Folake Olowofoyeku Can Beat You at Basketball - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Folake Olowofoyeku Can Beat You at Basketball

Folake Olowofoyeku Can Beat You at Basketball

By Joshua Eferighe

By Joshua Eferighe

Folake Olowofoyeku is a Nigerian actor and musician who stars as the nurse Abishola in the popular CBS sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola and who describes her latest single, “Melanin No Ni,” as an ode to melanin. On this episode of The Carlos Watson Show, she talks about her upbringing and other hobbies she loves. You can find excerpts below or listen to the full interview on the show’s podcast feed.


Carlos Watson: Are you a big-city girl? Are you a country girl? Where are you from?

Folake Olowofoyeku: I lived in Lagos. I grew up in Lagos, right smack, bam, in the middle of everything. And then I moved to New York and now I’m in LA. So when I travel, I like to stay as tropical as possible, and as remote as possible.

I think it’s similar to Miami at its hottest, but all year round, we have different seasons. We have summertime and we have our rainy season and it kind of cools down around that time. But it’s mostly hot and humid, good for your skin.

Watson: Do you enjoy LA? My sister and brother-in-law used to live there years ago and I used to visit a lot because of that.

Olowofoyeku: I like LA a lot. I decided to move from New York, because I realized that I was experiencing seasonal depression every year it got cold. It took me a while to figure it out. And I was like, I can’t do the cold ever again.

Watson: What do you think would have happened to you if you had gone home to Nigeria?

Olowofoyeku: I probably might’ve taken a more structured profession, probably got into law and then segued into politics perhaps.

Look, I’m really tenacious. I remember even before I left home, I was 15, 16, 17, getting on those little bikes that transport you around in Nigeria, just trying to go to this casting call, find this modeling gig, find anything within entertainment, go to the radio station. I’d work for free. I’ll tell them, “I’ll do anything, I just need to be around music and around the arts. I need a creative outlet.”

I guess you could say I’m one of the lucky ones who knew exactly what I was put on this earth to do. I’ve always had a close relationship with my intuition, and I’ve always relied on it.

La Familia

Watson: Folake, you are the youngest of how many?

Olowofoyeku: Twenty. I’m the 20th.

Watson: What is that like being the youngest of 20? Does that feel like an epic achievement?

Olowofoyeku: The age difference between my eldest brother and I is 40, 50 years. So I have a lot more in common and I’m closer in age to my nieces and my grandnieces.

Watson: If I had asked your mom at the time, “What do you think will happen to this beautiful little one?” What would she have told me?

Olowofoyeku: I do remember one thing she used to say to me and it was, “Just make yourself happy.” So I guess, at least her hope, or her prayer for me, was that I would be making myself happy.

Watson: Yeah. And Folake, is your mom still with us?

Olowofoyeku: No, both my mom and my father passed away many years ago. Actually on the same day, five years apart. Which actually brings me some joy because it makes me feel like my father came for my mom.

Basketball Jones

Watson: Did someone tell me that you played basketball? Did I hear that correctly?

Olowofoyeku: Nigeria is certainly not the land of opportunity. I think I never had the opportunity to kind of play competitive basketball. I think we had some inter-house sports, like where you run, but sports like the arts wasn’t something that was celebrated or nurtured. So, I developed my love for the game from playing PlayStation with my brothers and my brother would always need someone to dunk on. So what he’d do is he started to teach me how to bounce the ball just well enough so he could grab it from me and dunk over me. And then I learned the rules from video games.

Then I came to America and I was in college and I saw tryouts for the women’s basketball team. And I was like, “This would be cool.” So I go try out. I already knew how to bounce the ball. I was naturally athletic and I was tall, I am tall. And they were also desperate.

So, they took me on the team and I started playing. And I really, really love the game. I think by the second year I was averaging triple doubles, double doubles. It’s the game that I really love.

I remember my mom came to one of my games and she asked me why I don’t pursue this professionally. And I was like, “I don’t know.” I always had a dream of going to Yale Drama School and playing my last two years …

Watson: That means you brought aboard the spirit of Olajuwon.

Olowofoyeku: Yeah. I went to school with his niece, whose name was also Folake.

Her Hit Series

Waston: I have to ask you about your TV show. Do you enjoy it?

Olowofoyeku: I do. I find a lot of joy in the show. I think what I’m struggling with is actually being present so that I can continue. Like there are a lot of outside things to deal with. Like the main focus is not just on filming and being with the other actors and, being present. And that is something I’m trying to focus on because when I am, it’s just so beautiful and I don’t want time to pass.

But there’s press to do, there’s lines to learn, like fittings, there’s just so many outside factors that interrupt the creative process. So, I’m trying to just dumb and quiet everything down so that I can just continue to enjoy one-on-one time with my cast and the production. But it’s lovely. It’s a great set to be on. Everyone’s super kind. I mean … Chuck Lorre universe … you’re in a well-oiled machine.

Watson: And do you think of it as a comedy or a love story, or how do you think of it?

Olowofoyeku: The amount of crying I’m having to do this season, it’s feeling like … Look it’s a nuanced show, it’s not just a sitcom. It’s not just a comedy. We have dramatic aspects and we have dramatic moments in there. We have very authentic and genuine dynamics for each of the characters.

It’s like a sitcom and a soap opera, and a drama and a documentary because we’re also highlighting and accurately portraying this aspect of immigrant life, Nigerian immigrant life.

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