In commemoration of this year’s Black History Month, we are delighted to showcase to you a Black screen goddess, Olunike Adeliyi. Not only has she carved a niche for herself in the entertainment industry, she has been a great ambassador of Blacks.
In a chat with our correspondent, the Nigerian-Jamaican Canadian actress who plays the character Queenie on the new CBC TV show THE PORTER, shares her inspiring story. She also harped on her role in the series.
NCNC: Thank you for creating time to have this section with us. Tell us about the highly anticipated series The Porter
Set in the early 1920s and inspired by real events, THE PORTER is a new CBC TV series that follows train porters Junior Massey and Zeke Garrett, Juniors wife Marlene, and upstart performer Lucy, as a tragedy in the community sets them on starkly different paths to a better life. While Junior takes advantage of a broken system to pursue money and power in gambling and bootlegging, Zeke fights the railway to change the system from within by unionizing the Black porters. Marlene questions whether her work as a Black Cross nurse is truly serving her community, while Lucy takes her success into her own hands whatever the cost. As each pursues their goals, their once unbreakable bonds are stretched to their limits. Will they need to betray each other and their community to make their dreams reality?
NCNC: How did you become involved in the series? How would you describe the production [shooting] process?
I have been friends with Arnold Pinnock, one of the shows co-creators, for many years and he told me bits and pieces about the project, but it was all a matter of timing to finally see it on its feet. It was nice to be thought of for the role, but I had to also show that I deserved to play it. It was a beautiful challenge that landed me here today. I couldn’t see anyone else in the role but me and so did the creative team. Shooting was fun and respectful. There is something about being Black and being surrounded by other Black creatives. We all get each other in a profound way that makes for incredible creations. Sometimes even without speaking words. It’s a connection deep down in the DNA and ancestral. We were a family.
NCNC: It has been reported that the eight-episode fictional drama will celebrate the lives, stories and achievements of the Black train porters and their families in the 1920s who played an essential role in not only forming the many Black communities across Canada but for also shaping Canada into the multicultural country it is today. Can you share insight on this?
The show will bring forward stories from many walks of Black life in Canada that were not taught in society especially in the educational system. No wonder Blacks in other countries wonder if there are Black people living in Canada. However, they definitely make up the fabric of Canadian history and the present. The Porter will start the conversation of deeper Black history that we will all relate to.
NCNC: It has also been reported that the series hopes to reframe Black Canadian history. How does it hope to achieve this?
I believe Black Canadian history will be reframed in the sense that there will be more access to information that many Canadians did not probably think was available. The Porter will also bring forth awareness and curiosity to possibly look things up that was seen in the episodes. So, this makes for fun adventures down the Black Canadian history rabbit hole.
A bit about Olunike Adeliyi:
NCNC: How did you navigate your way to the top as an actress? What did you do differently to get you to where you are?
I educated myself in the arts and stayed myself in the industry. I continue to educate myself at the University of Toronto majoring in African Studies and learning about the diaspora. They are only looking for the best version of YOU.
NCNC: What are some of the childhood experiences that shaped who you are today and how would you describe your journey to the top?
A significant amount of time was spent with my family growing up in Jamaica where my beautiful mother hails from.
First and foremost, I don’t worry about being at the top. I only focus on fine tuning my craft consistently and working consistently in roles that hopefully affect people’s lives for the greater and make God happy. God picks my roles to help me discover another part pf myself. Therefore, eliminating any competitive edge. My work is a love letter to humanity and our Black community having representation on screen. What sparked this adventure started when I was a child in the countryside of Jamaica. We had the outdoors and I was one with nature. My imagination was built there, and I have fond memories of my environment that was filled with discipline, spirituality, pride, and an immense amount of love. I act from that place.
NCNC: You have featured in quite a number of movies and TV shows. Which would you consider your best and why?
My next one. It just keeps getting better.
NCNC: Can you shed light on your character “Queenie” in the series The Porter? Why did you agree to be part of this project and what impact do you think the project will make?
My character “Queenie” is a renaissance woman in the 1920s and she is the head of her own gangster organization. Everyone goes through her for anything because she’s the Boss and she’s dangerous. However, as dangerous as she is, she helps the Black community in Chicago and helps Black immigrants stand firmly on their feet when they arrive from other countries. Her community reveres her because she gives them a chance when White America won’t. She is a full multidimensional character and a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think I’ve ever played a character so bold and calculated. I believe we all want to be a Queenie in the world. It means no fear.
NCNC: If you were not an actress, what else would you have become? Any regret being an actress?
I cannot actually think of anything else other than Plan A working. I’ve been like this my entire life even in the face of adversity. My family is Jamaican and Nigerian so you could imagine the pressure of not becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. God bless their hearts but I’m a storyteller and a great one. It would be a disservice if I didn’t follow this career choice. It’s more than a desire. It’s a calling. I stayed with it and studied it and fell in love with me following my dreams. This choice has led me to my purpose which is bringing love and joy to people. This choice has healed me from any trauma I may have endure on my journey through life. This choice has also provided insight and support for other entrepreneurial businesses I’m starting to create and build. I do not live with regrets. I only live by experiences. I’m happy and fulfilled. What more can you ask for?
The editorial board of The Nigerian Canadian Newspaper celebrates with Olunike Adeliyi for her giant strides in the movie industry especially for her recent role in the series, The Porter. We commend her for her continued goodwill to humanity and also urge her to keep being a good ambassador of Blacks.