Comic Con, for most South Africans, has always been a dream that is vicariously lived through articles, news releases, videos and photographs of those who are lucky enough to attend the official expositions around the world. Thankfully, that dream became a reality for many fans when Reed Exhibitions announced Comic Con Africa in February – with celebrities and all!
Comic Con Africa, like its international counterparts, is an event that showcases comic books, pop culture, animation, video games, cosplay, and anything related to fantasy and ‘geek culture’ across all genres. Although many fans look forward to all of the exhibitions available, many will also do anything to meet with their favourite celebrities. Speaking of, quite a few celebrities attended Comic Con Africa, namely The Big Bang Theory’s Kevin Sussman, Viking’s Travis Fimmel, and American Gods stars Ricky Whittle, Demore Barnes, and, the utterly gorgeous woman whom I was lucky enough to have an interview with, Yetide Badaki.
Yetide Badaki is a Nigerian born American actress, who is most well known for her role as the god Bilquis in the television show, American Gods. As alluded to above, I had a wonderful opportunity to interview her. It goes without saying that I was incredibly nervous, but Yetide is one of the loveliest people I have ever met, let alone interviewed.
During my interview, I asked her about herself, her career and threw in some interesting questions just for you. I hope you enjoy this Yetide Badaki interview as much as I enjoyed being a part of it.
As per our Transparency Policy, this Yetide Badaki interview has been transcribed as accurately as possible. However, grammatical edits have been made for both brevity and clarity.
Diona: Thank you so much, I am so grateful for this opportunity! I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but I am a little nervous. I must admit I almost dorked out when I saw you!
Yetide: I am the dorkiests person I know [laughs] it is confirmed!
Diona: I work for a geek publication [Vamers], so it is really nice to have an incredibly inspiring African woman representing us. I wanted to ask, what has been your most memorable experience since becoming an actor?
Yetide: Oh, there have been many incredible moments along the way, and it is funny because, just because you get a role or something, does not mean that your inner child or your inner geek, does not come out every time. So I have had this moment where I got to do a guest role on a show with David Duchovny, and I remember I had to sit, and he is right there in front of me, and in my head it is just… over and over all I hear is “David Duchovny, David Duchovny, David Duchovny” and I am going “wait remember your lines, remember your lines – David Duchovny, David Duchovny”, and it was just – for a geek I mean, that was heaven. It was almost unbelievable! I almost needed someone to pinch me, you know, and this happens with me a lot. It happens every time I get to see, you know, I mean yes, David Duchovny… fuck right?! It is seeing Gillian Anderson work, it is seeing, you know, Crispen Glover; and each time I get to work with these incredible individuals, there is still that inner child, that geek; that little girl in Nigeria sitting in front of that TV and she is sitting there across from what feels like a dream.
Diona: Before being cast as Bilquis in American Gods, were you familiar with Neil Gaiman’s work? Have you read any of his other work? Which are your favourites?
Yetide: Was I familiar? [laughs] The short answer is “yes”! I mean he has had so many beautiful works through the years; and meeting him you see why: he is just a beautiful creative mind and incredibly kind, so very kind. The other day he said, you know he came to the [American Gods] set to visit, and he stepped out the car and I see him and I rush at him, and its just one big hug, and he says to me “I’m proud of you”. And it – I am tearing up now just thinking of it. Yes, I have been a fan of Neil and his work, and his words, and these worlds that he has created that I could find myself in and that resonated with me. Favourites? You know there are so many, obviously American Gods for some reason [laughs], The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I mean – pretty much all of it. I mean, to have such a creative mind that even when you just jot down a few words, a few thoughts on life, and you are able to affect someone so deeply… I mean that is a true gift.
Diona: That is beautiful. Thank you. Where do you think Bilquis’ character will go in the second season?
Yetide: We are actually almost done shooting our second season. We have been working very hard since about March  on shooting it. We actually went to the House on the Rock. Yeah, so early next year we will have the second season of American Gods. In the first season we met Bilquis when she was attempting to survive. In the second season, you see her start to thrive. That is the biggest distinction I would say between the two [seasons] and it has been exciting to see the queen that she is.
Diona: You were born in Nigeria, but you lived in America and England for most of your life. Even so, do you have any fun or favourite Nigerian pastimes that you still do?
Yetide: What do you mean?
Diona: You know, like how South Africans love to braai. Is there anything specific that you still love to do that brings your culture…
Yetide: To “braai”? [laughter] Tell me all about this?
Diona: Oh, it is basically a barbecue, but we call it a braai. It is where we come together and enjoy specific foods [South African in nature]. So is there anything specific, from your culture, that you still love to do or eat or anything that you love?
