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Niyola & Ijeoma Grace Agu Take Us Inside Kunle Afolayan’s New Film “Swallow”



Kunle Afolayan was approached by Netflix in 2015 about acquiring his psychological thriller “October 1“. One of the earliest Netflix-Nollywood partnerships resulted from that talk. More Nollywood films like “Citation” have been added to the platform since then.

His most recent project, a film adaption of Sefi Atta‘s “Swallow,” which stars singer/songwriter Eniola ‘Niyola’ Akinbo Ijeoma Grace Agu, recently premiered on Netflix.

The film also stars Deyemi Okanlawon, Kelvin Ikeduba, Offiong Anthony (Thin Tall Tony), Eniola Badmus, Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha, Olusegun Akinremi, Joke Muyiwa, Omotunde Adebowale (Lolo 1), Kunle Idowu (Frank Donga), Bala Bello, and Oreofe Lawal.

“Swallow,” tells the story of a naive secretary who, after a series of career failures, considers her roommate’s offer to work as a drug mule in mid-1980s Lagos, according to Netflix.


Below, Niyola and Ijeoma speak to BellaNaija about their roles in the new film, personal lessons, and their most memorable scene in the film.

How does it feel to know that “Swallow” is premiering soon?

Ijeoma Grace Agu: Very excitedly actually. I’ve had fans who will say, what work of yours can we see on Netflix, fans all over the world. Now I have something to say.

Ijeoma Grace Agu

This is your acting debut as the lead role. What was your reaction when you were called to take on the role of Tolani?

Niyola: I was a bit taken aback when I was told. Kunle Afolayan was very sure I could do it. I asked him ‘what makes you so sure,’ he said, ‘because I’ve seen you in your videos, and even the way you think.’ That guy, his eyes are not outside, he sees things deeper than the average eye. If a person says they see something in you and you haven’t yet seen it, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t give it a go.

I went from being shocked to being ‘yeah, I can’t do it,’ then to ‘oh! Okay, let’s do it.’ It was like different stages. When it got to the point when I was excited, I was excited and obviously, I couldn’t share it with anybody for many months. I was excited on the inside. My acting debut was going to be on Netflix, and the fact that was Kunle Afolayan, I was excited.

Ijeoma Grace Agu

In today’s world, people are more tempted to go into drugs, what’s that one piece of advice you have for people like that

Ijeoma Grace Agu: There are consequences for every action, be it good or bad actions. By all means, carry drugs if you want, but be ready to face the consequences by the law, and also to yourself, your body.

“Swallow” was set in Lagos in the mid-80s which means some of the issues addressed have been around for a while, how can today’s women be as emboldened as Tolani/break out of the cycle of sexual harassment?

Niyola: That’s a loaded question. These are issues that have been there from time immemorial and if history repeats itself, because it always does, and we know these things will always be there. The earth is forever spinning, even fashion always comes back around. The thing that we can do especially from generation to generation is to just make it part of our belief system to be self-aware.

What happened to Tolani, I mean, anyone can get carried away because there’s how suffering will hit and you will be like ‘Omo, do they have two heads, why can I?’. Everyone can have a tipping point, but then if. you know yourself, you will quickly shrink back to size, come back into position.


I think that the important thing that should be drummed in the home-front, schools, movies, however way possible, to young women. You find out that women in their 40s or 50s are not self-aware, and would do something because it seems like the cool thing to do. If you know who you are, at the core, there are just are certain things you can deal with. You will understand that I would much rather be jobless than deal with what somebody is doing with me because I feel like I don’t have a choice.

You should always try to remember you need to put yourself first. I don’t think it will ever change but it’s just this sad reality of life that we’ll have to deal with. If you can’t change the fact, you can fix the theory.

If you’ve ever wondered how Niyola felt about making her acting debut, let alone landing the lead role in “Swallow,” you need to watch this interview.


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