products and processing, have you put that aside having found your rhythm in the arts?

To be honest, I have put that on hold just for a period of time, because agriculture is something that demands a lot of capital so you need to raise a reasonable amount of capital for you to be able run agriculture. But it is not something that I have left aside because there’s also money in agriculture and food processing and I intend to exploit every bit of it.

You have featured in several films and television drama series. Which of them do you find most challenging and why?

I think, playing the role of Tsefino in the African Magic drama series ‘Riona’ was quite challenging.It was a very intense character that I could not just imitate. And because it was an intense character, I needed to do a lot of work emotionally, physically, and I had to go back to my books, because it was at the same time that I was undergoing training in the School of Acting in London. So, it was challenging because it was not a typical role that I usually play. This was the role of a strong female warrior, the daughter of a warrior. That demanded more work for me. So I’ll say that is the most challenging work So far.

You’ve also featured in several stages in several stage drama productions, especially musicals, such as ‘Heartbeat The Musical’, ‘Olurombi’, ‘Ada The Country’, ‘Hear Word’.

It’s been fabulous. It’s like a dream come true because I am doing what I really love to do, and not just doing it but I am getting paid for doing it. It is fulfilling; and year after year, month after month, I keep going through the process of being an actor; not just an actor but a stage actor. So it’s been a wonderful experience for me.

So, which of these musicals did you find most challenging and why?

I think it’s me playing the character of a 12 year old girl in ‘Hearword’. The name of the character is ‘Dodo’. That, for me, is my most challenging role because, first of all, I had to immerse myself in the character. Even though I’m over 30 years of age, I had to now play it like a 12-year old. Secondly, it’s emotionally draining and emotionally demanding for me because this is a girl who was molested and for you to put yourself in that shoe, is a lot. I think that’s my most challenging role so far.

You played the character in a stage play titled ‘Speaking Out’ and acting alongside Onyeka Onwenu, Patience Ozokwo, and Kate Henshaw. Tell us your experience working with them…

It was like a dream come true because these are women that I watched growing up. So to be on the same stage with them was fascinating for me. And knowing that these women have been in this space, this industry for a very long time, was inspiring form me. And it became more like a lesson for me; they taught me life lesson to always be steadfast, focused and remember that there is a brighter future ahead for me. So, it was an inspiring experience.

Any plans to release a single or album this year?

Alongside theatre, I have also been doing music in collaboration with some of my friends. But I am going to release an EP this year.

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