Ahead of Netflix's time-bending drama Bodies being released, we caught up with actress Amaka Okafor who plays DS Hasan.
You're about to star in Netflix’s Bodies – what was the auditioning process like for this project?
The auditioning process was long and thorough. There was no doubt that I was kind of an unknown, a risk I suppose. But right from my first recall, Marco (our director) made it very clear that he was fighting for me. My mum literally calls him an angel, ha!
What drew you to the role? Why did you want to be attached to this project?
I absolutely LOVE THIS CHARACTER!! Honestly, she is so multifaceted. I felt properly seen by her and completely connected to her as soon as I started reading the pilot. The writing is so good. I'm usually quite a slow reader, but I burned through that pilot in one sitting (unheard of for me) and not only did I really want the job, but I needed to know WHAT WAS GONNA HAPPEN NEXT!!
Bodies has such an interesting concept – can you tell us a bit about the show?
Bodies, at its heart, is a story about what happens when a child feels unloved. It jumps from genre to genre so deftly and the mystery is so tightly gripping! But at its core, it’s essentially about love.
Amaka's character of DS Shahara Hasan, sits in the present-day and ends up drawn into a compelling case when the body of a young man is found on Longharvest Lane, Whitechapel, London, while she is in pursuit of a suspect.
Making this young man the focus of her investigation into the murder sees Hasan drawn into something she didn't think was possible.
Do you see similarities with yourself and character DS Hasan?
Yes, so many! She is a single mum (same), she is close with her dad (same), she loves her job (same), work/ life balance is a challenge for her (I'm working on it....), she has faith (same), she is mixed race; African and Asian (same!), she goes out on a limb for people and that has gotten her into trouble in the past -SAME. I could probably go on!
Do you have a particular process when getting into character and do you find you take a character home with you at the end of the day?
I am an instinctive actor. I didn't train, so I have learnt my process on the job. I find ways in which we are alike as a way in and then focus on the differences and figure out how to access those parts of the character. It's never the same route, as each character is different. I don't take characters home but sometimes I learn something about myself from the process, and I pocket those little nuggets.
What do you hope will resonate most with viewers after watching the show?
Each detective is an outsider in their time, for whatever reason. They are each battling with society's perception of who they are, or how they identify. I hope that by seeing that internal struggle in each of them, encourages people to open up to one another. Assume a little less about other people.
Bodies, adapted from a comic originally, does well to not leave audiences lost in the confusion time-travel can often pose. It's pacing; though slow to begin with, picks up rapidly, making it a binge-able weekend watch.
Who do you draw inspiration from in your working as well as personal life?
My Mum and my Dad. My Dad is a singer/songwriter and when my parents separated, I mainly lived with him. I spent my childhood with him in recording studios and on the road and appreciated being exposed to his wild creativity and deep passion for justice. He is a protest singer really. My Mum left home when she was really young with no real qualifications and hustled her way into the BBC. When she realised there was a glass ceiling for her, she left and started her own PR company. She is honestly so so impressive! I have watched her build the life she wants from nothing and block out any negativity. She's amazing.
What do you do to decompress after you have finished filming?
I watch a bit of telly. Nothing too taxing. Something that'll make me laugh, like Brooklyn Nine Nine.
What is your favourite part about being on a set?
On Bodies, my favourite thing about being on set was hanging out with the crew. Honestly, the best group of people! So funny, sensitive and kind. I looked forward to going to work every day.
You've been awarded 2023 Screen International Star of Tomorrow – what does that recognition mean to you?
That recognition means the world. I thought that kind of thing only happened to people in their 20’s. I'm usually the safe pair of hands who facilitates the lead character's story, so if I'm doing my job well, I shouldn't really be noticed. But to be seen, to have all the years of hard work recognised....I can't even. It makes me wanna cry. In a good way.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Trust your gut. If something feels wrong, it probably is and you don't have to go along with it just because everyone else is. Actors are seen as difficult if we say 'no'. Especially if you're not white. So you can often find yourself going along with something that feels wrong deep down. It can be hard to put into words on the reasons right away, so can feel hard to speak up as you don't have the language for the feeling just yet. I would encourage my younger self to take the time to pause and interrogate those gut feelings. Then the words and reasons will surface.
Bodies is available to watch now on Netflix.