Aurelie Eliam is an Ivorian actress, model and TV host. She is a member of the cast of Kunle Afolayan’s latest movie, The CEO,In this interview with DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI, she talks about her inability to speak English and her love for the Nigerian movie industry, among other issues.
WHAT does it feel like to be in Nigeria?
Like I said earlier to one of my colleagues, I feel really blessed. It wasn’t supposed to happen because the first time I learnt about this project was on Facebook. I am not used to reading all the messages on my page, but someone sent me a message, a colleague in Jacob’s Cross. He told me that a friend was looking for an Ivorian actress to play a role in Nigeria. When I got the message, it wasn’t as if I was excited, because such messages come up, but most of them are fake. So I read the message and sent in my email for me to get the full details. Then someone sent me a mail giving details that the director is Kunle Afolayan, he is from Nigeria and is casting for roles in his new movie.
What was your reaction when you got the message?
I googled the name Kunle Afolayan, and read about it and then decided that it was real. So a few days later, I had a Skype audition and waited for the feedback. A week later, I was told I had been given the role. Now I am here and will try to do my best for everyone to be happy.
Is this your first time in Nigeria?
This is my first time in Nigeria. But I have always wanted to be part of Nollywood, because it is pretty much known in Ivory Coast. We also have a TV station with the name Nollywood TV. People are really interested in watching these movies, more than our own TV stations.
With your Ivorian background, how do you intend to fit in?
It is more like a challenge for me because this production is more or less my first English movie. Most of the films I have done are mainly in our native language. Although I have done a short film before in English in Los Angeles, I find this one more challenging because it is a real movie and I don’t want to disappoint people. It is challenging for me because I have to speak English and play in a Nollywood movie.
Have you been able to pick some of our local dialect?
(Laughs) Yes; words like kia kia, that is make it snappy. I hear that a lot on set. You know people are speaking a lot of French and English so when they want you to do something or bring something fast. Also pele and wa. It is pretty interesting.
For how long have you been acting?
I started out in 2007 with a TV series which was shown in all the French countries and some French TVs across the globe. The TV series made me better known because I used to act more in our local TV series. But this year, for the first time since I took up a career as an actress, I acted in two movies. But before that time, I was into modeling. I am still into modeling.
Between acting and modeling, which came first?
I began my career as a model for advertising campaigns in my country and across Africa. But I became known with the title role in the series, Dr. Boris, which I would say, officially kicked off my acting career. The series is a success in Africa and Europe. It opened a lot of the doors for me. I also connected then with other roles in The Residence of Happiness as well as in Estelle Dance with the Dreamer. I was also featured in a lot of other advertising campaigns.
But how do you balance your career with your responsibilities at home?
It is so hard for me, but it is also about planning too. My kids are very young. The first one is over two years old while the second is just 13 months old. So it was when I packed my luggage and wanted to leave that I felt the impact of what I was about doing; leaving my kids faraway. I couldn’t bear it, I started crying.
Who did you leave them with?
As I am here, they are in the care of my family. But once I get back home everything will be okay. I can’t wait to get back to them. I won’t be going back till December. But it is also a question of choice.
After this production, do you plan to return to Nigeria?
Oh yes, I would really love to come back. As I said earlier, it is really a huge challenge for me, because people have to understand that I want to be in the Nollywood movie. It is my hope that The CEO movie will help me to get more calls to be back here and to be feature in other movies in Nollywood.
Were you scared of coming when you got the contract?
Yes, I was a little bit afraid and worried because it was my first time and I really don’t know anybody here. So it was pretty hard for me, but I am someone who sees an opportunity and do not let it go.
Were your fears met?
I am not in any way disappointed because I met some amazing people here on set. One of them is Angelique Kidjo. She is one of the most amazing people I have ever met. We are all in good spirit and we focus on what we are here to do.