Zainab Balogun is an Actress, Model and Television Presenter for EbonyLife TV, an entertainment television station, for which she currently co-hosts and produces ‘The Spot’, the channel’s leading talk show, with Lamide Akintobi. Zainab also appears as a Presenter and Associate Producer on Jumia TV, a teleshopping show. In 2013, she won the Exquisite Lady of the Year Awards ‘TV Presenter of the Year’ award, and has replicated that recognition a number of times through the years after that. In recent years, we have seen more of her in movies and in this chat, she shares more about her work. RACHEAL ABIRIBA.

Lots of people have no idea you starred in the movie ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Rises’, we definitely want to hear more about the story.

Being a part of the Batman series was a
pivotal moment in my career. I had recently started going out for auditions outside of commercials from my casting agent and landed an opportunity to feature in a movie which I didn’t know was Batman at the time. During the pre-production stage, big budget movies such as these tend to come with a code name rather than the commercial title. I remember getting to set at 4am and being excited about the grand nature of the production in the heart of Westminster. The moment I got on set and saw Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Samuel L. Jackson within arm’s length was when I realised where I was. It was at the point that I knew this was what I want to do with my life.

If you could travel back in time, what would you change? Were there any opportunities you wished you chased?

If I could travel back in time, I would have caught the acting bug at a much earlier age. I would have dedicated a lot of time to developing my skills and getting familiar with the UK acting circuit. I believe I took every opportunity that I was comfortable with. It’s important for me to feel right about the decisions I make and everything to date has been a step in the right direction.

How do you select the projects you’ve featured in?

Every decision starts with the story, director and production quality. Budgets come and go and can be a huge factor in the success of any film, however the things I mentioned are the heart of it all. I discuss with my management team and also try to take on roles that I believe challenge me as an actor and require me to explore things I’ve never done before.

Your latest movie, ‘The Royal Hibiscus Hotel’, was screened at TIFF. Take us through the emotions you felt then.

TIFF is always a big deal for any actor. I was fortunate to feature at TIFF 2016 [with The Wedding Party) and never expected to
be back there as a lead in my own movie
for 2017. It was definitely surreal but a successful trip. The response to the movie from an international perspective was more than I could ask for. A lot of great connections were made [which led to] my
recent signing with a Toronto based agency called AMTI.

What drew you to the character, Ope?

I’ve never been in a romantic comedy before and this was a new challenge I wanted to conquer. Ope is your sweet, round-the-way woman who, similar to me, is extremely driven and will travel the world to achieve her dreams. I knew what that felt like and connected deeply on that level with the character.

Would you say you have a lot in common with her?

Ope and I share a passion for cooking and
food although mine is deeply rooted in mostly eating!

This is your first leading role to get a wide release in Nigeria, are you excited or nervous (or both) about its premiere?

I am both excited and nervous but most importantly hopeful for a positive response. I believe we have a great movie that people are excited to see based on the trailer alone. I think RHH will be a step in the right direction for my career.

With so many lessons like ‘rising despite rejections’ and ‘not giving up on love’, what life lessons from the movie stands out most for you?

I think the most valuable lesson for me from the movie is that which says that home is where the heart is. You can run away from it as much as you can, search the world for your dreams but sometimes, it’s right in your backyard.

What are your thoughts about the quality of stories being told in Nollywood?

I believe we’re telling more interesting stories that have the ability to travel and have a stake of the international market.

Do you think that Nollywood would benefit from a critics review board in order to ensure that more quality stories are told?

I’m not sure what benefit such an environment would provide for the industry. The film industry is arts meets commerce despite critics. If the audience continues to demand more, players will have no choice but to sit up and listen.

What was your favourite part of filming the Royal Hibiscus Hotel?

My favourite part of shooting the movie outside of eating all the great meals prepared, was all the scenes at the Royal Hibiscus Hotel itself. With the amazing art direction, I literally felt like this rustic hotel
existed with all of its complex characters
that make it home for its guests.

What is your opinion on the idea of a “new Nollywood”? Do you think we’re finally getting to a point where in-depth stories are told and 3-dimensional characters are being shown?

I’m not sure I subscribe to the “new Nollywood” concept. There is one industry
with a multitude of different offerings as
one would expect. What you hope for an
industry is that change takes place as
technology and times develop. I do believe
the industry is evolving for the better.

What other projects do you have coming up this year?

I have a few movies to watch out for in 2018 that I am really excited about. These
are great stories and productions that have
pushed me as an actress. You can anticipate the likes of Sylvia by Trino Studios, The Door by Jude Idaha and Walking with Shadows by A’oife O’ Kelly.

This interview was first published in Genevieve Magazine February Issue, purchase HERE

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