I actually sat and watched all 25 previous James Bond movies (yes, counting Sean Connery’s Never Say Never Again) during the first month of “lockdown” in April of 2020. So when I give my usual “this list will not be your list” disclaimer, I should also note that this list won’t necessarily be the list I […]
CHARLES GRANVILLE: IN LOCKED, HUMOUR ENRICHES A MORE COMPLEX SCRIPT
What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?
I wanted to tell a different story from the usual, filled with intrigue and suspense and I wanted to make it relatable and for it to also do justice to the cause it represents. To do that, I had to properly research mental health and approach the process of making my film from a place of knowledge and empathy. I consulted doctors and therapists, went online in my research in order to understand what Multiple Personality Disorder is.
I also wanted to involve organisations that promote mental health awareness and advocate for sufferers. But the organizations I engaged and the celebrities I contacted seemed reluctant to attach themselves to the project. This was somewhat discouraging because I saw what I was doing as an opportunity for them to be able to tell their story and assist to encourage and inspire others. Their contributions could have made the film richer, but it didn’t really harm the story we told anyway.
Selecting the cast was another challenge. I wanted a cast that would be able to tell the story. Actors who can reach deep and interpret their characters in the best and most relatable way possible and I couldn’t allow relationships and sentiments mar my goals. Although I got some push back from distributors who felt I should have used some other actors, I am happy that I went with my guts in my selection because they all gave A+ performances and carried their characters well. I am certain that they will all get nominations and awards for their roles both locally and internationally. I am very proud of them all.
Locked is entirely independently produced. Was this a deliberate decision?
Yes and no. I chose not to involve external brands and individuals involved in the early stage of getting Locked made because in the compromise of integrity of story versus financial bottom lines, most brands would choose the latter. Only when we had a solid script and the commitment of my cast, did we start looking for partners who believed in the story we wanted to tell. Getting brands, individuals, etc to support financially at this point has been a challenge and so far, I have had to shoulder every expense but as a growing brand, it is expected. I know that this will improve with time.
I am not a stranger to being told “NO”, it makes me want to work harder to get a resounding “YES!” So, every challenge I have faced, even the ones I can’t mention have taught me lessons and made me stronger. I am better for it.
What led to your decision to produce a thriller centered around mental health?
Well, look around us. Less than a decade ago, Nigerian regularly ranked among the happiest nations in the world, now we’ve fallen all the way to the bottom. Social media has helped lift the veil on depression and made it harder to hide the many cases of suicidal ideation that many struggle with. So when the film screenwriter Mazi Akinola pitched his new script to me, I saw an opportunity to explore our collective relationship with mental health.
I saw an opportunity to destigmatize mental disorders, shed light on how it affects families, and show there are other ways to address these disorders other than denial, isolation or torture under the guise of spiritual healing. I hope Locked provides wholesome entertainment to the film lovers who support our film while bringing some answers and maybe hope to people struggling with mental health in our communities.
What do you think the audience will be thinking about in the car as they drive home after seeing the movie?
If there’s one thing I can swear by, it’s that Locked sit with you. Beyond appealing to your emotions, it appeals to your compassion and ignites your mind. It will definitely spark conversations. Those conversations and recommendations are how we hope to keep the momentum of our film going, and all our cinema seats sold.
Locked is not just social commentary, it is also an extremely funny film that expertly incorporates romance and suspense with a very satisfying twist and climax. I don’t think anyone will see Locked and not have a visceral reaction to it.
How do you think this movie will change the narrative about mental health?
We depicted our character with the mental health issues with much more nuance and empathy than many film goers have come to expect from Nollywood. Few people understand the spectrum of mental illness, and our social conditioning teaches us to blame witchcraft and evil intentions for mental illness, rather than the cranial chemical imbalance that causes young people to struggle to successfully engage their communities. Social media has made the problem worse, by allowing people to hide their symptoms behind carefully curated social personas. I wanted to tell a story that showed our audience we understand that sometimes a smile is a cry for help.
What’s going to surprise people about this movie?
I can’t give out spoilers but I can tell you that you would be definitely surprised in the end.
For me, Hilda Dokubo brought so much depth to Locked, I have always known she’s an outstanding actor. Sunny Nneji was quite the magician, pulling off two believable performances. He was a good surprise. Belinda Effah has always been an actor I respect. She is very deep and beautiful too. She is fluid and very adaptable. She gives her best every time. Abayomi Alvin also did his character justice. I’m sure people will fall in love with him after this movie.
I surprised myself with some of the scenes I watched of myself but that’s partly because I had a director as dedicated to his craft as Simon Peacemaker.
Who among the actors do you think played the most challenging character?
That’s hard to say because they all were challenged and they all delivered stellar performances.
But Hilda really carried the film, having to switch seamlessly between different alters. At some points I feel she came as close as any actor can to blurring the lines between fiction and reality. I had to sometimes remind myself that she is acting. I think she needs to do a master class to impart some of these skills she has or write a book or something. She is quite amazing.
Like I mentioned before, Sunny Neji having to play a dual character, I think was also very challenging. We all had to put in our best too.
What sort of person is going to love this movie?
Everyone, I hope! However, I’ve found that most of us are tired of watching the same predictable stories being recycled and we crave something new and exciting. We want to watch a movie that honours its viewing audience enough to engage them on visceral and intellectual levels. It is great to go into the cinema for a laugh but it’s even better when the humour enriches a more complex script rather than serving as a crutch for poor storytelling. I hope Locked will be that film for everyone who buys a ticket.
How is the character you played in the movie like you? Different?
Uhrmm… I’d say both. Tokunbo is very calm, very patient and understanding. I am like that too. I am not easily angered. There was a scene in the movie where I had to act angry and watching the playback, I thought “I am either a very good actor or I need to go for anger management classes or both” or maybe I just had a very good director because I could not recognize myself again.
That’s what acting does to you though. It is always a great challenge when one is taken out of his comfort zone. It excites me.
What do you love about your character in the movie?
The chemistry with Belinda Effah’s character is brilliant. We worked so well together it barely felt like acting. She made it easy though, like I said before she is an actor I respect because she is deep and never disappoints. There was a lot of kissing. In post-production, we had to cut some. Not by my decision but I guess the editor was jealous or something, hahaha.
What do you hate about your character in the movie?
Nothing really. I guess maybe he was too patient and understanding and it made him seem weak or too much of a lover boy. As a Warri boy that he is, maybe he could have broken the door or something but love is blind and patient, I guess.
Who’s the funniest person in the cast in real life?
I would say Abayomi. He is not well.