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Okawa Shaznay Actress talks biggest challenge, getting a good role in Nollywood, upcoming projects

In an extensive interview with Pulse Nigeria, Cameroonian actress, Okawa Shaznay, also spoke about the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian Film Industry.

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Okawa Shaznay play Okawa Shaznay

Okawa Shaznay is an actress who is popular for her role in "Iyore," "Delilah," "Refugees," "Cheaters Vacation," "Sisters at War" among others.

In an exclusive chat with Pulse Nigeria, the Cameroon-born actress spoke about the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian Film Industry.

She also spoke about breaking into the Nigerian film industry, her definition of a good film, getting a good role in Nollywood among other interesting topics.

play Okawa Shaznay and Ramsey Nouah "Soul Tie"


On biggest career challenge;

My biggest career challenge has got to be in the period when I moved to Nigeria sometime in 2013. I had to understand my surrounding and the people ; basically getting acquainted with Nigerian living because I felt it will play a big part in the film roles I'll play.

As being in Nollywood, it is normal to find scripts written from a Nigerian perspective. So understanding the country I now live in was very important which wasn't easy back then when I first moved here as it is now years later.

On branching into directing or screenwriting;

I have never considered directing or screenwriting as of yet. Will I in the future? Maybe; more so in directing. I can see myself doing that years later but not after going to school and training extensively for it.

I feel directing is a delicate part of filmmaking which should not be rushed into. But I would say I have considered producing in the future but as of now, I am fully concentrating on being an actor first for a while before I meddle into that area of filmmaking.

Okawa Shaznay play

Okawa Shaznay

On what her ELOY award means to her as an actress;

It was indeed an honour winning the Eloy award for best TV actress for my role in the  "Delilah" TV series. That was my first award I won in Nigeria and I felt some sense of validation coming from a personal perspective, because here I am a non-Nigerian who is following her dreams in Nollywood.

So winning the award validated that am on the right track as I have given myself some personal goals I need to achieve in this industry and more so, being nominated in the first place shows that people within the industry are aware of my work which is a good thing.

On the difference between the Nigerian and Cameroonian  film industry;

The only time I filmed in Cameroon was back in 2004 before I travelled for school and i have not permanently lived there ever since, so I may not be able to give a better analysis on how the movie industry is in Cameroon.

But from a general perspective after attending the Cameroon International Film Festival last year, I would say the big difference between the two industries is that Cameroon is at a stage where people are exploring and taking risks in making movies which I applaud, but with little or no distribution channels within the country.

I feel that is a major challenge in the Cameroonian film industry if the movies being made are not able to penetrate into a vast majority of the homes across the country.

More so, there is a need for cinemas to promote a strong film culture within Cameroon, but without these, it is difficult for a lot of people to have access to the movies made in Cameroon.

I find these the major difference between both industries- the distribution factor that is, which I hope should be looked into.

play Okawa Shaznay at the 2017 AMVCAs


On how difficult it is to find a good role in Nollywood;

In general, I would not say it is difficult, but it definitely takes hard work and determination to find good roles in Nollywood; as you can see in recent years based on some great movies which have been released, we find that there are actually good roles which come from great writing and producing as well.

Now getting the good roles will have to come with how well you've carved a niche for yourself in regards to the type roles you've had in the past and the ability to network within the industry.

More so, I find that if you are not getting good roles or roles In general; actors are getting into the production aspect of filmmaking to create these opportunities for themselves which is a big plus.

If you look across Nollywood today people have created big brands by producing movies themselves to have those roles they desire. So, in my opinion, I generally do not think that it is more of being difficult in finding good roles, but rather more on focus and networking in the right channels.

On what she wouldn't do as an actress;

For me, I would not compromise certain personal attributes for a role I don't feel comfortable portraying. Not in terms of how challenging the role is per say, but more on personal grounds psychologically.