Yetide: Oh, my goodness, I love eba and okra and stew. I mean, it is the ultimate comfort food for me. Ultimate! But it is funny, there are other things that I think have come from my Nigerian upbringing. I think the fact that I am an actor and that I am a story teller comes from that tradition, because… oh my goodness, to hear people tell stories. I mean someone can tell you about going to the market that day, and it was possibly the most entertaining thing you have ever experienced. For years I thought I had watched Back to the Future 2, until I realised it was my cousin that went and saw it and told me the whole movie. So in every day that I am doing what I am doing, and every day that I am storytelling, that is coming from my love – from that tradition.
Diona: That is beautiful! At events like these, people love to cosplay. So if you could be any character from any entertainment media: who would you cosplay as, and why?
Yetide: Storm! [laughs]
Diona: Oh my word that is incredible! I use to watch it [X-Men animated series] but they stopped [airing] it back in 2014 [Saturday morning cartoons], and I loved them. So Storm is just amazing and I feel like you could totally rock her so well!
Yetide: Thank you kindly! Ahem – ahem – Marvel [laughs]
Diona: Yes, ahem – ahem, waiting for Storm to come [laughs] – I will make sure to note that [laughs].
Diona: We are aware you starred in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. How different was it to act for a video game versus a movie or television series?
Yetide: It is all [about] getting to be a big kid at the end of the day. The funny thing about the video game world is when you are creating, you are in this big empty room and sometimes they might have a box on a table, and that is your computer screen, you know. And so it is the closest thing to being a child again. You know when you used to play ‘the floor is hot lava’ and you had to jump from chair to chair, and you all agreed on these rules of this world; and you played in it together. There were so many moments of that, and that is what it feels like doing video games. Really, because you all agree on these rules and then you play together and that is actually where I met Omid Abtahi, who plays Salim in American Gods. This was several months before American Gods, and we used to play with our fake computers, that were these boxes, and tease each other and say ‘‘Oh, I just sent you an email, did you get it?”, you know?! And then months later we found out that we were going to do American Gods together.
Diona: It is crazy how life takes you on those pathways. So, because we are also a gaming publication, and this is Comic Con Africa, do you play video games?
Yetide: I – because of that [Call of Duty Infinite Warefare] I have learned how to play. So I am slowly learning. Go easy on me [laughs].
Diona: Do you have a favourite yet?
Yetide: Well, I do remember from my childhood with the cousins, we used to play Mortal Kombat, and I am one of those people that can do the most incredible move, only because of just hitting everything [laughs].
Diona: That is amazing I do the exact same thing, the tactic is to not think with Mortal Kombat!
Yetide: Yeah, right? [laughs] To just go with it, and they are like “how’d you do that” and I’m like “oh you know” [laughs]. It just comes from you know, a place that I could not describe… I do not know why I went Shakespearean with that [laughs]. But yes, there were many we used to play then. I do remember at Schiphol Airport [Amsterdam] back then, they used to have Donkey Kong and Mario Kart and all of that, and so every time we travelled I was always praying that we would have a layover at Schiphol, because they had those free games in the children’s room.
Diona: Has anyone ever tricked you into believing something ridiculous?
Yetide: Oh always [laughs]! Always because my, I guess one of my philosophies is you know… if it is to be and you need to believe it and it is not hurting anybody, then I am just going to let you – you know, you do you boo [laughs]. So all the time, I say “oh that’s fascinating” and people are like “no I was joking”. I mean whether or not I really believe it at the end of the day, might be debatable. But I think if people need to believe it… I usually, if it does not hurt anyone, let them believe it.
Diona: I am the same and I completely agree. What is something that most people don’t really know about you?
Yetide: Most people do not know that I have a freckled tongue. That is a random weird thing [laughs].
Diona: Before becoming famous, did you have any celebrity crushes that you have met, or would like to?
Yetide: Oh famous, wow! [laughs] Celebrity crushes that I’ve met? Oh well, David Duchovny. I mean, that was incredible, and then well – I told everyone that one of my first crushes were Captain Picard and Data, and the night of the premier [of American Gods] Ryan Fuller made sure to introduce me to Data himself [laughs], Brent Spiner. It was incredible, I do not think he understood how incredibly nervous I was [laughs]. So yes, I have gotten to meet some people that I have admired.
Diona: Lastly, what advice would you give to young African woman who want to break into the film industry just like you did, who look up to you?
Yetide: I would say, dream big and believe in your dreams!
It was such a pleasure to have had the opportunity to interview Yetide Badaki, who is such a wonderful soul. She is easily one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I am grateful to Comic Con Africa for allowing me and Vamers to have had this privilege.