Chisom Agoawuike is the lead actress in ‘Halita’, one of the most-watched Nigerian shows on Africa Magic Showmax. The in-form actress studied public health but has found herself in the entertainment limelight after landing the much coveted role. She discusses her journey to entertainment stardom, career plans as well as relationship with fellow stars on the show in this interview by SEGUN ADEBAYO. Excerpts:
How do you feel starring in one of the hottest shows on Nigerian television?
It’s been wow! The attention has been incredible. My family particularly has been gushing about having one of its own on television show which is being watched all over the country and beyond. After every episode of Halita, if I’m not on set, my mum will call me to gush. She’d ask how I’ve been able to interpret roles to the point of crying. She’s so amazed that I can cry on set. She would ask if I was genuinely crying or if they had to induce the tears. I’d tell her, ‘I’m an actor, I told ya!’ My parents are so happy and proud of me and they are excellent marketers of the show as well. They tell everyone who cares to listen to watch Halita.
The lead role of such a show must have been a highly competitive one. How did you scale through the process of auditioning to eventually land the much coveted role?
After previous stressful audition processes, I made up my mind to only go for private auditions. So, when my friend sent me a flier for the Halita audition, I was sceptical. But then I saw a poster on Mr Dimbo’s page (the executive producer) and I thought maybe I should give this a try. Also, my friends did their best in convincing me. We went for the audition very early in the morning and I got a callback tag which made me very excited. When they were calling names at the callback, I noticed that we were all petite and someone made a comment that these were the smallies, the maids. But no one knew that Halita was the main character. Before we were told to read the character, there was a briefing and that was when they told us that Halita was the main character and I thought ‘Oh my God! I need to get this right; I need to nail it and get my lines’. But I had no expectations to get the lead character. I just knew I had to do my best so when I got the role, it was a very pleasant surprise for me because this was my first major role.
What other roles had you done prior to Halita?
I’d done a stage play in Abuja, ‘Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again’ where I played Elizabeth, the oyinbo wife of Lejoka Brown. The turnout was quite large. That was the major thing I had done before landing Halita.
You’re an Igbo person who played the role of a Hausa girl. What’s the experience switching to an entirely different culture?
That’s why I still see landing the role of Halita as a miracle because I remember when I was auditioning at the callback, Mr Dimbo kept telling me ‘call down, you’re fonerising, tone down the fone’ and I heard people whispering if you could speak Hausa that would have been an added advantage. But it was not something I could manipulate my way around because I can’t speak Hausa to save my life. But somehow, I managed to land the role. Everything I speak on the show, I learned on the set.
What has working with your co-stars been like?
It’s been an amazing experience, which also translated to the screen. That’s because I think we all came on the same pedestal. Coming into the job, we were all newbies and equally hungry for success. So, no one felt greater than the other. We bonded and shared our audition stories on how we landed the role and it brought us together. We talked to one another about punctuality and delivering our lines accurately. We also encouraged one other on the need to put our best foot forward. Most times after work, we go out and have game night. That also contributed to the beautiful relationship we have on screen. Even with the older cast, we are all cool with one another.
Have you had any memorable encounter with fans?
Halita fans go hard. The love is beautiful and I’ve had mostly good encounters with them. When they see us it’s like we’re family. They want to help and just do something special for you. They’d say things like ‘Can you come to my house? Can I host you sometime?’ That’s the kind of feedback we get from the fans. But one of the most memorable encounters I had was when I was waiting for my Uber to come and I just saw a car stop with an entire family screaming. The husband, wife, children – everyone was screaming excitedly and I knew I had to go over and say ‘hello’. So I went over and we took pictures and it was so beautiful because every member of the family watched the show – the husband, wife, and children. But on the flip side, there was a funny encounter I had when I went for an event with Boma Eremie, who plays King. We were sitting together and this lady just walked up to us and started taking pictures. She didn’t bother to say anything. She started taking pictures or making a video, I’m not sure which. When she was done, she said ‘Hi Halita, Hi King’ in an extremely snotty manner and she left. We found it hilarious.
During the shooting of the show, which scenes were the most challenging and which did you enjoy the most?
I’ll start from season one. Season one was quite a ride because it was new territory for me. Shooting a daily show was not easy at all. Some days I didn’t know what to do, even though it was clearly written in the script – how I was supposed to act and what I was supposed to say. But it got confusing because it was a daily, back-to-back shoot. The first challenge I had was when I had to shoot with the character of my mum on the hospital bed and that was the scene where I was saying goodbye and she couldn’t talk. It really hit home and I think I genuinely cried because it was so similar to when I was leaving my parents in Owerri to go and serve in Abuja. So, it was so hard for me to shoot but I pulled it off. The second season was equally challenging because from the theme song you can tell that Halita has gone through hell. But the one that stood out for me was when my character had to openly confront her lover (King) following his betrayal. That was a challenging scene for me. It was also challenging to have shouted at Matilda. I found it weird because Halita hasn’t stepped out of that meek, humble shell. Yelling at Matilda felt so new. I remember I had to keep asking the director ‘How should I sound? Should I be really crazy or mild anger?’ That was all that was going through my mind.
Would you say there are any similarities between Chisom the person and Halita the character?
Definitely. Personality-wise I can relate with Halita. There are a lot of similarities between us, but in the love part not so much. Halita is a lover girl and I’m not. She wears her heart on her sleeve but it’s not quite the same for me as a person. In fact, sometimes when I read the script, I think ‘Wow I think I should learn something from this girl; it doesn’t cost anything to be more expressive in love’. I really like how she expresses herself: she doesn’t care; she’s living in the moment and trusts easily. I’m much more guarded and not as quick to be expressive in love but in other areas we’re quite similar.
So, are Chisom (Halita) and Boma (King) a couple in real life?
No, we’re not a couple. Sorry to let fans down. We’re just colleagues.
What should fans expect from Chisom after Halita?
Acting is something I’m very passionate about. It’s not a pastime but a full-time career. I want to go on and do good movies, be it TV or feature-length. However, I will be very selective with the kind of work I take on going forward because I want to have a successful career. I will do what feels right in my spirit as long as it tells a story and relays a positive message.
Anyone in particular you’re looking to work with in the future?
There are a lot of people I want to work with locally and internationally. Top on that list is Genevieve Nnaji. Mr Dimbo, who produced Halita, is also someone I had been praying to work with and my dream came true.
Not many people are familiar with your background, especially your growing up in Owerri. Could you shed some light on your growing up?
I was born and raised in Owerri. I did my primary, secondary and tertiary schooling there and studied Public Health at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. I wanted to study Theatre Arts but my parents wanted me to study something more professional, something that would give me financial security in the future and they weren’t so convinced that theatre arts would do that for me. But they supported my dreams and knew I loved acting and thought it was something I could do by the side but not as a full-time course the university. So, I just had to be patient and go to school to get a degree. I don’t regret it, public health is a beautiful course.
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