(Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 06: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Folake Olowofoyeku visits BuzzFeed's "AM To DM" on September 06, 2019 in New York City.

Art Mirrors Reality in Folake Olowofoyeku’s TV Role as Abishola Adebambo

We speak to Nigerian actress Folake Olowofoyeku about playing the lead on CBS's Bob Hearts Abishola, receiving her late parents' blessing to become an actress and her recent NAACP Image Award nomination.

Folake Olowofoyeku is an incredibly talented actress who is also keenly aware of the inevitability of her own success. "I'm not surprised at my successes in whatever I do, she says confidently. "I know I will be successful as long as I'm dedicated." Olowofoyeku, a Nigerian actress who has had training in theatre, has starred in several productions including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Westworld, Transparent and several others. Born to traditional parents who wanted her to pursue a more conventional profession, Olowofoyeku continues to cement her place in the industry as a successful, committed and versatile actress.

Olowofoyeku's role as Abishola Adebambo in CBS's Bob Hearts Abisholahas been an authentic performance portraying the life of an immigrant trying to live the American dream in tandem with her own culture.

Recently, the 37-year-old actress was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for "Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series"—a testament to her genuinely relatable and endearing portrayal of Abishola. Also nominated in her category are Issa Rae (Insecure), Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish), Regina Hall (Black Monday) and Yara Shahidi (Grown-ish).

Bob Hearts Abishola is another hilarious production by the talented Chuck Lorre. Having premiered in 2019, and been renewed for a third season just last month, the comedy series follows the lives of a Nigerian nurse Abishola Adebambo (Olowofoyeku) and Bob Wheeler (Billy Gardell). The latter is a recent divorcee who runs his family's sock business in Detroit but finds himself at the Woodward Memorial Hospital after suffering a heart attack. It is there that he meets Abishola and is immediately smitten with her.

What makes Bob Hearts Abishola stand out is how it not only keeps its audience thoroughly entertained but does so while offering an alternative perspective of African immigrants, their culture, their hopes and dreams—minus the tired stereotypes.

And so we caught up with Olowofoyeku, who is based in Los Angeles, to speak about how comedy has given her her biggest break yet, what she has learned from her character Abishola and her recent NAACP Image Award nomination.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What were your initial thoughts when you first read the script for Bob Hearts Abishola, and what was that casting process like for you?

I didn't read the script until I'd been cast in the show. You have to realize that as a working actor, you go through tons and tons of auditions. At a certain point, I started just saying that I auditioned for a living because that's what I did. The ratio of auditions to actual jobs, in the beginning, is not balanced at all. So I thought it was a very well-written script and usually a good indication of that is, it's easy to memorize. It just flows like water. It's natural. It's written like a natural speaking pattern.

I knew it was Chuck Lorre's pet project, but I didn't know much about anything else. I just approached it like every other audition, focusing on the character's life. What is this character, Abishola, up to in this particular scene? And sometimes, it warrants creating a backstory, to be able to properly execute that audition. In this case, everything just seemed so natural; the character, her experience and accent. It was everything that was very familiar to me, the sort of woman she was.

Bob Hearts Abishola TrailerStill taken from YouTube.

Perhaps not so much in television but certainly in a number of films that have African characters, were you surprised that you, as an African, was actually cast for an African character?

I'm not sure I was surprised as much as I was glad. I think, within the whole culture recently, and our people have been very vocal about the fact that we want authenticity in the portrayal of our stories. I've noticed the change in the past few years, and I was glad that they were actually doing their due diligence in making sure to cast this character authentically.

I'm not a firm believer that as an actor, you have to be the character that you portray, but I think that it shouldn't just be disproportionately people who are not of a particular heritage and background playing and portraying certain characters. I think everyone should have an equal shot.

In what authentic ways would you say that you as a Nigerian, you relate to your character Abishola? If at all.

In so many ways. Sometimes it's kind of like a mind fuck, because we have the same background, but then it's a mind fuck because she's actually doing to her kid what was done to me. So, it's interesting because I wanted to be in the arts, and everyone in my family was against it and I was considered pretty much a joke for a very long time. So, having her go through that experience with her son, telling her son not to go into the arts, I mean, she's definitely a lot more lenient than my family was with me. Yeah, so it's sometimes emotional for me.

