Nollywood films and drama series exist in a symbiotic relationship, the rise of web series can be seen as more of televisual return than a new turn as Adejunmobi (2015) argues.
Many Nollywood practitioners entered filmmaking due to the national crises which rendered their initial careers in television almost obsolete. Themes travel across the different formats, from television to film, validating and reproducing each other while the movement of stars from film to series and vice versa has become a very popular move within the industry. Noah Tsika’s work on Nollywood stardom illustrates how the Nollywood film circuit sometimes creates its stars by borrowing them from other televisual domains such as reality television. The use of the star system to attract fans to new content isn’t anything new. These days we see YouTube stars taking the spotlight as actors and presenters at awards shows. Their audience become an important part of their audition. The movement of stars between televisual genres has allowed directors and producers to draw fans into their series with ease and the trend continues in Nollywood.
The first season of Ndani TV’s Skinny Girl in Transit stars Kenneth Okolie, winner of Mr Nigeria in 2010 and 2nd runner up in the Mr World competition. Okolie’s Nollywood debut was also in film, but was quickly snapped up to help drive traffic toward the web series. Online platforms like iROKOtv employ the same stars to fill a range of roles in their original web series as well as their films, Okolie being one of them. Take for instance, the presence of British Nigerian Youtuber Grace Ajilore in RedTv’s The Men’s Club. Bringing a familiar face to an already active online audience (we don’t have to go into the actual performance…Nollywood can be hit and miss).
The televisual return has not only drawn on newer faces within the industry but also on more established Nollywood film actors. For those in the diaspora, it has created the opportunity for generational crossover when it comes to appreciating the prolific Nigerian art form. When the political drama series Hush (2016) saw the return of veteran Nollywood actors Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) and Olu Jacobs to series. It seems that the Nollywood series online are drawing on newer actors, while traditional television remains the preferred domain for the more established actors.
The availability of these series is what makes them all the more appealing to those in the diaspora. Before we got Netflix Naija, YouTube and iROKO were a Nollywood lover’s best friend. And while the drama is ever so sweet, it’s the rise in the comedies that is drawing in new viewers who aren’t on the ground with DsTv. YouTube and the proliferation of channels that cater to domestic and diaspora audiences certainly have a monopoly on this.