Ameh who stars in the lead role as Queen Amina in Izu Ojukwu’s historical drama, opens on the most challenging role of her 10-year career.
Professionally, actress Lucy Ameh has been in the industry for 10-11 years with notable features in Ifeoma Nkiruka Chukwuogo’s 2017 short film ‘Bariga Sugar’ and C.J. Obasi’s ‘O-Town’.
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However, her wealth of experience in the industry, she admits, did not prepare her for playing the lead and titular character in Izu Ojukwu’s ‘Amina’.
In the film newly released on global streamer Netflix, Lucy says she spent over 12 hours daily learning sword fighting and horseback riding for a month.
“Lucy Ameh is someone who is scared of horses,” Ameh says and follows with a quick confession about not admitting her phobia during auditions.
The actress details surviving the gruelling production, critics and Nollywood in this interview.
How long did filming last for ‘Amina’?
Filming lasted for like three months. So, it was one month of training and three months of filming.
How long did it take to master the fight stunts and the horse riding we saw in the film?
For a whole month, that’s what we were doing training, training, and training.
We would wake up in the morning, go to the Polo field from like 8:00 am, come back at 12:00 am, rest for like 2 hours and by 3:00 am, we were back to do sword fighting rehearsals and afterwards, script rehearsals.
But on days when I didn’t have scenes to shoot, I met up with my coach to continue the training just just to master it.
Have you ever ridden on horseback ?
No! So let me tell you a funny story. Lucy Ameh is someone who is scared of horses. After all, you know this story about when they kick you, you’re dead. I didn’t even want to have anything to do with them. But you know how during auditions, they ask tell you ‘Oh, you’re going to do a lot of horse riding, sword fighting. Is it something you’ll be able to do?’ Just because you want to get the role, you’ll go ‘yes, I can do it.’ Or ‘yes! That’s me’ just because you want to get the role, and you know that once you get it, you guys would work it out. It was my case with Amina but I decided to take on the challenge in spite of my fears.
Did you at any point consider getting a stunt person/double?
So while we were filming or before we started filming, they actually told me they were going to give me a stunt person but I said I didn’t need one. I knew I could do it plus where’s the fun in it?
With Amina, I was so much in character that I felt -this is funny when I say this to people-I felt the actual Amina was always just right there holding my hands and always just right there with me. It’s weird, I know but I could feel something out of the ordinary always right next to me.
You did admit recently that you nearly lost your life while filming ‘Amina’. Can you recount that experience?
On that faithful day, the director wanted me to do a particular action sequence involving me on a horse fighting the enemy. So we tried it for about 10 laps but then the distance where we were galloping from was really far so every time we got to the point where we were supposed to do the action, my horse would go the other way.
Apparently, if horses sense an attack, they try to run away so we kept trying and I think at that point, I just got really tired.
Normally, I would have asked the director to maybe move the scene to the next day. But, I just really wanted to do it for me.
So, we get to the point where I am supposed to do the action and I don’t know what happened. All I can remember was my horse putting her head down and was trying to bring her head back up. The next thing, I’m falling headlong. It was crazy. According to people on set, I twisted my neck when I fell.
I was unconscious but thankfully, we had medics on set and I got first aid before going to a clinic as we were filming at the outskirts of Jos.
My recovery took about three weeks and I couldn’t hold the entire crew up much longer so we got a makeup artist to try to mask my bruises.
You know just recently, I was at my director’s office and we were having an interview and we were talking about the accident and for the first time after so many years, he told me that he thought I actually died.
When the trailer resurfaced on Twitter as a Netflix release, it did get some critics wagging about a non-Hausa crew. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, I saw those comments. First of all, yes, Amina is a Northern historical story. I mean we are Nigerians but there’s always this thing that we keep shouting and shouting about ONE NIGERIA, ONE NIGERIA. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s a non-Nigerian Hausa crew that shot the film. The story is there for anybody to explore, any filmmaker from any part of the world really.
But the criticism I heard a lot was that the film was a Northern story so we should have said our lines in Hausa.
Now, it’s a Northern story, but it’s not a Hausa film. I guess the producers and the director felt that it wasn’t a Hausa film and we wanted the film to reach out to a lot of people.
‘Amina’ premiered on Netflix on November 4, 2021.