One of the fresh faces in the Ghanaian film and TV industry, Emelia Asiedu has always been passionate about acting. “By age 6, my cousins and I would perform full shows and our parents would actually sit and watch them.”
A theatre major from University Iowa, Emelia has performed Off-Broadway and has co-founded a theatre company, Accra Theatre Workshop, in Ghana.
Emelia has also featured in a few onscreen projects but none on the scale of ENO, the just-launched Ghanaian Showmax Original series where she plays Tessa, a teacher and the obedient oldest daughter of Abena Baafi (Gloria Osei-Sarfo).
“In many ways this does feel like my debut. To be honest, I am really just excited to be a part of this team because the story is strong, the acting is strong, and the production value is high,” Emelia says.
Tessa, like her two sisters Safowaa (Esi Hammond) and Kendall (Mariam Owusu-Poku), must marry rich, according to their mother Abena, who is relentless in making her dream for her daughters come true.
Talking about how she landed her role on ENO, Emelia reveals that it all started by taking a risk and sending an email to director Shirley Frimpong-Manso. Read more about that and more about Emelia’s role on ENO in the interview below.
How did you land your role as Tessa?
I asked a friend for Shirley Frimpong-Manso’s email address and sent her an introductory email with my portfolio. I knew I was taking a risk because most directors don’t respond to cold calls. But to my very pleasant surprise, she replied with an invitation to audition. In October 2021, I was offered the role of lawyer Grace in the telenovela Dede, another Shirley Frimpong-Manso production. Three months later, I got the call to play Tessa.
Talking of Shirley, how has the experience been to be directed by an award-winning and experienced filmmaker like her?
Shirley is a master at what she does. At our first meeting, her biggest request was that we come in as actors and we revel in our craft. That level of freedom is rare. It was inspiring to watch her be fully invested and aim for the highest standards. It pushed us to bring out our best.
What was your preparation process for this role?
As part of our actors’ kit, I got a story treatment, character breakdown and some of the scripts before production began. I prepared for this role by studying all the material and using my imagination to fill in the world of Tessa and the Baafi family. Our costume fitting was also extremely helpful because Tessa has a very specific way of dressing and that gives valuable insight into a character.
Once I had a sense of who Tessa was, I slept with the script, ate with the script, until I could jog and recite the script without thinking about the lines rolling off my tongue. It’s only when the lines felt like an extension of myself that I could do my job as an actor. That is, playing with all the potential ways of delivering the scene.
How did your background in theatre help in embodying this role?
There are many ways in which my theatre training prepared me for the role of Tessa Baafi. For example, in theatre, there are entire courses on movement and physicality, how a person moves through the world. So beyond learning lines and background, whenever I was on set, even the way I walked was informed by my character.
Theatre or screen, where are you most comfortable?
I started in theatre, so it feels like home. But I have always wanted to work on screen and I am excited about the doors that starring in ENO may have opened for me.
What did you enjoy most about playing Tessa?
There are two sides to Tessa, just like many of us have different sides that we show to the world, the side that your parents see, the side that your partner sees and the side that the guy stamping your US visa sees. Because of Tessa’s particular situation, those two parts are markedly different from each other. What I love about playing Tessa is that I get to play these two very different sides of her.
Any lessons you’ve learnt working with Gloria Osei-Sarfo seeing as she’s been in the industry for a while?
Gloria is the most caring person. It’s fitting that she was playing our mother because she was really like a mother to us on set. For someone who has been in the industry for so long, she made it so easy to work with her and approach her at all times. She would sit with us to run lines and discuss character with us. I remember on the day I wrapped, she still had a number of scenes left to shoot, but she came looking for me to give me a big hug and wish me her best.
ENO is the first-ever Showmax Original in Ghana, how does it feel to be part of this project?
It is such a gift to be a part of this. The Showmax platform offers massive exposure for Ghana’s entertainment industry. And it will hopefully bring more attention and opportunities to the amazing talent we have here. That goes not just for the performers, but the crew because the team on this project was solid. I hope audiences are as excited for the final product as we were, making it.
Catch Emelia Asiedu as Tessa Baafi on ENO on Showmax, with new episodes every Thursday.