Boma Ilamina-Eremie is an actor, writer and director. He is well-known for his lead role as ‘King’ in the popular Mnet TV series, ‘Halita.’
The graduate of Theatre arts from University of Nigeria, Nsukka has also been part of productions that include ‘Wetin Dey’, ‘Neigbour my Neighbour’, ‘Story Story’, ‘Gbagan Gbagan’, ‘Purple TINZ’, ‘A Break from Reality’, and ‘2 Grannies and A Baby’. In this interview with Weekend Magazine, he talks about his role in ‘Halita’ and more.
Weekend Magazine: One of your most notable achievements is your role as King in the TV series, ‘Halita’. How did you clinch the part?
Boma Ilamina-Eremie: It’s a funny and long story. Call it fate if you must. I took a break from television for over five years at a time when there weren’t many opportunities in Abuja. Then I saw an advert for a new TV series on Instagram. At the time, I was occupied with a writing job and was not keen on getting back in the grind. That was until I started getting bombarded by calls and messages from friends and family and colleagues who insisted I show up for the audition.
So, I showed up, waited for about twelve hours for my turn before I got a spot to audition. I actually auditioned for a different role but the those in charge asked me to wait a bit and I auditioned for the part of King. The rest is history.
WM: Tell us a little about your character as King in ‘Halita’.
Ilamina-Eremie: King is the first son of Kaza Zamani, and just like his father, is hardworking and dogged. Sadly, he is also prone to human lapses and has vices like most. However, he manages to keep it all together for the most part. His character sees ample reason to change as it were when he comes in contact with his love interest, ‘Halita’.
WM: How do you prepare before a shoot?
Ilamina-Eremie: Preparing for a shoot is a pretty straightforward exercise. I generally scan my scripts beforehand to get a grasp of each scene and familiarize myself with the lines and dialogue. The hard part is identifying the beats and how emotions may change from line to line. It gets particularly cumbersome because sometimes you have to anticipate reactions that feed your responses and you never know what your co-star will pitch.
WM: You have built your career largely behind the scene as content writer. How does it feel being onset?
Ilamina-Eremie: Content writing is awesome and something I will continue doing. But being in front of the camera can be electric. The feeling is almost god-like. For a time, actors have the ability to bring to life words on paper. That is one thing not many people will never experience, to become someone else.
WM: Do you miss the partial anonymity that comes from being behind the scene?
Ilamina-Eremie: Yes, I do. Around these parts and in many parts of the world, the trade-off is financial but that never really compensates for the hassle that comes with people recognising you in public.
WM: What would you say it takes to be both a content writer and an actor?
Ilamina-Eremie: I think in some ways you need the right amount of creative flair to be either a content writer or an actor. Yes, both require skill sets that are unique to them but they share a similar foundation. For instance, you need to have the ability to comprehend whichever language you use to practice your vocation. To be an actor you need talent first, and then training if you can afford it. It doesn’t have to be through traditional schooling. These days the internet and television provide a wealth of knowledge and most of it is free. The same goes with information about content writing. Like every other endeavor, there are rules that govern practice. Learning the rules is essential and breaking them is allowed.
WM: What are the peculiar challenges to both?
Ilamina-Eremie: Writers block is the worst challenge content writers face. Nothing hurts worse than having a deadline and not being able to get a single word or idea out. For actors, losing steam is a major downer. I have gotten bored on a project before and not even the truth that it was financially rewarding could get me back in.
WM: What has your journey in the film industry been like?
Ilamina-Eremie: In 2005 I got on my first TV show called ‘Wetin Dey’. It was a project powered by the then BBC World Service Trust, now BBC Media Action, in Abuja. I played the role of Chike, a mechanic. After that I featured in a couple of radio dramas, ‘Story Story’ and ‘Neighbor my Neighbor,’ another BBC Media Action initiative. Also, ‘Gbagan Gbagan’ and ‘Purple TINZ’ by Flint Productions, where I was an actor, writer and Assistant Producer.
I had a two-year run writing ‘The Johnsons’, a television show produced by Native Media for DSTV and went on to write the first season of ‘The Give ‘n’ Take’ national lottery game show in Abuja for The Magna Grid Company.
I got back on stage for the first time after a while in ‘Future Ex Mrs. Akpena’ and followed up with another showing as Cassius in ‘Julius Caesar’ with 2MG Theatre in Abuja. Then ‘Halita’ happened.
Besides this, I wrote and co-directed my first feature film, ‘A Break from Reality’ and also wrote the comedy, ‘2 Grannies and A Baby’.
WM: Nigeria have few or no soap operas running for months or years and airing on almost daily basis like South Africa’s ‘Generations’, ‘Insidigo’, Zee world series and so on. Why is that?
Ilamina-Eremie: Truth is content creation is tricky. For investors the numbers are what really matter. How much are they making and how much are they investing? Yes, fan following is a huge motivation to keep shows alive, but if advertisers are unwilling to associate with projects, it is unlikely that even the best ideas will survive on TV.
That aside, nobody really pays premium for content in Nigeria. I know for a fact that production costs are still generally low compared to projects from other countries, and this coupled with the dismal state of our local currency makes it even worse.
WM What can be done to remedy the situation?
Ilamina-Eremie: There is no single solution. Yes, I know generally we need to raise the bar as per content creation and this should motivate investment. I also think that actors and performers need to up the ante as well. File and type casting has been the bane of our industry and as much as it may sell tickets, it puts actors in comfortable boxes and limits expression.
WM: Was the progression in your career planned?
Ilamina-Eremie: It wasn’t really planned. I started out as an actor and over the years the opportunities to do other things came my way and I took them. I started out as an actor, content writer and director, in that order. The progression is not in the way most people think. The endgame is to produce and direct content and this, for me, is just a part of the process.
WM: What do you think made ‘Halita’ successful?
Ilamina-Eremie: ‘Halita’ is a great show. The story is very earthy, production value is top-notch compared to a lot of what is on TV right now and the performances are human. I think these qualities are what contributes to the popularity it enjoys.
I ask fans the same question on a regular basis and they pretty much give me this same answer. It is TV but it feels like it’s not. It’s more like a reality TV show and I think that is a good thing.
WM: How long have you worn your hair in dreads and doesn’t it limit the kind of roles you play?
Ilamina-Eremie: I have had my dreadlocks for about 10 years now. I started keeping it because I lost my comb. It’s a funny story, but it’s true. As for my hair limiting the roles I get, I wouldn’t say it has. I got asked once if I would consider cutting it for a role. I would if I believe it’s worth it. I have no sentimental attachment to my hair but it has cost me a decent amount of money over the years and it is now a part of my identity. It is worth a lot in naira and kobo.
WM: What next after ‘Halita’?
Ilamina-Eremie: More work, I guess. For me the clock never really stops. I am not an actor in the strict sense, more of a content creator and artist, so there is no telling if the next time my name or face appears it will be on TV. I am always working but let’s hope my next showing will be on TV.