It was something that transcends this world in this character for me. Abishola's mother's name is actually my mom's name as well. There are a lot of parallels; even the stroke that Abishola is helping Dottie through. That was my experience as well with my father, growing up. So, it's pretty interesting, but a lot of her experiences are mine, a lot of the things that she endures with her son are experiences that I had in Nigeria while growing up. Obviously, I grew up in Nigeria, I was raised there. I didn't move to America until college. I'd never visited America until I moved here for college.

So, even in creating the character, I didn't have to do too much research. She was already embedded in me: the way she walked, the way she talked and her mannerisms. It's a part of me and it's what I grew up around. I went to an all-girls boarding school in Nigeria, the Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls. And just in that, between our teachers and the matron that took care of us while we were in boarding school, there's a lot to pull from. So, I researched Abishola for almost 20 years.

"So, I researched Abishola for almost 20 years."

Do you ever find a difficulty in discerning between Abishola the character, and you as Folake?

I wouldn't say I have difficulties, but there's a couple situations where they melt together. Remember, I studied theater. I learned all the different methods of acting so I'm able to portray a character and walk away from it at the end of the day without it affecting me or influencing my daily life. But there are certain emotional things that Abishola has experienced and to be able to portray that authentically on television, I need to actually go there personally. So, those would be the only incidences, because to get the visual representation of what Abishola is experiencing, I, Folake have to dive into some of my personal experiences and draw from that.

Bob Hearts Abishola TrailerStill taken from YouTube.

In a previous interview with us, you've said that you're not inherently a funny person, but you can be funny. On that note, are you surprised by your success in a comedy sitcom?

I'm not surprised at my success in it. I'm surprised that it was the launching pad. I'm a very versatile actress. That's been my staple since I started acting in college. I can do pretty much anything from action to drama—I love versatility. It's one of the things that drew me to the craft. I didn't want a redundant life. I appreciate the opportunities acting gave me. So, I'm not surprised at my successes in whatever I do. I know I will be successful as long as I'm dedicated and all that. And so, I'm just surprised that this was the medium that introduced me to the majority of the population.

You've spoken about how you were born to quite traditional parents who wanted you to pursue more conventional avenues professionally. In light of your success in Bob Hearts Abishola, would you say that their views changed?

My parents passed away many years ago. My mom had an opportunity to come and see some of my shows in New York. She saw me play Sally Bowles in Cabaret, which, if you're familiar with, it's a lot of singing and a lot of dancing in scantily chosen outfits. She enjoyed it a lot and she also came to a bunch of my Broadway shows too. She would always go back and report to my dad and tell him how it was all going. She told me she used to reenact the runway walk and all of that for him, which was really warming to hear.

Before they each passed away, they gave me their blessing. My dad passed away first. It was important to my mom that I go on and get my master's in acting if that was what I chose. But she supported and she was excited. And she was alive when I got nominated and won my first award for "Best Actress". So, I think she'd actually be extremely happy about this project.

"Before they each passed away, they gave me their blessing."

What would you say Abishola has taught you, not just as an actress but as a person?

She's helped me understand my parents' perspective. I mean, the whole process of playing this character on American television, first a Nigerian woman, with a Nigerian culture and Nigerian life in America. The whole journey is humbling and it's given me an opportunity to think outside of myself because a lot of my focus for many years was just about what's next. This project is having me sit down, and like Billy Gardell says, focus on gratitude for the opportunity and understand the weight of this character. It's given me an opportunity to be a lot more introspective about my journey and about what I want to focus on and what I want to say with this platform.

Bob Hearts Abishola TrailerStill taken from YouTube.

You were recently nominated for a NAACP Image Award. What does that mean to you, to have been nominated, and more so, what would it mean for you to actually win?

It feels like an acknowledgement of all the hard work we've all been doing; an acknowledgement that we are doing something beautiful here and something worthwhile. Not just me, the entire cast including the writers and creators of the show. We've got a great team here. I mean, we're in the Chuck Lorre universe, so that goes without saying. And that's a term that I've coined, the Chuck Lorre universe, because I'm very happy to be in it.

