Ufuoma McDermott recently spoke to Pulse Nigeria about her upcoming romantic comedy “Christmas is Coming.”
A star-studded film; it follows the story of a tomboy, Henri Atta, who has a string of ill-luck after being transformed to a “Lady” by her mischievous flat mates; Avia and Nene a few days to Christmas when she has a big pitch.
She has a hard time at the pitch and unintentionally falls in love with her boss; Koko Williams, and quickly has to deal with its immediate consequences.
During a chat with Nigeria, McDermott shared what inspired the story, her most challenging experience on set, casting process and playing a tomboy.
Read interview below:
I have always loved Christmas and I always knew that sometimes as a filmmaker, I was going to make a holiday-themed movie. So when the story came, I thought ‘why not place it in the context of Christmas and give it a Christmas feel.
So it has a story and the whole time frame that it happened is around Christmas.
ALSO READ: 9 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CHRISTMAS IS COMING
On what makes the “This is Christmas” unique
I think what was different and probably grand was the calibre of actors that I was directing. I had Chioma Chukwuka, Deyemi Okanlawon, Shola Sobowale and Zack Orji, and these are actors who understand acting.
These are actors that if you take away everything commercial and leave them with the artistic side of acting, they still understand their craft.
So to have them trust you and your process, to have them believe that you’re going to deliver either what they read in the script or better, that was a big deal for me.
Of course, there was directing myself. So what I had to do was rely on my assistant director Uche Odoh and my DP Bode Babalola.
We had already planned our shots before we started the shoot. So we would go back to it and say, ‘at this shot, this is what I want me to do.’
The minute I give those instructions, I will strip myself of being a director and producer, and then go back to being an actor. At the point that I was on set, I had to rely on them to throw directions at me.
On casting process
My casting was strategic. I will not, for any reason, compromise on talent. So I wanted a crop of actors who were talented, marketable and bankable because, at the end of the day, we don’t just want a wonderful theatrical release, we want a successful release.
So we wanted actors that we could bank on: who have a fan base who don’t mind going out to buy tickets to watch them in the cinema.
You have different actors and their fan bases. There are some actors whose fans will not go to the cinema to see them; doesn’t mean that they love them any less. They are just not cut out for the cinema.
We also had to work with their timing. There were people we wanted who couldn’t be on the project because of timing. We had to make sure that for every time we rescheduled a shoot, it favoured actors who had these things that we wanted – talent, marketability, bankability.
On most challenging experience on set
Our last day of the shoot – which was not supposed to be the last day of the shoot – that scene, which is our big Christmas scene, was supposed to be shot on the first day.
But there was this beautiful house that I fell in love with. It had a beautiful dining scene and could accommodate the whole cast that was going to be in the scene.
The challenge we had was trying to get the owner of the house to schedule timing with us. We had to keep moving because she said she was out of the country and we had to film when she was back in. We had to agree because we didn’t have a choice.
On that day which was supposed to be our last day of the shoot, early in the morning, myself and my assistant had a talk with her about how everything was going to go.
I got on set to get dressed when I got a call from my art director to say that they have been kicked out of the house.
I said it wasn’t possible, I asked if they had gone to the right house. He said they had finished setting up when they got kicked out.
I was a bit of a panic. I got in the car, Zack Orji offered to go with me. We go to the house and started calling, but no one would pick. It was very heartbreaking.
We had to go back to my house. I sat down and started making calls and at about 11 am, I was able to get George Sunom Kura to let me come into the house to film. Thank you guys, I don’t take what you did for granted.
It was so much stress. Finally, my cast and crew ended up doing about 33 straight hours for those particular scenes. I was just so blessed to be working with a group of people who were committed and loyal to my project and people who were ready to give their all.
I think the comedy in all of this is that at about 3 pm that day, I got a text message from the lady saying “if you still want to shoot, you can come over.’
That was the biggest challenge we had.
ALSO READ: UFUOMA MCDERMOTT TALKS “WIVES ON STRIKE,” CAREER, THEATRE AND FILM
On playing a tomboy
The funny thing is that I think a lot of girls grow up as tomboys and then we all blossom and become feminine. I was a tomboy and I think that every now and then, I am a tomboy.
So it wasn’t difficult for me to find Henry, and when she became Henrietta, it was also something already in me.
However, what was a bit of a challenge for me were the silly things she had to do. It’s not easy to get me to do comedy: I’m too much of a straight actor. I’m a headmistress.
I had to do all the silly things. It was a clumsy day for her, so I had to find clumsy and infuse it.
My character is a tomboy who got transformed into a lady and had to go through a day in her uncomfortable new state. But somewhere I found a balance between Ufuoma the lady and Ufuoma the tomboy.
“Christmas is Coming” debuts on November 24, 2017.