Photographer: Irvin Rivera, sylist: Hema Persad, make up: Anton Khachaturian, hair: Alexander Armand

By now you’ve probably had your belly full of laughs from the surprise October hit, Venom. I had the chance to chat with a Genevieve Magazine favourite, Sope Aluko, who, following her role in a little film called Black Panther back in February, is back in yet another record-breaking blockbuster, where she plays a Nigerian scientist opposite Tom Hardy, Riz Ahmed, Jenny Slate and more. We chopped it up about Black Panther 1 (and 2?), handling rejection, overcoming Venom’s initially less-than-stellar reviews and more.

First of all, congratulations! You have yet another successful marvel film in the bank. Venom has broken records for October and basically, that is back to back for you. How does that feel?

Actually, it feels quite surreal. Sometimes, you think of these things hoping they would happen in a year or two and nothing happens, but then suddenly they both happen in a year and I feel so glad and encouraged. I’m beside myself and very thankful to God

On a more personal level, post-Black Panther, do you find that it has influenced the roles you’ve been offered and has it in anyway informed the roles that you go after as well?
It is a combination of both. I’ve put in the work and the sweat. I’ve gone in for so many roles and just had the knock down and It was nice to finally get something in the form of Black Panther as an affirmation of what I do as an Actor. Black panther has equally given me the opportunity to speak. I’m now a speaker at different engagements, which was something I was very shy of. I’m very nervous about speaking in public. The summary is that God has given me the platform to speak; taught me about my fears, which is what has really gotten me through in the industry because it is still very hard. I have to be completely honest, which I am whenever I speak to the youths and people who just see this shining light and would want to get into the industry. I tell them it’s the hardest industry and one of the hardest professions. You deal with the rejection and constant tear down people will tell you to ignore but at some point it starts to affect you especially when you have tried your hardest.

I’m quite cautious of the roles because I want to make sure I maintain a certain level of persona to the youth and people who are looking at me. I take it a lot more seriously now because I know there is a wider audience now and I want to make sure I put my best foot forward and that I’m a good representative as an African, a Nigerian, a Black Woman, a mother and a wife and as so many things that we are up against in this industry.

I’m just done just picking up on what you said about the dealing with rejection and the constant tear down and sort of being open to the element of critique. Venom did begin with quite a lot of unfair reviews from the critics. As a filmmaker and an actor, when you see reviews like that about your film, how does that make you feel and how do you get over that feeling?

It is funny you should mention this because the director [Ruben Fleischer] while we were still filming and with all the pressure of filming, he asked me if I thought the picture would do well. I told him it was actually going to do well because he was at the helm of it and that he was fantastic at what he does. Honestly, I think that’s what you keep telling yourself. You cannot give in and listen to the critics. I woke up that morning and after having my quiet time with the Lord, I was reassured that it was going to be successful. The premiere was meant to be October 3rd and then it was moved to October 1st. I woke up that morning and realised it was Nigeria‘s a Independence Day and I was playing a Nigerian character in this film. Another thing, I had auditioned as a British character and a Nigerian character but the Director at the last minute said he wanted me to play the Nigerian role. So here I am, on Nigeria’s Independence Day, playing a Nigerian role and even wearing a Nigerian Designer that day. So for me, it was an affirmation that it was going to be great. So what I did was to keep thanking God for giving me that confirmation and I just held on to what God said about the movie and not what others had to say and it turned out successful. The diversity of the characters in the movie was spectacular, certain roles you expected a white person, you rather got an Asian person [Riz Ahmed, in the role of villain, Carlton Drake] and you got me. We had British, Nigerian and Asian characters and I saw an article on Twitter that said it was the most diverse audience that there have been so far and that speaks volumes. Again just like Black Panther, people thought black money wasn’t big enough but we all know that black money is big enough [and] so is diverse money. It really goes to show that there is a shift in Hollywood where the audience are really picky with their dollars and I just feel that this is just going to create a shift because it is really about the box and the dollar

It is interesting to note that the clear disparity between the critics consensus and the audience’s consensus – in this case a rather clear divide – shows that the audience is now very actively using their own voice and forming their own opinions and not being influenced by what is out there and that’s such a great shift.

I just think that everything is defying the odds and it is not traditional anymore. We’ve got the Netflix, the Hulu, Apple TV… and it is doing great because everybody is now not just looking at cable TV. There is a clear disparity, you got a TV in front of you while someone seated next to you already downloaded 10 episodes of a movie on Netflix and is watching it at their leisure time. Everybody is streaming and not just the millennials. The content is now different and It just shows that there is a shift in traditional media to non-traditional media. The fact that I can binge-watch my movies is incredible. The public is speaking for themselves and they have a bigger voice and I feel the future is to get on with the trend.

One of my biggest surprises with Venom was how funny it actually was and I don’t think a lot of people who went in for it thought it was going to be that way. It sort of created a balance between comedy and the action-packed nature of it. What drew you to the film?
If you’ve noticed, Marvel has that comedy gig part of it in all the Marvel films.At first everybody was worried about Tom Hardy – [the idea that he’s] got that serious and brooding thing going on – and how it was going to play out in the Marvel universe. But he came out really funny and great in the movie. He has a great sense of humor and likes to poke fun at himself. It was a nice marriage between his role as the brute and another as the geek. Merging the whole seriousness with a bit of comedy was like finding a balance to the mix because at the end of the day, it’s fun and that’s what Marvel likes to interpret about their films. I think the direction was awesome too because Ruben was very open to improv. So even without the script, you could play and then we get to see which one worked better for the screen.

I know the answer I’m most likely to get to this question but I’m going to try my hand anyway: will you be in Black Panther 2?
I cannot say! Let me tell you something, my girlfriends would try to get me to talk and I would tell them straight on that if it is between Black Panther and my family? It definitely will be Black Panther. I’m so grateful to this part of the Universe that I would do nothing, absolutely nothing, to get me out of it. I would have to be dragged out with my nails on the wall and screaming. I don’t tell my family nothing and I’m sorry I can’t say anything at the moment but keep on supporting me from Nigeria because I’m trying to represent as much as I can.

You really make us so proud.

Oh thank you so much. For me, I think it’s about time that we were on the world platform and that is why I support all Nigerian female designers and I wear them. I love that I am able to give them a voice, I believe that when God blesses us to be a blessing to others and that is the mantra I try to live by because there is nothing great in sharing goodness and blessings when you are just sharing it with yourself. I think it’s about time that Nigeria started getting some positive affirmation because we’ve been in the dog house for so long and it’s time people get to know that great things come out from that country.

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