Voila! Mercy Johnson Uber Actress

Drama students who want to excel in their craft should under study Nigerian actress Mercy Johnson, one of the best actresses in the world.  No.  Delete that.  She is the best interpreter, period. 
Actors and the way they tell the story is part of film criticism.  Mercy Johnson does not act.  She interprets the script with her voice, eyes, body language and tears.  Don’t talk about tears.  They just bubble from her eyes like water ready to boil or cascade like tears of the Victoria Falls.

What makes Mercy Johnson fascinating is how she is totally ‘in character’ as soon as Nigerian directors call action!  She walks like the best village girl if the character demands it.  She tells her body that it is palace time, and glides like a princess when playing that character.

She narrows her eyes in submission when playing a servant abused by her boss’ girlfriend.  The same eyes are rounder, bigger, twinkling, when she sends loving messages to a potential lover.  She is fire in the boardroom when playing Olu Jacobs’ daughter in Power of a Kiss.

La Mercy Johnson’s greatest contribution to this thing called acting is when she is angry.  She doesn’t shout for the sake of shouting.  She talks in a strong staccato voice that lists all the injustice perpetuated by evil uncles (a favourite Nigerian movie storyline). 
Directors like Afam Okereke will be in a better position to discuss Mercy Johnson’s craft.  I’m particularly interested in when she gets ‘in character’.  Is it when she is in the make-up and hair trailer or when directors brief her before the camera rolls?

Making movies is about making money.  That is why producers give us the ludicrous situation where a 40 year-old actor plays a schoolboy.  They want marquee names that will pull crowds into the theatre. 

Mercy Johnson is such a versatile actress, I forgot that when screening Dumebi and Bitterleaf Cynthia.  She plays Dumebi, a village girl that goes back to school to please her man Frank (Kenneth Okonkwo).

Mercy Johnson marinades herself in that character.   Yes, Dumebi is a grown up woman with a son, but the metamorphosis is amazing.  She becomes a little girl.  She even has a friend Onyuwe (spelling ??) who betrays her. 
What is indelible in my mind is Dumebi’s pain when Onyuwe steals her essay “Njoku is a Man.” She played that scene so well, I came to the conclusion that what hurt her the most was a friend’s betrayal.
We pay homage to Mercy Johnson because she saves us from being victims.  Directors have a script to work with.  They rely on actors to interpret lines on a piece of paper. 

We, the audience buy movie tickets and popcorn and wait patiently through the opening credits for the story to unfold.  In Nigeria’s case the story is mostly on television or home videos which used to be popular before YouTube.

We become victims when actors fail to be seduced, fail to become princes, fail to be remorseful, fail to shed a little dot.com tear, fail to be happy, fail to think without putting hands on the chin, fail to show plain old love.  You were loved once so you know what we are talking about. 

When actors fail, the director’s intention fails, so does the script or screenplay, box office slumps and we have one mad producer.  Most of all though, we the audience become victims.

Mercy Johnson saves us big time, especially when she is working with actors who are still trying to find their feet.   What makes her so spectacular is the merger.  No, not a business merger.  She brings the mind and the script together. 

MIND:  So script, whazz-up?  What is Mercy playing in this movie?
SCRIPT: She is having an affair with a married man.  She gets pregnant and puts the blame on her sister’s husband. 
MIND:  No kidding!

Mercy Johnson gets the message and flies with it.  Costumes.  Directors use costumes to transform ctors into characters.  Costumes need help.  A white uniform does not change an actor into a nurse.  Most nurses in Nigerian films look like little girls pulled from school to play the part.

Mercy Johnson fills the gap created by some costumes.  Take stilettos for example.  Some heels are so high that they need a tobacco warning, ‘these shoes are injurious to health’ but Mercy Johnson rocks them so well, you immediately understand her character as the campus sex worker.

Acting is make-believe.  Consumers of this make believe want the best.  The best is Mercy Johnson.

Some Mercy Johnson Okojie Interpretations



Power of a Kiss

Afam Okereke

Heart of a Fighter

Ifeanyi Ogbonna


Tchidi Chikere

Ladies Gang                        

Story and screenplay by Ruth Kadiri

White Chapel

Okey Zubelu Okoh



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