‘Shahira Has A Real Belief In The Good In People – That Gets Her Into Trouble A Lot’: Amaka Okafor On Bodies

By Olivia Emily

8 months ago

Bodies is streaming now on Netflix


 

Everyone’s talking about Bodies, Netflix‘s brand new crime mystery starring Stephen Graham. It follows four detectives in four different time periods – 1890, 1941, 2023 and 2053 – all somehow solving the same mysterious murder. Our 2023 detective, DS Hasan, is played by Amaka Okafor, who describes the series as ‘a genre defying, intensely gripping adventure, with so much heart’. We sat down with Amaka ahead of the series to learn more.

Interview: Amaka Okafor On Playing DS Hasan in Netflix’s Bodies

Amaka Okafor

Photographer: Jospeh Sinclair
Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison
Hair: Nicola Harrowell
Make-up: Dominique Desveaux
Clothing: Top, Magda Butrym at The Outnet; Earrings, Frida & Florence; Top, Culottes, both Ashlyn; Bangles, Mejuri.

Hi Amaka, it’s great to have you on C&TH. How’s life going at the moment?

Life is going well, thank you! Split between London (home) and Liverpool (filming) at the moment.

You can currently be seen in the new Netflix series Bodies – can you give us an elevator pitch for the show?

‘Four detectives, four timelines, one body.’ I stole that elevator pitch from our director’s Instagram (Marco Kreutzpaintner), as I’m absolutely terrible at elevator pitches! I hate spoilers, so I’m dreadful at giving a general plot line by default as I’m so worried I’ll ruin it. It is a genre defying, intensely gripping adventure, with so much heart. It’s really moving. I didn’t steal that, ha!

It looks and sounds amazing. How does it feel to be part of the project?

Honestly, this has been my best job to date. I had the time of my life and I learned so bloomin’ much! It felt like a proper golden job.

You play DS Hasan – how would you describe her?

Shahira Hasan is a brilliant detective with a huge heart, and has a real belief in the good in people. That gets her into trouble a lot. She is a single mum who lives with her son and dad. She’s razor sharp, she is a woman of faith (Islam to be specific), and she is mixed race (Nigerian and Bengali).

Bodies. Amaka Okafor as DS Hasan in Bodies. Cr. Matt Towers/Netflix © 2023.

Amaka Okafor as DS Hasan in Bodies.. Matt Towers/Netflix © 2023.

What was it like playing her?

I absolutely loved playing Shahira. The writing is so beautiful in this show. It made it really easy to encompass her in all her complexity without it becoming ‘issue based’ or just one thing. We have a lot in common, so it was a real joy to be able to push against stereotypes and play a real woman.

How did you get into character/prepare for the role?

Actually, my main prep was to make sure my mind felt strong and able to get rid of unhelpful thoughts. You know those thoughts of inadequacy we can sometimes have? Imposter syndrome, that sort of thing. Getting into a good headspace and reminding myself that I deserve to be there and that I am good at what I do.

Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?

Each time I try to recount a funny story, they just sound a bit ‘in joke’-y and not funny at all. In truth, we worked really hard and laughed really hard. Lots of laughing about silly things that probably wouldn’t sound that funny if you weren’t there.

What is the cast dynamic? Who was your favourite person to work with?

I mean, what a stellar cast. Such an amazing ensemble of actors to be among. I can’t wait to see the whole series to see what the others were up to in their own timelines. My timeline is current day. I’m nervous to say who my favourite person was to work with, because it’s a bit of a spoiler!

Are you still in touch with your co-stars?

Yes I am. Again, if I tell you who, it will really give stuff away. I’m sorry!

Amaka Okafor as DS Hasan in Bodies

Amaka Okafor as DS Hasan in Bodies. Matt Towers/Netflix © 2023.

Are you a fan of crime/mystery dramas?

As long as it isn’t scary. I cannot watch anything remotely scary.

Which is your favourite?

You’re gonna laugh at this, but I used to love watching the series Without a Trace. The stories were always so full of twists and turns, and it’s on at the perfect time for out-of-work actors. Marianne Jean Baptiste is incredible in that, by the way. One of our best British actors, but she plays a New Yorker so convincingly. I was shocked when I learned she’s a Londoner.

