Last season on MTV Shuga, Dorcas Shola Fapson came across as vivacious when she played Sophie, the runs babe, but to the British-born actress who started acting only two years ago, it was simply about the role.
And in this interview with JOE AGBRO JR., Fapson reveals her impressions of Nollywood, how far she would go to interpret a role amongst other things.
Who is Sophie in Shuga?
Last season, Sophie was a ‘runs’ babe and she was a very outgoing, fun, bubbly, no-filter kind of girl. She just did what she wanted, not caring who it affected or how it affected anyone. She lived a carefree life. As a ‘runs’ babe, she was well-off. This season, Sophie is a lot more mature. She is determined to be a better person. She is working, making her own money. So, she is no longer a ‘runs’ babe, and has transitioned from being a ‘runs’ babe to a working lady; and a kind of mentor to her younger sister.
So, how much of Dorcas is Sophie?
I think this season, Sophie is a lot more like Dorcas because she is working, focused, and is very on-point with her sex life. I feel like, last season, we were very different because she was a ‘runs’ babe, sleeping with anybody who could pay her rent, or school fees, or buy her a nice bag. So, I feel like this season, Dorcas and Sophie are very similar because, like I said, Sophie is very hardworking this season, and she is an independent person, rather than relying on men to pay for her.
So, what has been the experience on the Shuga set?
Hmmm. It’s been fun. Last season was really fun with the cast and everybody. This season is fun again with the new and old cast. And also, on and off set, we’re all cool together. They’re amazing actors and actresses.
Did Shuga give you your first major role?
Yes, Last season on Shuga was my TV debut; my first on-screen role, and break-in into the industry.
Aside from Shuga, what have you done?
I’m working on a few things. At the moment I’m not allowed to talk about it because the press release is not out yet.
So, how has the entertainment industry been for you?
It’s been crazy because Sophie has a lot of fans, so I get stopped a lot for pictures, and also get loads of messages from Instagram and Twitter from all over, saying that they admire my work. And it’s just been really crazy and it’s been a lot of love from a lot of people I don’t even know. I’ve received so much love and encouragement from people. So, it’s been really good.
The main aim of Shuga is to pass the message of being careful with sex to youths.
How much do you think the modern-day youth is taking all that?
I think that they are taking it really well because Shuga is not just one of those preachy shows. It’s educative, and entertaining at the same time. I feel that with characters like Sophie, a lot of young people identify with her. They’re probably doing the same things Sophie does. So they relate to her. And seeing what Sophie goes through will maybe trigger somebody like Sophie to be more careful. A lot of people identify with different characters in Shuga. That’s why they relate to it and they put it into their own lives and probably practice same. They’re wiser now because they don’t want to go through what Sophie went through.
What’s one of the weirdest things you’ve had to deal with because you play Sophie?
I get a lot of older guys thinking I’m like that in real life, trying to pass me their cards and so on. In my hotel, they’d be like, ‘my room is this, this, that, come and see me’. I’m just like. ‘I’m Dorcas, not Sophie’.
Are you in a relationship?
No, I’m single at the moment.
I’m really focused on my career at the moment, and I don’t have time for side-lines or distractions. But if it happens, it happens. I’m not totally against it. I’m just very focused on my career.
What was growing up like for you?
I was born and raised in the UK; in London. I grew up with my dad after my mum passed away. I studied before I started acting. I started acting two years ago and prior to that, I was at the university, and have a degree in criminology.
Why did you go into acting with a degree in criminology?
Because acting is something I always wanted to do. But, you know Nigerian parents, they don’t really agree until you start bringing in the money, that’s when they say, ‘oh, acting is great.’ They’d be going like, you should be a doctor, you should be a lawyer, you should be doing this or that. And criminology is something I’m interested in. So, studying Criminology was not just to please my dad, but also about my passion for young people, especially young offenders rehabilitating young offenders. Even now, I work with a lot of young offenders, so, it goes hand in hand.
How do you work with young offenders?
