Sun | Jun 26, 2022

Nigerian series ‘Blood Sisters’ soars in Jamaica

Producer happy with sparked discussions

Published:Friday | May 20, 2022 | 12:08 AMSade Gardner/Staff Reporter
Deyemi Okanlawon
Deyemi Okanlawon
Producer Ted Makanjuola.
Producer Ted Makanjuola.
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Netflix’s debut original Nigerian television series, Blood Sisters, has been in the top five most popular shows on the streaming platform in Jamaica for several days, and it’s not hard to see why.

Jamaicans have had a long-standing affair with Nollywood, tracing back to the days of families and grown folks binge-watching DVDs of their productions. This time around, the plot surrounding two female besties who are on the run after one murders the fiancé of another is what has locals glued to the four-part series.

Producer Ted Makanjuola beamed with excitement while reacting to the show’s success in Jamaica.

“It’s exciting; surreal and exciting,” Makanjuola told The Gleaner. “You always hope that anything you make crosses borders and you hope people will engage with the content and enjoy it. I know in the past, films and shows have done this but this time, the energy feels different. It feels like a movement that’s happening, history in the making.”

Indeed, as earlier the EbonyLife Studios production made the top 10 list of globally most-watched shows on Netflix. Makanjuola said she never could have predicted the worldwide support, but surely foresaw fellow Nigerians loving it.

IN THE TOP CHARTS

“We have been in the top 10 charts across the world, in over 30 countries, the Caribbean, UK, USA, even Japan! We prayed for it but most definitely couldn’t predict this kind of success.”

There are currently no plans for a second season, just enjoyment in the ongoing “conversation, excitement and applaud for now”.

Set in Lagos, Sarah (Ini Dima Okojie) is getting ready for her talk-of-the-town wedding with powerful businessman Kola (Deyemi Okanlawon). Behind the curtains of grand and luxurious celebrations lie an abusive relationship, which Sarah, at the last minute, desires to escape to the disapproval of her parents who want the plush benefits of their daughter “marrying up”. All changes when Sarah’s best friend Kemi (Nancy Isime) finds Kola beating her moments before they become husband and wife. Kemi accidentally kills Kola while defending Sarah, triggering a series of events that explore issues beyond Nigerian society like domestic abuse, socio-economic disparities and judicial corruption.

“It’s important that we discuss these issues out in the open, especially issues like domestic abuse and the imbalances in justice people face when there’s an economic difference. Do the poor always get justice? Can the rich get away with murder just because they’re rich? We hope that the series brings to the forefront open discussion on these issues. It’s already started. We have all kinds of people that relate to the show in their personal life experiences or someone that they know,” Makanjuola said.

Okanlawon echoes this sentiment and believes the show has achieved its purpose of sparking agents of change. Yet, this came at a sacrifice. The actor said undertaking the role bore some psychological impact which resurfaced with the popularity of the series.

“It took a while to exorcise Kola from my system and I’m grateful to both the Netflix and EbonyLife teams for providing the support I needed before, during and after filming,” Okanlawon told The Gleaner. “However, the release of the series, which I thoroughly enjoyed by the way, also brought back memories of the internal turmoil I experienced playing the character, but taking time off work to spend time with family helped lift my spirit.”

He was drawn to the role as part of his passion for mitigating domestic violence. Citing the renowned status of Nollywood, Okanlawon believes the debut of a Nigerian TV series on Netflix “shows the evolution and viability of Nollywood as an industry as well as the importance and global ‘relatability’ of our African stories”.

sade.gardner@gleanerjm.com