Categories: Features

Amaka Okafor Journey Beyond ‘Bodies’

Nigerian and Indian Mixed Race Actress Amaka Okafor shares her experience with her recent role as a Courageous Female Muslim Police Detective in the latest Netflix Crime Drama Series ‘Bodies’.

“That’s the power of storytelling, it shows you how to try and help people put themselves in someone else’s shoes”.

Four detectives in four different eras of London find themselves investigating the same murder of an unidentified body in Whitechapel, later uncovering a conspiracy spanning over a century. Why did you choose the role of a Police Detective as well as a Muslim Single Mother?

I just loved everything about the type of character she was and I identified with her so much. The scriptwriting was so good and nuanced. I thought I hadn’t seen anything like this before and I realised the relevance and importance of the wider message and the fact that it’s finally getting made, I couldn’t wait to get in and be part of it. I was super excited.

There are so many different elements to the role of Detective Shahara Hasan has to offer, but how do you feel about the differentiation of her moral duty as a police officer, compared to the human element where she wanted to put her professional hat aside to follow her instinct to help the scared boy, how was that for you? You’ve hit the nail on the head with Shahara. She has a huge heart, believes in the goodness of people, and champions the underdog. This has sometimes landed her in trouble in the past, as she’s unable to control her urge to help those with the least power. When she encounters this kid, she thinks, ‘I have to go out on a limb for this child.’ That’s just who she is as a human being and a woman.”

This revision maintains the same meaning while streamlining the sentence structure. How do you feel about the way Muslim women are portrayed generally in the media and the Western world, and what compelled you to take on this complex role? Well some of my family are Muslim so I do feel strongly. I feel like the perception of Islam can be so narrow in the West. The shows that I see or things that I’ve auditioned for, I feel, are always issue-based. If there’s a character that’s a Muslim, it always seems to be about that one issue. It stops us from seeing people that are Muslim as three-dimensional people, people that have many different sides to them. Everyone puts their trousers on the same way that we put our trousers on.

There are assumptions around the types and roles of Muslim women do you think this will cause a shift? I hope so. I feel many people think that Muslim women don’t have choice and that is a perception that I would love to change.

The common misconception is that Muslim women are oppressed especially the stereotype of being oppressed because they wear the headscarf and that means they don’t have a voice. I know that’s not the case, and that’s why correct representation is so important.

What aspect did you most enjoy about Shahara?

The thing that I love about Shahara is that she has faith, she’s also a single mom, she’s also mixed race and she’s also a working mom. She has many different parts. It’s not about those issues but the fact that she’s a brilliant detective and her heart is huge.

How do you deal with the stigma of being a single mother?

That’s the thing about being a single mother – as soon as you tell someone you’re a single mom, you can see their expression change. But I’m like, no, no. My life is full of joy, I have a happy home, and we have a great time together. It’s quite funny to see people’s reactions in the series when they suddenly get jolted, thinking, ‘Oh, but I thought her headscarf was on, and she’s also wearing a hat.

How can you be a single mother too?’ You’re then like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to explain it to you; I’m just going to show you that she is a Muslim single mother and a brilliant detective.’ I feel it’s not my job to educate anyone; I’m just going to show you. I’m going to live my life, and you can see me live my life. I’m starting to feel that leading by example is the way forward. ‘That’s the power of storytelling; it shows you how to help people put themselves in someone else’s shoes.’ I honestly think that if you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes, many problems could be solved.

If you’re able to leave yourself here and just look at a slightly different perspective.” These changes help to make the text read more smoothly and clearly.

Are you planning to do anything similar correlating to Muslims with your projects in the future?
I just really love playing real people who are underrepresented. It has its challenges but if you’re a person of faith it’s in everything. It’s in every story because it’s about your spirit.

Read the full interview in our latest issue here.

Image Credit Organic Publicity Photographer: Joseph Sinclair

Styling: Sarah-Rose Harrison Hair: Nicola Harrowell Make-up: Dominique Desveaux


Tahira Khan is our Features Writer & NCTJ-accredited Journalist. She has experience in the Wellness industry and loves travelling. She is a firm believer of authenticity and we at BMM are exactly that. Her expertise lies in travel, wellness & lifestyle. One of Tahira's favourite quotes... 'The most beautiful thing in the world, of course, is the world itself' - (Wallace Stevens)

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