At Home With Weruche

Jessica Gianelli

Weruche Opia is no stranger to the television screen. Her latest role, however, as Terry in Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You – a legendary and necessary offering to both television, and the voices of Black Women and sexual assault and consent victims has offered her a certain fearlessness towards speaking up, and allowing herself to be seen. Acknowledging the global pandemic situation and pervasiveness of isolation, Opia has used this moment to steward self-kindness as an everyday action, and to allow time for the things that her spirit calls for. The British actress who plays Coel’s character Arabella’s best friend on screen, relishes about the importance of support and connection, and the instance of video calls as 2020s gift to friendship and intimacy. Opia remains focused on truth and purpose throughout the work that she does, and urges for greater attention towards the inclusion of POC and female voices within society. During a remote exchange in the height of COVID season, she shares with us the unexpected pleasures brought forth by the world’s slowing down, as well as the inspiring precedent offered by her cast and crew in I May Destroy You’s foray into society’s consciousness. 

JG: Are there any personal shifts you’ve noticed in your way of life in the past few months?
WO: I’ve learned to be more kind to myself. I’ve learned that no matter how hard I work or how much effort I might exert, life has a way of sometimes not going as planned. So, I have to learn to adjust and roll with the punches. Even if that means moving a goal date, or taking a moment to tune out and relax, or just do nothing. The goal is inner peace and peace of mind.
JG: What’s been the most rewarding part of this moment for you?
WO: Getting into shape and spending time with family. I could no longer use the excuse of not having the time to work out or being too busy to sit and chat or cook or eat ice cream together. I’m grateful that in this moment I’ve been able to make the most of this time by enjoying the simple things. 
JG: How are you keeping busy/entertained?
WO: I’ve been working out and skipping 5 days a week for about an hour, watching a lot of tv , 90 Day Fiance is one of the best reality shows ever. I’ve also watched a few amazing shows like Gangs of London and Little Fires Everywhere. Incredible watches.
JG: During this time, a lot of truths are bubbling up to the surface, unable to be obscured any longer. It can feel really energising, but also can be quite tolling. How are you cultivating peace and stillness?
WO: I have moments of stillness and peace when I pray or read my bible. I feel peace after that, but I also try to take breaks from social media and my phone in general. When it all becomes too much and I feel I’m having information overload, I turn my phone off and limit my social media consumption.
JG: Where is a place you go to when you need some ‘you’ time?
WO: My bedroom. I call it my sanctuary. My bed is safe haven for me. It’s where I come up with my best ideas, make decisions, cry, sleep, pray, everything. It’s my safe space.
JG: ’I May Destroy You’ has been a really wonderful avenue for introspection on the many important issues it brings to light. How does it feel to be a part of this necessary conversation around Black female visibility within society?
WO: Extraordinary. I am so honoured and privileged to have been a part of it. The voice of the Black Female is often ignored, overlooked, tuned out or told to be quiet, this show dispels all that. Our voices deserve to be heard, our stories deserve to be told. Humans often have shared experiences and its grossly unbalanced to hear those shared experiences through the view of some demographics and not all.
JG: Are there any aspects of Terry’s character that you find in yourself?
WO: Terry is vivacious young woman trying to find her way in the world, and I can totally relate to her in that sense. I’ve been where she is in terms of trying to get her career off the ground, battling rejection and suffering from self esteem issues. As an aspiring actor I often quit acting, quite regularly actually, probably every quarter of the year, till a job would come around and then I would ‘come out of retirement’.
JG: Who are some of your major influences?
WO: My parents. I am a literal a product of these two incredible forces and I often draw inspiration from them as individuals pre parenthood and post. They have both lived significantly interesting lives, and I admire them greatly- flaws and all.
JG: Change is a massive buzzword at the moment. As an actress, too, change is something you’re often faced with, and perhaps accustomed to when playing certain roles, and operating within different environments. When you consider the ‘changing’ of society’s current landscape, in the industry especially, is there anything in particular you’d like to see more of? Less of?
WO: More stories told from diverse perspectives. More diversity on screen and off screen. More diversity in decision making positions and positions. More actual effective incentives to encourage and welcome diversity into the industry; and by diversity I mean female and POC in particular.
JG: How would you say that taking part in something like ‘I May Destroy You’ has changed you?
WO: This job was lesson for me. It taught me so many things. It taught me that empathy is paramount in dealing with humans, everyone has a different response to experiences/ trauma and the best thing to do is support and be patient with them. I learned a lot of people have been victims of sexual assault/non consensual encounters and didn’t know, as there is a shocking lack of education around it all. I also learned to stick to my guns and not take no for an answer. Watching Michaela Coel work was incredible, watching her achieve things I have never seen a Black British Woman achieve was inspiring. It has taught me to be fearless, to go for what I want and to “say it with my chest”.
Words: Jessica Gianelli