In London, I work with London Probation. They work with young people who have just come out of prison helping them get back to work or education or extracurricular activities. So, I help with drama, I might teach an acting class or help fix their CV; stuff like that.
So, have you now dumped criminology for acting?
No, I will never dump criminology for acting. I will always want to intertwine the two. Like my ten year plan is to, have a drama school that caters to young people from inner city neighbourhood (poor backgrounds); where young people tend to commit more crimes because they have no money, they have no aspiration, or hope. So, I would want to have a drama school for people that have been in trouble or from poor backgrounds.
Was it because of this production you came into Nigeria?
It was. I don’t live in Nigeria. I live in London but I shuttle back and forth to work.
So, when was the first time you visited Nigeria?
The first time I ever came to Nigeria was when I was 14 years old and I stayed for a while. And the second time was when I came to shoot Shuga.
How old were you when your mother passed on?
I was 14.
Was it after your mum`s death you first visited Nigeria?
So, compared to your first set of memories, how do you see Lagos now?
When I was young, I didn’t like it at all. But now I love it. I love how it is developing. I love the entertainment industry, the music, everything. I love it. I like London but I love Lagos.
You must be aware that Nollywood is growing globally; do you have role models in the industry?
I do. I know Genevieve is like my big sister in London. I know that’s a bit of a cliché, everybody is supposed to say Genevieve, Genevieve, Genevieve. But even when I was in London, I used to watch her and be like, ‘I want to be like her.’ I identify with her. I really admire her work. She’s one of my icons.
So, would you do an ‘Aba’ movie when it comes?
It depends on the script. I’m not completely anti-Nollywood. I’m not sold on Nollywood though, so, I’m not, ‘oh, I want to be a Nollywood actress’. My end goal, to be honest, is Hollywood. I kind of fell into it coming to Nigeria, it wasn’t in my plan at all. But like you said, Nollywood is a fast growing industry, and it is developing very well. If the right script comes along, then definitely, I would do it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of silly scripts. I want to be respected for my work. I don’t want be to watch a movie I did and just be like ‘arrgh, this is a terrible production’. I want to be in good quality productions. So, if the script makes sense and the production is well-funded, then definitely.
Is it that you consider most of the scripts coming out of Nigeria as ‘not making sense’?
No, not at all. Like I said, if the script is right, then I would do it. There are quite a number of great Nollywood films like Last Flight To Abuja. That was an amazing script and it was shot amazingly. So, stuffs like that, I would definitely do. But something shot in somebody’s back room, with a poor script and poor sound, no.
So, what makes a good script for you?
Something that has a beginning and an end. I’ve watched a few Nollywood films and quite a number have no meaning; no head or tail, no substance. I like movies that make sense. But Nollywood is developing, so, hopefully, the right script will come along.
How far can you go in interpreting a role? Are there things, for instance, that you would not do?
I feel that as an actress, you have to be open to do anything. I won’t say there is anything I can’t do. With acting, there are lots of camera tricks. So, you might think somebody is sleeping with somebody but they’re not actually doing anything. So, it depends. I wouldn’t completely rule anything out.
Would you go nude for instance?
It depends on the film and the production. For example, in 12 Years A Slave, Lupita went topless. There was nothing wrong with that because that was how slaves were treated in the time. To interpret the role, she had to go topless. Something like that was fine, but if it’s like one… shooting at Surulere, it’s not making sense; of course, I’m not going to go topless because it’s pointless. If I have to do it to interpret my role, well, and of course, if the money is making sense and the production is making sense, then yes, I would do it.
So, how lucrative has acting been for you?
It’s been amazing for me. It’s been a great journey, it’s been interesting. I’ve really come out of my comfort zone. I’m crawling. You have to crawl before you walk. I’m taking baby steps. I’m getting there.
What advice do you have for people who look up to you?
For people who look up to me, I’ll just advise them to keep pushing, never let anybody tell them they can’t do anything. And if you have a dream, pursue it and just be the best. Hard work and determination will always prevail. Just believe in yourself and PUSH (Pray Until Something Happens)