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Actress Yonah Odoom, Co-creator/writer of web series, You Only Marry Once (YOMO) talks toenewsgh.com about writing of the series, her most challenging role as an actress and her personal experiences in and around acting.

Q. African parents hardly support their children having a career in the creative arts, what was and is your parents’ reaction to your career?

A. My parents have been incredibly supportive of my career. It helped that I still tried to ensure that I did things to stabilize myself whilst pursuing an acting career, such as working various jobs, whilst continuing to study to perfect my craft.

I think this showed them that I am very passionate. So they have never stood in my way but rather encouraged me to work hard; as you have to put a lot in sometimes before seeing the fruits of your labor. My elder brother, Melvin has also been a great mentor and inspiration to go after what I really want.

Having been brought up in an African household, acting is often not perceived as a real job, so I very much went down the traditional route of pursuing a career in marketing. I had been studying marketing in college before deciding to do a degree in Media Performance. I didn’t want to lose the skills I had obtained but had realized that I really wanted to pursue acting, so on advice from a friend; I opted to do a degree in both media and marketing.

This was brilliant for me as it allowed me to begin my journey in acting but also expand on my marketing knowledge, which has also played a key part in my career, as you are aware marketing plays a vital role in the acting industry.

Q. Which productions have you been a part of?

A. Some of the highlights of my career have been; playing the feisty Grace’s mother, “Mrs. Piper” in ITV’s “Coronation Street” (2013), playing the challenging role of an abused wife in “Breach” to a Nigerian Trafficking victim in “It Felt Empty When The Heart Went At First…” (The Cockpit Theatre), to a crack addict in “Cocaine Anonymous” (Worldwide PSA) as well as several commercials including the Sony Bravia World Cup ad and Channel 4’s B&Q Idents (2013), which ran across channel 4 and their subsidiary channels.

And the role I felt was most rewarding; Rosa Parks in “We Stand on Giants Shoulders” (New Bold Theatre). Having the opportunity to play the role of the great Civil Rights Activist, Rosa Parks had a very deep and profound effect on me. I felt a great responsibility of portraying her humble yet indomitable spirit and wanted to do justice to someone who made it possible for many to be able to have a voice in America.

Q. You co-created/wrote the series “You Only Marry Once (YOMO)”, what inspired it?

A. My Co-Creator Moshana Khan and I met 9 years ago when we joined a theatre group and we have pretty much been joined at the hip ever since. Over the years we have shared many of our acting, dating and cultural experiences which have often mirrored each other.

As actors, we can be out of work up to 95% of the time, and unfortunately when opportunities to work do arise they are not always representative of our truths and our stories, especially coming from a colorful ethnic background, Moshana is of Bangladeshi descent. When we approached 30, we also began to have both of our mothers on our backs on when we were going to get married and although from different backgrounds, our mothers were almost identical in their pleas. We decided to merge a bit of life and art to create something new – a fresh and fun story with two females being the main protagonists for a change.

We also found that whilst we were (and still very much are!) looking for that Mr. Right, each time we told our dating dilemmas to our friends they would find our scenarios relatable and quite frankly comical, from this we decided to create some lemonade with those lemons that were constantly being served to us and we created the concept of a comedy series based around our dating (or should I say – attempted) dating diaries.

Q. What is the plot of the Series, YOMO (You Only Marry Once)?

A.YOMO centers around two young women, Yonah & Moshana (Yo & Mo), living and loving in London – trying to find a husband. Both are fast approaching thirty and the reality of being left on the shelf – is becoming just that – a reality. Determined not to grow old as lonely spinsters with just themselves and a cat for company, they decide to go on an all-out assault to find their future husbands.
For Yo & Mo marriage is for life, therefore they are determined to make sure it’s with the right guy, even if it means meeting all the wrong ones!

Q. How different is it from other productions on the internet?

A. A few things set us apart from the current shows out there; firstly, the show is loosely based on actual events within our own experiences of being in our 30′s looking for Mr Right. Moshana is from a Bengali background and we found through our experiences many of the things we were going through actually mirrored each other, as in when we both turned 30, something clicked and all of a sudden the ticker for finding a husband was on! We also had both of our parents on our case asking when we were getting married, so the similarities within our cultures were very apparent and comical.

We wanted to give viewers a chance to see and relate to this. We are also really excited at having two females of ethnic origin as the main protagonists in a romantic comedy which is currently rarely seen on UK television.

Q. Have you won any awards personally or for a production you featured in?

A.I was blessed to be cast in the Indie movie ‘Faux Depart’ in which I played the role of illegal immigrant “Nana”, which won the award for ‘Best One Shot Movie’ and was also selected to screen at the BAFTA recognized “London Short Film Festival 2013”.

Q. What has been your most challenging role as an actress?

A. One of the roles I felt most challenging was playing the role of an abused wife, for a charity video, I had to research cases of domestic violence and was presented with real case studies to get into the psych of my character. There was a great responsibility of ensuring I was as truthful within my work as you are not only playing the part of someone’s actual experience but you could also potentially be helping a victim of domestic violence so there is no hiding behind anything you have to commit to the scene and go to the places it requires you to go to.

I had an amazing director who would go over what my characters thoughts were and we would discuss how I saw it. His approach was very organic which allowed me to feel very comfortable committing to the scene, so when I was getting physically attacked I really felt every blow. It was a physically and emotionally draining time, but one of the opportunities that I am, to this day, most grateful for.

Q. How do you prepare for the roles you play?

A.I am a great fan of The Chubbuck Technique, founded by Hollywood’s acting Coach Ivana Chubbuck who has a 12 step “nuts and bolt” approach of breaking down a script and making it personal to you, I became so fascinated by this approach that I went to study the Chubbucktechnique in LA, which was an amazing experience and really taught me a lot. This technique alongside the Meisner Technique really helped with the development of my acting.

Firstly I will read the full script (if available) a few times so I get to know my characters journey, making notes of a possible overall objective (what the character wants overall).

Then like a detective, I go through each scene for reasons behind why the character does the things they do, to establish what the scene objective for my character is. I will try out a few possible objectives with rehearsals and once I have the one that fits I then go through and personalize this scene objective with my own personal experience, substituting each scenario with things that are real within my own life. This allows me to really relate with the characters that I am playing.

This can take a while, as I am very committed to finding the truth of the characters that I play.

Q. Do you watch Ghanaian movies? If yes,Thoughts?

A.I often spend time watching Ghanaian movies with my parents, I love how Nolly/Gollywood is a successful entity in its own right and that it has a thriving market and audience. It inspires me to know that if you believe in what you are doing; your audience will also find you.

Q. Do you plan on sharing the knowledge you have regards movies with Ghanaian producers/actors?

A.I am blessed that my production team are a very diverse mix of like-minded individuals, our producers, Russell Nii Odartei Evans and Nana Evans being both of Ghanaian ancestry. They co-founded Ment2Excel Digital, the Channel that YOMO has been launched on and are creating a platform to produce many more new shows that reflect talent from the African diaspora as well as other cultures, so there will be lots of mergers happening in the near future.