Fola Evans-Akingbola: The Woman, The Actress and The Activist
Fola didn’t find acting, acting found her. Though her Father was a working artist and performer she was more inclined to follow in her Mothers footsteps. Fola’s Mother was an anthropologist. Being someone who was drawn to Academia like her mother; Fola already had a place set for her in university to study Philosophy. They say who we end up becoming as people, is equal parts who our mother is and who our father is. In Hind-sight, maybe Fola’s career in acting was just the natural progression of her life story. With her Father being an artist and her Mother being someone who studies humans, it makes sense that Fola would be drawn to an art form where she portrays human characters. Whether it was nature or nurture one thing is certain. Fola Evans-Akingbola is singular. Not only is she excellent at finding the humanity in the roles she portrays, but she is also passionate about helping humanity in the causes she promotes off-screen. When I got on the line I expected to have a conversation with Fola the Actress, but what I received was so much more. It was a conversation with Fola the woman, the actress, and the activist.
Fola Evans has always been multifaceted, even as a child when she was first introduced to the idea of acting. When I was younger my sister and I were part of the Youth Theatre in London, but at that point it was just for complete fun. I took a long break from doing anything performative. I focused more on sports and academia.
Ironically it was her mother, the Anthropologist, who may have nudged her towards acting again. Seeing Fola get more focused on academics she suggested for her to get a hobby in something she enjoyed doing. My mom actually told me I needed to find some hobbies, so I thought about trying an acting class. At that point it was honestly just for fun. It was just to explore something purely for myself rather than doing something because everyone thinks I should do it.
That acting class lit a spark in her and lead to more and more acting classes. until finally, she began to see a future in it. In the UK we have something called the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and you have to audition to get into it. It’s an alternative to the traditional three-year drama school. I auditioned and got in. That was the point where I thought that maybe I could do this properly.
Though Fola is formally trained in theatre, it was only recently that she performed her first professional play. I actually did my first professional play last year and I loved it. It was terrifying but in the best way. It felt much freer and exploratory which was great. Fola, who is a veteran at screen acting, has now dipped her toe into acting in professional theatre. That experience has been invaluable to her. It has given her wisdom and a perspective she wouldn’t have otherwise. For me, with the experience I have had, I can say that with theatre you get so much rehearsal time, and therefore you are able to play with the other actors and vibe with them. You can explore stuff with the director and you are able to make mistakes in the rehearsal time. Once you are performing if you have one bad night, you can finish that night and say okay I’ll get up and try again tomorrow. Whereas with the screen, If I mess that scene up there is no going back and doing it again. You have to make the most of it Whilst you are on set.
Fola Stars on the hit Freeform show Siren. Siren is a dark twist on a classic “mermaid on land” Narrative. Siren boasts a 94% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com. With season 2 premiering in 2019 the show has a bright future ahead of it. What I love about it is that it is a twist on an old mythology and every culture around the world has some kind of mermaid mythology or sea goddess story. So it's not something that is unfamiliar to people. But I feel like we have never seen it on screen in the way that our creators Eric and Emily are trying to portray the mermaids. In Siren the mermaids are not cute and fluffy, they also are not some sexual fantasy either. They are top-level predators who are not anything to mess around with. That is just one more reason the show has captured viewers both in North America and the UK.
Besides the success of Siren Fola has a highly anticipated movie that was just released. VS. (Versus) is a movie about battle rapping… yes, battle rapping. It has been called “The 8 mile of Southend” by the Guardian. Though Fola doesn’t rap in the movie; nor does she call herself a rapper. she did spit a few bars for me. And I for one think she should add “underground street rapper prodigy” to her accolades. She may not be a real rapper but her knowledge of the current rap scene runs deep. I like J Cole a lot, I like that you can see his evolution back from his mixtapes and through Born Sinner, Foresthill Drive and For Your Eyes Only. Through his music and his work, he speaks truthfully about his experiences. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kendrick Lamar who is great. I don’t know if you would count him as pure rap but I also love Anderson Paak and the free nationals…My guilty pleasure is Stir fry by Migos.
You can tall a lot about a person by their playlist. Fola’s list of favourite rappers suggests a level Wokeness. But her social consciousness goes further than her taste in music. Fola and her Mother started a movement called The We Are All Windrush Movement. In the UK there was an immigration scandal surrounding what we call the Wind Rush Generation. They were people who were invited by the British government to the UK mainly from the Caribbean. Fast forward to 2018 a lot of these people who have been paying taxes, who have kids and are British citizens. Are being affected by immigration policies. They have lost their jobs, access to health care, some people have been deported. The We Are All Windrush Movement seeks to support those impacted by raising money to pay for the legal bills that can become exorbitant. We started a t-shirt campaign and collaborated with a London based artist that has come up with the most beautiful protest art. We have been selling the t-shirts with all the profits going to the Wind Rush Justice Fund. It has been so amazing to see that you do not necessarily have to raise millions of pounds or be world renown to be an activist or to be active in your community. It’s about seeing what little you can do, and doing it.
When you talk with Fola you experience that thing that makes her so easy to watch, whether it is on screen or on stage. She is not only amiable but passionate and focused. Combine that with the hard work she puts into her craft and you come out with the great career she has built. She may still be considered young but her wisdom is beyond her years. Fola cares about others and has some wise words for young artists who are seeking a professional career in their craft. Focus on the craft, focus on getting better, improving and finding out what you love about it. Once you get fully into the business side, it is easy to forget why you started. The most important thing is being good at your job. There is no rush, focus on doing it because you want to learn your craft more.
Talent: Fola Evans-Akinbola, Creative PR
Photographer: Marusko Mason Photography