I think this is a pioneering show. I think we're timely, we're before our time, and that's why Chuck is the genius that he is. I see it as an appreciation for all the work that we're doing. Winning and being nominated, I'd say it kind of evokes the same feelings, and it's a celebration of immigrant people, not just us. And they're appreciative of the importance of creating imagery around immigrants that's positive and authentic. So I want to win. I have to win for the entire cast and crew.

There are always stereotypes attached to certain African immigrants. Do you think that the show has in any way shed light on that specific aspect of what it means to be an African immigrant in a place like the US?

Of course. I mean, you have to think about this because the show is made for Americans mostly in America. But the content is being spread all over the world. If we just focus on America for a second, there are tons of people who've never met Nigerians before in America. And this is network television. So, sometimes their very first introduction to Nigeria is from images that they see on screen. I'm not saying it's always wrong to portray Nigerians as villains or the negative. I'm not saying that at all. It just cannot be the only image.

It's about how you introduce millions of people to a certain culture. The fact that we are being watched on a weekly basis by six million people and counting is educating the world about Nigerians and about immigrants in general. It's almost an educational piece for folks who are not aware and familiar with the culture, from the foods that we eat to our motivation. Sometimes people forget that immigrants are literally just like them.

It's a good reminder that there's a portion of the immigrant community, of the Nigerian community, a large portion actually, that is really just focused on creating a better life for themselves. Just generally good people who want to be surrounded with love and have the ability to provide and have a stable, good standard of living.

I think if people would develop a lot more curiosity towards other people, I think it changes quite a bit. I think it's a really good first step. When you're being genuine and honest, there's no question you can't ask, especially if it's rooted in love. And I think this allows people to have conversations.

Photo by Ahmed Gomaa/Xinhua via Getty Images

What to expect from the 2023 AFCON qualifiers

The run-up to next year’s AFCON continues with qualifying fixtures, favourites to enter the tournament, and young talents to watch out for.

Resuming on March 22 are the qualifier rounds of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the biggest football and sporting event in Africa. 46 African nations compete to be among the 24 who will partake in the 34th edition of AFCON, taking place next year in Ivory Coast. Actually, 45 of the 46 nations are truly brawling for a spot—Ivory Coast, being the host nation, will enjoy an automatic qualification.

Besides Cameroon, Namibia, South Africa, and Liberia, the other 42 teams have each played two games since the qualifiers began last year. Each team will play a total of six matches to qualify for the tournament, playing each team in their group twice.

On March 22, the round of qualifiers will resume with a Group L fixture between the Republic of Benin and Rwanda, to take place at the Stade de l'Amitie, in Cotonou. Both teams will be hoping to land their first win in the qualifiers, after each failed to beat Mozambique and Senegal, the latter the title holder currently topping Group L.

Later that day, Sierra Leone will take on São Tomé and Princípe, the Group A fixture taking place in Adrar Stadium, in Agadir, Morocco. The pair will also be aiming for their first win in the qualifiers. But with São Tomé and Princípe suffering an embarrassing 10-nil defeat to current group leader Nigeria last June, all hope of qualification seems lost for the Central African country.

Favourites to qualify for the 2023 AFCON

Thus far, based on which teams currently top their group after winning their previous two fixtures, these nations seem bound for AFCON 2023: Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mali, Morocco, and Senegal. Considering all six countries have a better head-to-head record than each of their next respective opponents, they likely will, at the least, clinch a point in their next game, bringing them closer to qualifying for the tournament.

Qualification seems a given for these teams because they are also some of the most highly-ranked African teams on FIFA's most recent world rankings.

Traditional favourites like Ghana, Tunisia, and Egypt are also expected to scale through the qualifiers. Other favourites include "Gabon, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, and South Africa," said Lloyd Badeji, owner of the sports blog Sports Faculty, over a phone interview.

Players likely to impress in the qualifier round

Victor Osimhen is bound to blaze a trail during the qualifiers. The 24-year-old Nigerian striker is currently one of the top goalscorers in Europe this season, only behind Erling Haaland, Harry Kane and Kylian Mbappe. Known for his clinical finishing and athleticism, Osimhen, this season, has scored 21 goals in 23 matches in the Serie A for Napoli, leading the Italian club to its first league title in 30 years.

