Mariam Kayode is an 11-year old nominee for the 2018 African Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) holding today. She thrilled her audience with a sonorous voice when she sang the popular John Legend’s “All of Me” at the cocktail party for nominees and sponsors, a performance that won her a 55-inch plasma TV and a DSTV Explorer decoder from Multichoice. The JSS 2 student of Kingsfield College has been nominated alongside veteran actresses, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Agaba Joan, Cinderella Sanya, Keira Hewatch and Lilian Echelon in the Best Actress in the Drama/TV series category for her role in the movie, “Children of Mud”. In this interview, intelligent Mariam talks on how acting started for her, her career plan, what the AMCVA nomination means to her and her philosophy.
How did you start acting?
It started with my mum’s film-making project when she was at the International Film and Broadcast Academy. She decided to cast me in the stage play, “Dark Light”, because she needed a little girl character in the film.
My acting talent then made me attend, in 2016, an auditioning for a child character’s role in the movie “The Happyness Limited”. That was the movie that brought me to limelight and I went professional, so to speak. The movie was directed by Imoh Umoren.
In that your first professional work, as you described it, how excited were you finding yourself on set with established actors like Kiki Omeili?
It was a surprise to see her there as I had never met her until then. I was extremely excited because it was actually my first time acting with a super star.
How do you balance acting with academics?
Sometimes I miss classes. However, everything comes down to planning and scheduling. For instance, if I am to be on a movie set for two weeks, we (my mum and I) plan ahead by meeting with the class teacher to know the topics to be taught for those weeks and also request assignments in advance so that I will have things to read and assignments to attend to when I am not on set or on days that I will probably leave set early. We try to break the schedules and put all these other school activities in between so that when I am not acting on set, I do my assignments.
How many movies have you starred in since 2016?
I have starred in three: “The Happyness Limited”, “Don’t Leave Me” and “Children of Mud”. I have also featured in a music video, “We are Nigerians”, by Ebisan.
At the cocktail party for nominees and sponsors, you wowed your audience with your musical talent. Are you also into music?
I am not into music; it’s just that I know how to sing, although I go for music lessons. Singing is just one of my special talents. I sing for the fun of it, especially when I am busy with house chores. I never really thought of it as a big deal until when I sang for a music test and had the overall highest score. It was then I started regarding music as part of my talents and began working on it.
How did you pick on a song some would consider too mature for your age, John Legend’s “All of Me”, when I.K. Osakioduwa asked you to render a number?
I just like the song, probably because the kind of music we listen to in our house is either love or prayer songs, or probably because my mum loves singing it and I fell in love with singing it too.
Initially, I found the song boring, especially with its twisted words, but now that I know the lyrics, it sounds interesting to me.
How did it first hit you seeing your name on the 2018 AMVCA nomination list alongside veteran actresses?
I must admit I was stunned. But I felt proud of myself. For God’s sake, I am the only child actor nominated in that category, which is not even a children’s category. It was at first hard for me to believe that I am among those big stars, including Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde. I was so overwhelmed with joy that night that I had to scream because I was not expecting it. I just didn’t see it coming as I didn’t know that the producer of the movie had submitted it for consideration.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished acting in a movie, “Bobo the Rat Tale”, which will be premiered in December 2018.
Have you so far had what you would call a challenging role?
I don’t think I have had any that was very challenging because every role had been interesting and enjoyable. I don’t have much to complain about because I had once worked with Imoh, and when I was called for “Children of Mud”, it was easy for me to handle. Though my character in the movie was kind of tough because we shot deep into the night at some point, and it was very emotional, the fact that I was in the midst of people I had worked with earlier gave me some confidence. Even when we had to move out of Lagos to shoot some of the scenes, it was just fun for me all the way.
If you must choose one out of acting, dancing and singing as a profession, which one would it be?
It is just like, for me, choosing between ice cream and pizza. I actually love dancing, and singing is just something that I recently discovered. But I will go for acting any day because I meet new people and meet the professionals in the field. Acting also makes me explore places.
Who are your role models in the movie industry?
I admire Rita Dominic and Funke Akindele a lot. I will love to work with these two because they make acting look so real. They are damn good at it.
Are you yet an ambassador for any foreign or local product or brand?
Yes; I am in talks with Little Weavers; they are into Afrocentric clothing, using ankara. It is proudly African. We hope everything works well.
What would be the impact of this award on you if you emerge winner?
I would feel excited that the industry recognised my contribution. It would also improve my career and bring me more recognition. The award would be dedicated to my mum, dad, director and those who voted for believing in me.
Do you intend to pursue a degree programme in acting?
When I first got into acting, I dreamt of it becoming my career when I grow up. But it seems my mother has discovered that side of advocacy in me. I love advocating; I don’t like it when people are cheated, so I am seriously considering law. But for now, I am just going with the flow of things. Still, I will love to study and have a degree in theatre arts as acting is already an established career in my life. For now, acting will just be my side hustle, while being a lawyer later remains a pursuit, just like Funke Akindele and Falz are.
Have you received any recognition or award before now?
This is my first recognition since I began acting.
What do you do when you are not on set and school is not in session?
Drawing is also one of the things I love doing. So when I am not doing anything really serious, I find myself sketching something for fun.
What is your take on Nigeria’s movie industry?
Generally, the industry is growing fast. People are stepping up and coming up with innovative ideas.
What is your philosophy about life?
I feel life is full of surprises. It is a great world to live in if only you know how to live it well. Learning how to cope with life’s challenges and overcoming obstacles and being relentless defines life.