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Anee Icha is Finding Joy in Acting & Championing Mental Wellness | #BNMeetTheStar

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In this edition of “Meet the Star,” a segment dedicated to spotlighting emerging talents in Nollywood, Anee Icha talks about her role in the recent movie “Casa De Novia,”  her advocacy for mental health, and her dream directors and actors she’ll love to work with. 

In our previous feature, we caught up with Paul Nnadiekwe, who talked to us about his career in the film industry, from his roles in the AMVCA-nominated movie “Afamefuna,” and the upcoming “I Do Not Come To You By Chance,” and the unique experience of being born on a leap day. If you missed it, you can read it here.

Anee Icha is an actress, writer, and producer, and is popularly known for her role in the drama series “Before 30.” For Anee, acting wasn’t a preordained path for her; rather, she embraced it and poured her heart into every opportunity. Her approach to characters? Love. 

In “Casa De Novia,” Anee is Yoyo, a spirited young woman starting a journalism career in the bustling city of Lagos. In reality, Anee is Anee – passionate, emotional, fiery and a lover of people, yet, she also identifies as the founding mother of The Hermit Haven Society, the president of The Quietude Quorum and the convener of The Reclusive Introvert Alliance. You can tell Anee is introverted. 

Beyond acting, Anee champions mental health awareness. She compares the brain to a car engine, emphasising its central role in shaping our experiences. highlights the importance of self-care for this vital organ. It’s no surprise neuroscience would have been her chosen field if she wasn’t on our screens either as Yoyo or Dami. 

We bet you’ll enjoy reading this interesting conversation we had with Anee just as much as we did. You might even want to get a chilled glass of your favourite drink to read along with.

Hey Anee! How’s your day going?

Hey BellaNaija, thank you for having me. My day’s going pretty well actually; I’m a sucker for rainy mornings (not nights, just mornings lol), so whenever it rains in the morning, my mood for that day is pretty much sorted.

Let’s jump into your latest film, “Casa De Novia.” What initially drew you to the character of Yoyo?

Hmmm, well I’m going to be honest and say nothing drew me to Yoyo at first. Truthfully, I was rather afraid to play her because there were such specific expectations her creators had of her, and I didn’t want to let them down. She had a grasp of things that I had never experienced, things I didn’t know how to do; like being able to speak pidgin English properly for example. When you hear pidgin English spoken the right way, it’s like music, it’s beautiful and carries weight in a way that regular English sometimes cannot. So it was the little details of her that scared me and made me hesitant to get to know her.

However, there is a special kind of magic that enters us when we have people who believe in us and see the potential that we maybe cannot see in ourselves yet, which is where I must give major props to Mr Akinmolayan. He believed more than anyone that I could bring Yoyo to life in the way she needed to be seen, and that helped me approach her with less fear. So I did, and let me tell you that she’s a great gal! Lol. If you know what goes on in Yoyo’s head, you’d love her. You’d give her a couple of knocks now and again, but you’d love her. Her foolishness is innocent, her antics are without any malicious intent and her heart seems to be in the right place. I think these were the things that drew me to her at the end of the day.

Taking a step back, how did your acting journey begin? Was there a specific moment you knew this was your calling?

When it comes to callings, I am cautious because there are so many moving parts that come together to create success, and we conflate being successful at something with being called to do it, and that’s not necessarily always true. To be honest, if we were to go by the reach of my “celebrity” and “success” in the industry, I shouldn’t dream of saying acting is my calling because I’ve done maybe 10 projects in the span of my career so far, and that’s not a lot, but with each of these projects, the characters I have been charged with playing have gotten their time in the sun and they come across to the audience as real and that is a whole lot. That’s what means the most to me, but it’s relative. So callings are a little tricky (unless you’re the legendary Micheal Jackson), but doing the work wherever it is you find yourself is less tricky and a little easier to manage.

So whenever I get the opportunity to do the work in this field, I am grateful and I throw all I can into it, and I pray I get to keep doing it (maybe when I blow I will get back to you on the calling part, hahaha). How my acting career began is a lovely story, but it will take another 10 or so minutes to tell it with all the nuance and sweet-sweet gist that makes it such a good story lol! Let me say that I was blessed to begin my career with people who approached the art of filmmaking from a very high standard, and that showed me what is possible for Nollywood and those of us who are a part of her. Shout out to the fantastic folks at Nemsia for giving me that gift.

From your first role to Yoyo in Casa De Novia, how has your approach to acting evolved? What has changed?

Ama from “Before 30” was the first person that was given to me and she was just a happy bunny! (Do you know my big sister calls me that?) Now that I think of it, the people in the projects I’ve worked on who have given me the most of themselves are the happy-go-lucky, quirky, innocent ones (hmm, I have some thoughts, but I shall keep them to myself lol). Yoyo is – you know what I think it is? And this is hopefully going to answer the question about how my approach to becoming these people has evolved (if it has… hopefully it has) I think it’s love- don’t barf yet, just stay with me and we’ll land this plane safely I promise! Love is one of, if not the most universal language that everything responds to. Think about it, from Ama from in Before 30, to Ejiro in Babysitting Ejiro, to Stella in C&C, to Yoyo in Case De Novia; all of them are unapologetically themselves in all their mess and madness and whatever else in between; that’s love.

And I might be talking nonsense, but I think that’s what it is for me; I think that’s the place that me and these people meet. We’re not perfect, not by any means, but we’re okay with who we are. So the answer I think is I evolve and allow these people to do whatever they need to do, however foolish, embarrassing or serious because love makes it okay for me to put myself away for a while so that someone else can be seen as they are. This isn’t part of the question, but I have to say that I think the greatest gift any parent can give their child is this; the unshakeable knowing that they are whole and they are enough. It’s a blessing I wouldn’t trade for anything else.

In one word, how would you describe your acting career so far?

Can we skip this question? Lol! Ummm, oh there are so many words, some of which I’m not sure can be said out loud. I want to say fulfilling and prolific and rewarding and all that good stuff, but mhaaan that just wouldn’t be the whole truth. It’s been those things sometimes and other times, it’s been difficult and slow and confusing. I would love to do more definitely, but I want the more to mean something more than a paycheque, and that’s where we run into some murky waters. There are people that I would love to bring to life, but it’s not just about me and what I want.

As I said there are many moving parts, and wanting is one thing, but there’s also the fact that what you want must also want you in return, and when that happens I am stoked, but it doesn’t always happen. So I would describe my career as this, there are times when it’s felt like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” (the most incredible film I’ve seen in a long time by the way) and there are times when it felt like nothing nowhere and this is the end. I am grateful that God has kept me when it has been good and held me when it has been otherwise. That wasn’t one word, I know, forgive me.

Just curious, if acting wasn’t in the cards, what path might you have pursued?

Neuroscience. There you have your one word, lol.

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