You’ve also recently starred in the Take That musical, Greatest Days – what was that like?

So. Much. Fun!

Standout memory from filming?

Filming the end of the last song. We were all together, the young ‘uns and everyone else. It was so fun. And it was really clear everyone was happy to be part of the film. It was such a lovely moment.

What has been your favourite project to date?

Bodies! Without a doubt

Any roles in the pipeline that you’re excited about? (If you’re allowed to tell us!)

I’m currently filming season two of The Responder, which is so wonderful to be a part of. I loved being in the first season, so I’m absolutely over the moon to come back for more.

Who has been your favourite actor to work with in the past?

I did Peter Pan at The National Theatre in 2016 (I think) directed by Sally Cookson. I loved each and every member of that cast, and some have become my closest friends. The very talented Lois Chimimba being one of them. We were lost boys, mermaids, clouds, birds, wolves and so much more in that show. It was proper ensemble work, and so we felt very connected. We did crack each other up on stage a lot! But in Never Never Land, that’s allowed, right?

Which co-star did you learn the most from?

Martin Freeman. He is simply brilliant.

What’s your dream role?

I would love to play a cowgirl. Running a ranch, riding, looking after cattle, and then adventure calls…

What’s a genre you’d like to do more of?

British Indie. I’d also love to sing more.

Amaka Okafor

Photographer: Jospeh Sinclair
Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison
Hair: Nicola Harrowell
Make-up: Dominique Desveaux
Clothing: Top, Magda Butrym at The Outnet; Earrings, Frida & Florence; Top, Culottes, both Ashlyn; Bangles, Mejuri.

Do you get to spend much time at home?

Yes. I’m a single mum to the most wonderful daughter.

Do you live in the town or the country?

I live in London.

Which do you prefer?

I am most definitely a country person. I did some of my growing up in Worcestershire (Malvern) and I would love to move back into the deepest darkest countryside as soon as my daughter is through school.

What’s your interior design style?

Hand-me-down chic, ha! I got all of our furniture from house clearances in and around Great Malvern. Beautiful, old, unique, and very affordable.

How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?

It has really taken me time to work this out. Sometimes I still struggle. I love working. I also love being home and being the constant for my daughter. Making sure she’s eating well, the laundry is done, the flat is clean. I actually love doing all of that. I am definitely happiest when I am able to do both, without one suffering, which can be tricky sometimes.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I watched Beverley Hills Cop when I was about six years old and wanted to be an actor from that moment. Eddie Murphy is incredible in that film.

If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?

Try not to worry about what other people think of you. It’s hard, but try and drill into your own integrity and live by that. Oh, and stop tying your hair so tight, you’ll get a little bald patch on the side of your head.

How can we all live a little bit better?

My grandad used to say, when you’re angry about something, walk away, breathe and count to 10 before you respond. Sounds simple, but it’s pretty good.

Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?

I am beyond excited for Bodies to come out! I haven’t seen it just yet and I am buzzing for it.

Quick Fire

I’m currently watching… Malcolm in the Middle (with my daughter)

What I’m reading… Song of the Lark by Willa Cather

The last thing I watched (and loved) was… Transparent

What I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Malvern Hills. I’m going back this weekend.

Favourite film of all time… Beverley Hills Cop (the first one)

Favourite song of all time… ‘Natural Mystic’ by Bob Marley

Band/singer I always have on repeat… Ben Okafor. My dad. He is a reggae artist and was brought up deep in his music. It will always stay with me.

My ultimate cultural recommendation… Watching movies

Cultural guilty pleasure… Sex and the City (some of it has aged well, some hasn’t)

What’s next for me is… My birthdaaaaaaaay! (November, Scorpio baby!)

Watch

Amaka Okafor stars in Bodies, streaming now on Netflix. Watch the trailer below.

Featured image:

  • Photographer: Jospeh Sinclair
  • Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison
  • Hair: Nicola Harrowell
  • Make-up: Dominique Desveaux
  • Clothing: Top, Magda Butrym at The Outnet; Earrings, Frida & Florence; Top, Ashlyn; Bangles, Mejuri.