It is no surprise that Osimhen, with 5 goals, is currently the top scorer in the AFCON qualifiers, scoring four of those goals in the game Nigeria trounced São Tomé and Princípe 10-nil. Nigeria's coach Jose Poseiro will be hoping the striker is in his element as the Super Eagles welcome Guinea-Bissau this Friday to the Abuja National Stadium, where they hope to maintain their lead in Group A.

Another player to watch out for is Ghana's Mohammed Kudus. At only 22, Kudus boasts of a technical ability beyond his age, with clubs like Manchester United courting him. With 11 goals and two assists this season for his club side Ajax, Kudus is that rare thing: a goalscoring midfielder.

As Ghana takes on Angola on Thursday, coach Chris Hughton will be hoping the midfielder is in fine form. Hughton will also be banking on Thomas Partey and Inaki Williams, both of whom have been impressive for their respective clubs this season and likely will be some of the standout performers during the qualifiers.

Also likely to be a standout performer during the qualifiers is the Moroccan midfielder Sofyan Amrabat. The 26-year-old, who is known for his stamina as well as his ball-winning ability, was one of the stars of the 2022 World Cup held in Qatar — where he made 33 recoveries, six interceptions, and 143 passes with an 87% success rate.

This season, Eric Chuopo-Moting has played 17 games for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, scoring 10 and assisting two. He plays as a forward for Cameroon, where he has enjoyed 72 caps, scoring 20 goals in that time. Given his current form, he, too, will likely be a standout performer during the qualifiers.

The Cameroonian side, likewise, will be counting on 31-year-old Vincent Aboubakar, whose daring lob goal against Brazil was one of the highlights of the 2022 World Cup. Aboubakar, who currently plays for Beşiktaş, is known for his dribbling and ability to create space for his teammates. He scored the winning goal in the final of the 2017 AFCON tournament and will be one to watch in this year's qualifiers.

Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli during warm up ahead of the Serie A match between Torino FC and SSC Napoli at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on March 19, 2023 in Turin, Italy.Victor Osimhen of SSC Napoli during warm up ahead of the Serie A match between Torino FC and SSC Napoli at Stadio Olimpico di Torino on March 19, 2023 in Turin, Italy.Photo by Chris Ricco/Getty Images

Youngsters to look out for

Sadly, fans will not get to see Tariq Lamptey, the promising 22-year-old Ghanaian right-back who has been ruled out of the qualifiers due to injury. However, there are several other youngsters to look out for, such as Fasistencio Maria Faza Joa, the 19-year-old Algerian goalkeeper who has often impressed with his quick reflexes and ability to play with his feet.

Also likely to impress is the 19-year-old Daniel Bameyi, who plays as a defender for Nigeria. He is nicknamed The Major, speaking to his dominant presence on the pitch, and has proven to be great at dispatching aerial threats.

Ahmed Shereef, who is 19 years old and plays as a forward for Egypt, is one of the young stars to look out for in the qualifiers. Another 19-year-old to watch out for is Samba Diallo, who plays for Dynamo Kyiv. So far, Diallo has scored three goals in the qualifiers.

The youngest of the players likely to impress in the qualifiers is Zambia's Charles Mumba, who plays as a midfielder for Atletico Lusaka. As proof of his ability, the 18-year-old was named the best player at the 2022 COSAFA qualifiers.

Chuchu Ojekwe/Mavin Records.

The Emergence of Bayanni

The rising singer talks about graduating from the Mavin Records academy and breaks down how his song “Ta Ta Ta” went viral across several parts of Africa.

Last year, Bayanni’s “Ta Ta Ta” grew to be a continental afrobeats hit. Finally emerging from Mavin Records’ famed academy, finessed and remodeled to a fully-fledged and complete artist, a new Nigerian name had arrived. His unveiling video, grand and innovative, presented Bayanni as the product of a lab experiment, whose abilities had now been boosted and now ready to show forth his advantage.

Born Abimbola Elijah in Alagbado, a bustling settlement between the borders of Lagos and Ogun State in Nigeria, Bayanni nurtured his voice as a part of church choir groups. “I was in children's choir for most of my childhood,” Bayanni tells OkayAfrica one Wednesday afternoon. “Even when I got into university, I was still in the choir. Along the way, I joined some dance groups ‘cause I enjoyed dancing. At some point, I even won some dance competitions but I’m not sure I have those skills anymore.”

