Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Weruche Opia: “I almost turned down I May Destroy You because of the threesome scene”

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Weruche Opia is joy itself. The actress best known to most for her Bafta-nominated performance in the 2020s i can destroy you, Beaming through the screen from LA. Almost every anecdote she tells sends her into a throaty, throaty cackle that borders on tears. She sings some of her sentences rather than says them. She sets accents. Her hair is styled in a straight bob, but don’t let that fool you. She wears gold hoop earrings, shiny pink lip gloss and a tie-dyed Coachella t-shirt. “When I saw that top I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is so LA!'” she says, giggling helplessly.

The 34-year-old Londoner is in Glendale, Los Angeles to film the Ben Stiller-produced Apple series high desert, a comedy starring Patricia Arquette as a recovering addict who becomes a private investigator after the death of her mother. “I love it here because it’s right by the shops, and that’s my cardio,” she says happily. “I buy things and then I take them back and then I buy things and then I keep one or two things and then I buy things…” Laughter erupts.

Given Opia’s temperament, it’s no surprise she seeks joy on screen. But she couldn’t find it in her twenties. In 2013 she played a drug dealer in a gangland drama in London top boy. The following year in Jack Whitehall’s teacher comedy Bad Education, She played a hostile, sharp-tongued teenager who claimed to have been kicked out of 12 schools. It was only her work in Nollywood that opened her eyes to “Stories of Successful Black People I Want to Tell”: Her first role in the Nigerian film industry was a starring role as a wedding planner in the 2014 rom-com when love happens

“After I did it top boy and Bad Education, everyone thought I could just do urban stories and rude girls, and that was it,” she says. “Central London, council life. One dimensional black women only. Same trope, same sad story choked out over and over again. I was tired of it, and if anything involved drugs or violence or wasn’t positive toward Blacks and Black women, I didn’t want to do it anymore. I felt that playing the cheeky girl would put me in a cliché I couldn’t get out of. So I made a conscious effort to find positive roles. Not always a sob story. How about a redemption story? Or something nice? Not always trauma. Sometimes joy.”

Opia’s latest role is a real departure from her work a decade ago. In the ITV drama Our house, Opia plays Merle, a middle-class mother whose neighbor and friend (Tuppence Middleton) comes home one day to find her husband gone, all the furniture gone, and a family moving into their house. The series – an adaptation of Louise Candlish’s bestseller – is set in East Dulwich, or Nappy Valley as locals in south London call it. “I’m getting to that time in life where I can look a little bit like a mom,” says Opia. “I wanted to play an adult once and see what that feels like and be seen in a light that isn’t ‘young, drug-taking Londoner.'” She likes the shows Doctor Foster Feeling. “I thought, ‘Yeah, give me some of that,'” she says, clapping. “I love a good UK mystery thriller vibe.”

But the show that changed everything for Opia was I can destroy you Michaela Coel’s earth-shattering consent drama. Ironically, it was Opia’s role as Terry, an actress struggling to land fulfilling roles, that broke this pattern herself. “It was art imitating life,” she says. “I’ve been her so many times.” Terry is best friends with Coel’s Arabella, who is raped one night (Coel bases Arabella on herself and her own sexual assault experiences). “Your birth is my birth, your death is my death,” Terry and Arabella say to each other throughout the series, holding hands. “They say you only need one job to change everything,” says Opia. “i can destroy you was this task for me. Sometimes I think I almost turned it down. And how different life would have been.”

Opia, who is a staunch Christian and prefers not to act out any nude or sex scenes, considered dropping out of the project over a sequence where Terry has a threesome while on vacation with two men who unbeknownst to her knew each other all along and had planned to sleep with her. After two auditions and a chemistry read with Coel, Opia was told about the scene. “I read it and I was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I can really do this.’ I would do PG sex scenes but nothing explicit. My agent asked me if I was okay with the possibility that they could cast someone else. And I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m comfortable with that. It’s my choice and my belief that I don’t want to do this and I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. I knew I had to stick to my guns and I honestly believed that what was mine would be mine.”

Four months passed and while Opia was filming a pilot in Virginia, she received a call from her agent offering the part and a body double for the sex scene. Opia chose her own proxy and was present with an intimacy coordinator when the scene was filmed. “I always thought body doubles were for Scarlett Johansson and huge, huge stars,” she says, “so when I got the opportunity to have one, it was amazing. I really say hello to Michaela and the whole team.”

I can destroy you Winner of 33 industry awards, including two Emmys and two Baftas, compelled people around the world to question past sexual experiences that they may not have realized were non-consensual or problematic. “That was the beauty and heartbreaking thing about it,” says Opia. “Beautiful in the sense that it has brought some healing, heartbreaking in the sense that there are so many people who have gone through similar traumatic experiences and didn’t realize they had this burden of guilt and responsibility when it was absolutely not theirs.” is to blame. So many people have reached out to me to say it was life changing and there was an experience in my life that I processed differently. It definitely brought healing to me as well.”

Opia remains close friends with Coel – on New Year’s Eve the two partied together in Lagos, Nigeria, where Opia grew up. Daughter of a mother of a TV presenter and an academic, Opia moved with her family to Thamesmead, south-east London, at the age of 13. “It was an interesting time to be black, young and from a different culture,” she says. “We were in London for the summer holidays so I knew it well, but it wasn’t until I lived here that I began to understand how everyone stayed within their own culture. I didn’t know anything about racism until I moved to the UK. At that age I settled in quickly and understood how things work.”

In her elementary school plays in Nigeria, Opia always starred and she did performances for her mother at home. When it came time to apply to university, she knew she wanted to do acting and had a cousin at Bristol University, so she made plans to go there. Instead, she accidentally applied to the University of the West of England in the same city and did what she describes as a “terrible” degree with a disaffected teacher. When she left three years later, she had read many plays but hardly acted. Opia then studied part-time at London’s Identity School of Acting in Brixton, where she was in a class with John Boyega and Letitia Wright. She had finally found her place. “It may have been a crooked path, but I got here,” she says. “And I’m so glad I went to Identity and not your typical full-time acting school.”

She remembers talking to Coel and her people i can destroy you Co-star Paapa Essiedu on her experience of studying at a traditional institution. “They both went to Guildhall,” says Opia. “They were two of only three black people in the entire school. When I hear their stories I sometimes think I don’t want to hear any of it, it sounds traumatic.” She bursts out laughing happily. “Don’t kill my vibe, please.” I don’t think they could if they tried.

“Our House” opens on Monday March 7th at 9pm on ITV

Read more from LatestPageNews‘s Rising Stars interviews here and keep up to date with our TV content @TheIndyTV



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