“Ini is an incredible actress. She’s a method actor. The first time I met her when we had to read the script, I thought she was just trying too much. I was like, relax, take it easy. Later on, I realised she was just in character. The person I met was not Ini, it was the character she was playing.” The foregoing critic from the late movie director, Biyi Bandele on actress Ini Dima-Okojie, says much about her craft.
The character Sarah in ‘Blood Sisters’, the critically acclaimed Netflix 4 part limited series from EbonyLife Studios, appears to have been Ini Dima-Okojie’s most talked about role as an actress.
Ini is from Esan North-East LGA, Edo State, Nigeria. Her father is a medical doctor and her mother is a retired banker and entrepreneur. She studied at Covenant University, Nigeria, where she earned a degree in International Relations. Her journey into the movie world started in 2014 when she ditched her job in investment banking to pursue a career in acting.
This transition was birthed from the passion of storytelling. “I mean you go to school and you just think, I’d end up as an accountant or in my case, an investment banker and I did that. But, I couldn’t stop thinking of that girl that would literally imagine herself accepting awards,” she revealed in an interview.
This led her to earn a degree in acting from the New York Film Academy. Coming back from New York Film School to Nigeria did not come easy. Yet, she describes it as one of the best decisions she ever made. The young actress who started as a Production Assistant on the set of ‘Before 30’, clinching a role in the TV series ‘Taste of Love’, ignored her true calling in the make-believe world for most of her younger life.
The screen actress in a recent interview in May, 2022, recalled her journey has been an interesting one. “My Nollywood journey has been an interesting one. By the time I decided to tow this path, there was no looking back for me. During the hard times, I found strength to persevere because just being an actor and the opportunity to be a storyteller feels bigger than me. Going back to when I got back from film school, I didn’t know where to start.
“It so happened that a family friend was about to become a first time producer for a series called ‘Before 30’. This was in 2014. When I reached out to her, they were done with auditions and had started filming. However, there was a spot for a Production Assistant. I did not mind. I needed to get my foot in the industry. So I joined Nollywood as a Production Assistant while still auditioning.
“My major break came a few months later when I got a supporting role in ‘Taste of Love’, another series with Blossom Chukwujekwu in the lead role. I hurriedly quit my Assistant job, ” Ini explained.
Though every fibre of her being had tried to run away from acting. She used to be a very shy kid, loves fashion, and found ways to express herself through that a lot. But it is a different love when she watches films. “Whenever I watch films or TV shows I love, it takes me to a place where I want to be able to do the same thing and make people feel the way I do. I always wanted to act.
“Eventually, when I couldn’t get over the feeling, I had to do it. I was even surprised, and sometimes I asked myself if this was really my path. So I guess it turned to reality and was meant to be.” Although many may recognise Ini for her role as Teni in Africa Magic’s Battleground (2017) or Hadiza in Skinny Girl in Transit, or Didi in Namaste Wahala, a Nollywood and Bollywood collaboration released on Netflix early last year, she considers her breakout role to be that of Hadiza Ahmed in the 2016 movie, North East.
Her character was that of a Muslim lady who began a romantic relationship with a man from a different religious background. For her role in the film, she was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2017 Nigeria Entertainment Awards. Ini was also nominated for Most Promising Actress at City People Movie Awards around the same time. She was nominated for The Future Awards Africa in 2017.
In 2018 she starred in two movies, Sylvia where she played Gbemi Ogunlana in a story based on a fiction of spirit lovers. Later that year, she was cast in Funke where she played the role of Ms. Catherine starring Jide Kosoko, Eniola Badmus, Segun Arinze and directed by Yemi Morafa. The story which was set in 1996 was centred on a young girl’s ultimate dream to become a footballer and her struggle to surmount gender roles inherent in her community.
In 2019, she was featured in a role as Laitan Gesinde on the web TV series Oga Pastor directed by renowned movie director and filmmaker Daniel Oriahi. The series was later pulled down by Ndani TV.
In 2020, she starred as Tami in the series, Smart Money Woman, an adaptation from a book of the same title by Arese Ugwu. Also in 2020, Who’s the Boss, featured Ini as Jumoke, a best friend to Liah played by Sharon Ooja.
In 2021 She featured in the Netflix original – Namaste Wahala. A multicultural romantic-comedy feature film where she played the role of Didi.
In 2022, she starred in the Netflix Original series, Blood Sisters playing the lead role of Sarah, produced by Ebonylife Studios which is owned by Mo Abudu. The premiere was well attended by Nollywood stars.