Interview With Jamillah and Aladdin’s Genie – Leroy Osei-Bonsu
Those of you with tiny humans in your families will probably be aware of CBBC/CBeebies Jamillah and Aladdin. It’s a modern take on the Aladdin story, which sees Jamillah (Blossom Campbell), a modern-day girl, discover a dusty old lamp in the attic of her family home. Being a curious child, she picks it up and rubs it, only for a magical genie (Leroy Osei-Bonsu) to pop out and transport her back in time to Baghdad where she meets Aladdin (Wilson Radjou-Pujalte). Together the trio embark on a exciting adventures through the bustling bazaars and winding back streets of the ancient city.
We had a chance to catch up with the Genie himself, Leroy Osei-Bonsu and put a few questions to him. This is what he said:
GT: How do you get into the role of being a Genie?
Leroy: For me it starts with the script. The character was well laid out. His actions, how he is, and how he’s seen by other characters. But my twist on that was to go for a cartoon characteristic style, in order for it to be more colourful, bright and bigger for young viewers, whilst trying to maintain the reality of him being a person.
GT: You work with Blossom and Wilson one the show, who are great. How do you find it working with a young cast?
Leroy: It helps a lot, because that’s who you’re pitching it to, if not younger. For us, our relationship on the show is very much the same off set. There are always jokes, banter. I’m like a big brother to them who they’d always come to. We had a lot of fun, which is the main thing. Just having fun with it!
GT: You’re working with young kids, and there can be a lot of downtime when filming. Was there much pranking on set?
Leroy: [Laughs] Yes! There were pranks, there were games. There was one prank where, in the episode, the Genie goes down the drain. So Blossom and Wilson come to me and tell me that they’d heard the showrunners saying they were going to film in a real drain, and were teasing me about it. So all day long I’m thinking “great, you two get the luxurious life while I have to go into a drain for the day!” Of course, it turns out that wasn’t the case and they were pulling my leg. But all day I was getting myself prepped for the director to come and tell, so he finally comes, and says “no you’re not going down a real drain”, and I could see Blossom and Wilson peeking round the corner just sniggering at me. There was lots of that sort of stuff. Especially messing with make up things, and lots of games.
GT: You’re into the second season now, so what has changed since season 1?
Leroy: With the first season, we got the story and characters established, and was pitched more towards the CBeebies, younger audience. Once it aired, we realised a lot of people were watching as families. So with the second season, it’s still the same exciting adventures, but with more depth to it, and the writing is a bit more mature, for slightly older kids. It just broadens it out a little more, rather than just being aimed at babies and toddlers.
GT: That makes sense too, as the kids that watched the first season are going to be growing up with the show, so it really should be growing with them.
Leroy: Exactly, and that was one of the main things we picked out as we sat reading the script, and were all excited and happy to see that change as well.
GT: I noticed on iPlayer there is a Genie Song music video! Are you a musical person?
Leroy: Ermm… [Laughs] Well, I love my music, yes! However, the Genie Song came as a shock to me! I loved doing it, but it was very challenging!
GT: Is that actually you singing on it?
Leroy: It is yes! It took a long while in the studio to record that as I’m not a strong singer at all. It was probably the most challenging thing throughout the whole production!
GT: So lets go to the obvious question – If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?
Leroy: My first wish would be to earn and win myself an Oscar in my acting career. Second wish would be world peace, obviously – Black Eyed Peas, Where Is The Love kinda thing [Laughs]. Third wish would be to have some form of superpower. Flying, telepathy, telekinesis… That kind of thing [Laughs].
GT: What’s the best piece of advice someone’s given you?
Leroy: This was from one of my drama teachers from E15 drama school, Phil Weaver. Fail now, fail again, but fail better!
GT: I’ve heard something similar to that, which was simply ‘Fail faster’, which I love as a piece of advice.
Leroy: Exactly, and that has always stuck in my head. It’s a really good one to acknowledge and take on board.
GT: If you weren’t an actor, what do you think you’d be doing?
Leroy: Something in the music industry, wether that would be DJing, producing, rapping… I love music, so something around the musical world. If not that, something in the gaming world, as I love the ol’ Xbox [Laughs].
GT: Couple of final questions we ask everyone. What TV shows are you watching at the moment?
Leroy: Ooh now you’ve got me started [Laughs]. Obviously most of these shows are for 15 and above, so not really suitable for the kids that watch our show. But at the moment i’ve been watching Power, Stranger Things… There’s just so many… How To Get Away With Murder… Not that i’m planning anything [Laughs]. Game Of Thrones obviously. Classic. There’s just so many series out there I’ve been getting into and catching up on!
GT: And lastly, if you could be in any tv show, past, present or future, what would it be?
It’s got to be Game Of Thrones. It’s just amazing. When I was watching the last season, I was just stood in front of my tv clapping my hands and giving applause to them. It’s just… Yep. Thrones, definitely!
You can catch all the episodes of Jamillah and Aladdin on BBC iPlayer, and on CBeebies.