Music and family cuddled Bayanni in his early years. His parents have always been in support of his passion, with his dad paying for his first-ever studio session. It so happened that he went to a high school that taught musical instruments and, as a result, he can play seven of them. His favourite is the drums. “I know if I handle drums, everybody will cry, but let's not go there,” he says with excitement in his voice. “But yeah, I mean, I was popular in school for being a talented drummer. People knew me back then in school as Drummer Femi.” He feels that being a drummer is a cheat code that helps him maneuver his vocals around a production.

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Photo by Alex Wong via Getty

‘Hotel Rwanda’ Hero Paul Rusesabagina to Be Released From Prison

Paul Rusesabagina, who became renowned for his heroic portrayal in ‘Hotel Rwanda’, has received a presidential-ordered prison commute and will be released.

Paul Rusesabagina, the former hotel manager who saved over 1,200 Rwandans during the 1994 genocide and who was the inspiration behind the 2004 Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, will be released from prison on Saturday (March 25th.) Following a request for clemency, Rwanda’s government commuted the prison sentence of Paul Rusesabagina, who is now 68.

In 2020, the Rwandan government arrested Rusesabagina in Dubai and later transferred to Rwanda, where he faced charges of terrorism, related to his alleged involvement in a rebel group. Following the charges, the Rwandan court sentenced him to 25 years in prison. His sentencing triggered controversy, with some supporters alleging that he had been unfairly targeted. In 2022, Rusesabagina’s family sued the government of Rwanda for $400 million, stating that they had "abducted" and illegally imprisoned him. Following Rusesabagina’s conviction, several people speculated that he had been imprisoned because he had criticized Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame’s politics.

During Rwanda’s genocide, Rusesabagina worked as a hotel manager at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Despite the violence and chaos that surrounded him, Rusesabagina used his influence and resources to protect and shelter over 1,200 Tutsi and moderate Hutu refugees from the Hutu extremists who were carrying out the genocide. Hotel Rwanda, was based on Rusesabagina’s experiences experiences during the genocide, and the film's release catapulted him into fame. In the movie, Rusesabagina was portrayed by Hollywood actor Don Cheadle.

According to Yolande Makolo, Kagame Chief of Staff, and spokesperson on the issue, the sentences of 19 others, who were convicted alongside Rusesabagina will also be released.

"Under Rwandan law, commutation of sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction," Makolo told Reuters. “Rwanda notes the constructive role of the US government in creating conditions for dialogue on this issue, as well as the facilitation provided by the State of Qatar."

Rwanda’s ministry of justice, as reported as Reuters also stated that the commutation could be revoked if any of the released prisoners repeated the offenses.

"If any individual benefiting from early release repeats offences of a similar nature, the commutation can be revoked and the remainder of the prison sentence will be served," Rwanda's justice ministry said.
Photo by Matt Crossick

Davido Is Bringing ‘Timeless’ to These Cities

The Nigerian superstar has announced ‘A Timeless Night with Davido’ in Lagos, London and New York.

Davido has shared on social media that he will be bringing his Timelessalbum to New York, London, and Lagos, dubbing the mini-tour “A Timeless Night With Davido.”

In the post, the singer wrote:The support for Timeless over the last few days has been incredible! Thank you for the love. I'm so excited to bring this album to life and share it with you in person. London, New York City, Lagos join me for ‘A Timeless Night,' a special live event, where we'll make memories that will last forever!”

The DMW boss shared dates for the events; noting that in the first week of April, he will take the stage in New York and London, at Irving Plaza and Koko London, respectively, before returning to Lagos to perform at Tafawa Balewa Stadium in Lagos later that month.

In a viral social media post on Tuesday, the Nigerian singer announced that he will be releasing his latest studio album Timeless on March 31. The announcement spurred a lot of excitement and expectation from fans, who had been curious about the singer’s well-being after the extended hiatus that followed the tragic loss of his son, three year old Ifeanyi Adeleke.

Throughout Davido's 11-year career, he has become a staple in Afrobeats and has contributed significantly to pushing the sound, helping it resonate with fans globally. The singer has released several studio albums throughout his career, including Omo Baba Olowo (2012), A Good Time (2019), and A Better Time (2020).

Timeless will be his fourth studio album.

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