On her definition of a great film;

To me, a great film is defined first by the script. I believe if you have a great script you are on the right track. But then again, you must have a good director to bring the best vision for the film through good actors and crew who must also understand the script and the director's vision.

Once this is achieved, a great film will be created which should give a lasting impression to its audience regardless of what genre the film is.

On how she gets into character;

When I get a script I, first of all, ignore the role I am to play by first reading the script to get the general idea of the story, then I later connect the role I am to play to see how it contributes to the story and how it connects to the other characters within the story.

Then I do my character analysis for my role to know my character's background ( just to know if I need to study some new attributes that are not usually my person and create certain mannerisms for the character ) and also to know how her actions in each scene connects to the next scene to give the perfect reaction to the various situations.

Simply put, I constantly note what my character did when u last saw her in the script to determine what to do in the next scene when you see her again.

So before I get on set, I must have read the script multiple times and I also have to know what the director's vision is for the character I am playing.

play Okawa Shaznay in "Iyore"

On difference between acting for film and TV, and which she prefers;

Films are different from Tv series in that it takes less time in doing principal photography for a film than it will be for a TV series which has a lot more hours through its many episodes.

It is tricky to choose which I prefer because it will depend on probably a personal situation I find myself in; if I want to be more stable by just concentrating on doing a TV series or to explore different characters through films.

At the moment, I prefer films because I enjoy being different characters, then again in a sense where it has to do with a TV series like the case of the only TV series "Delilah" I have done, I prefer filming in seasons whereby you go on a shoot for one season and go on a break, and months later you come back to shoot the next season which gives you time to explore different acting opportunities rather than in a situation where you have to film a bulk of episodes for the same character for like a whole year or even more for the very long TV series which doesn't go in seasons.


On actresses she has learnt from or wishes to work with;

There are so many actresses I have learnt from and that I certainly admire ranging from Viola Davis, Sarah Paulson, Rita Dominic, Eva Green and others, even from my peers.

I find that they all have unique approaches to being in character which you see through their performances. I learn everyday from watching and researching, then I add my own unique attributes in bringing out my craft.

On her acting career;

In essence, my acting career has been a journey for me. From a very young age back in the 90s when I watched my first set of Nigerian movies/soap operas growing up in Cameroon like "Glamour girls", "Scores to settle", "After the storm" etc.

I always knew I wanted to be an actor and I grew to really admire the movie industry in Nigeria over the years because to me I feel like the entertainment hub as far as Africa is concerned is in Nigeria.

So many years later after deciding that it was finally time to come here and follow my passion in acting, I have found the journey quite tasking but rewarding at the same time.

It is not easy but you have to keep your head up and push through because in the end, determination and hard work pays and most importantly the love for the craft brings joy.

I am humbled by the opportunities I have received and grateful for the talented Nigerians I have worked alongside within the industry.

My very first film I shot in Nigeria was "Iyore" alongside Rita Dominic and Joseph Benjamin.

It was a stepping stone to a lot of things I worked on after that especially on the series "Delilah" which is now currently being broadcasted dubbed in French across Francophone countries in Africa. I am grateful for the platform that has placed me in the homes of many to entertain them.

It can only be better onward by the grace of God and I look forward to seeing how my acting career unfolds through the years.

Omar Captan Shariff, Okaway Shaznay play

Omar Captan Shariff, Okaway Shaznay


On upcoming projects;

Yes, I am on the set of an Africa Magic commissioned movie which I am really excited about. Also, I will soon go on the set for season 4 of "Delilah" .

I also have new things coming out this year - a two cast period piece will be released soon titled "Soul Tie" with Ramsey Nouah and myself, Season 3 of "Delilah" will be out most likely in June this year as well.

Also, the movies "Crossed Path" with Ken Erics and "Perfect Strangers" with Desmond Elliott and Segun Arinze came out earlier this year online on IROKOtv . So far so good by God's grace I am pushing through.

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