Ghanaian-Libyan actress and model, Briggitte Appiah exuded calm confidence and self-belief talking about her craft on a hot Thursday afternoon in the month of March in her Spintex Road apartment.
It was the kind that would even make the biggest cynic a believer.
“I believe in myself. I find insecurity and not believing in yourself unattractive. It’s an energy that puts people off,” explained Appiah to livefmghana.com during the interview. “It didn’t happen overnight; I had to work on it.”
The interview was about Appiah’s nearly 15-year work in the entertainment industry in Ghana, and around the world.
In 2018, Appiah nabbed the biggest gig as yet of her career – the role of a Rwandan Journalist in Netflix and BBC 2’s war crimes drama, Black Earth Rising.
The eight-part series shot partly in Ghana examines the prosecution of war criminals after the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
It follows Kate Ashby (Michaela Coel) rescued as a young child during the genocide and adopted by Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter), a world-class British prosecutor in international criminal law.
Raised in Britain, and in her late 20s, Kate works as a legal investigator in the law chambers of Michael Ennis (John Goodman). When Eve takes on a case at the International Criminal court prosecuting an African militia leader, the story pulls Micheal and Kate into a journey that would upend their lives forever.
“Thrilling! It was really thrilling. It was really exciting to have a feel of something bigger,” reminisced Appiah.
“I definitely had a feel of Hollywood, the procedure – how they work. I had previously worked with a bigger production as well on a Guinness commercial. There were a lot of people involved.”
She spoke fondly of getting the “princess” treatment which included being chauffeured in a Sport Utility vehicle (SUV) to the set and back to her hotel, and having three assistants on set for her one-day shoot just like the main and supporting cast of the production including Ghanaian-British actress Coel.
‘Black Earth Rising’ also stars Hugo Blick, Noma Dumezweni, Lucian Msamati, Tamara Tunie, Danny Sapani and Abena Ayivor.
The audition process and pre-shoot, however wasn’t all a walk in the park. Her first audition was in late 2017, followed by months of waiting with bated breath for a call back.
Producers of the series reached out to her for a second audition in early 2018.
Between that and the third, final call, Appiah was very deliberate about acquiring a Rwandan accent. She actively pursued this goal by researching online, and watching numerous videos of Rwandan Journalists.
She told livefmghana.com, seeing her head shot on the wall at the production set “really excited” her and confirmed that she had landed the role she auditioned for during her third visit.
She got further accent training from a voice coach in Ghana prior to the shoot. The death of a cameraman also delayed the production for a few months.
On the day of the shoot, a pep talk with herself and colleague actors on the set helped her nail her performance, impressing director Blick, who complimented her on her talent and work ethic.
“I said to myself ‘this is your shot. You have to give it your all. This is not the time to be afraid. You have to forget about everyone,’” recalled Appiah.
“I learn to tune out. It is important to know how to zoom out and zooming out is not seeing anyone around you. I practice that, and I think it helps in a way.”
She is banking on the hope that the role will open doors for her acting career in the West “because I’ve had a thing for the Hollywood scene but I have never made any initiative to start it’s only recently that I started looking at that direction so yeah, definitely.”
Appiah expressed concerns about what she regards as the rise of Casting Directors in Ghana featuring biracial or light-skinned women in movie roles and on Billboards, snubbing dark-skinned women like her for roles and opportunities compared to the Western world.
“Hollywood is big on natural hair, more of my style, dark skin. The outside world loves our authenticity as Africans. In Africa, we still haven’t come to the realization that we have to love ourselves for who we are and promote ourselves more,” stated Appiah.
“For example, if you go to town in Accra, you see lots of billboards of biracial girls, you would think this country is made up of biracial people but that’s not the case. From past experiences, I wasn’t getting cast as a model when I went for auditions because maybe I didn’t have long hair, I wasn’t fair enough, had natural hair or whatever the case is.”
She cited examples of how majority of her modeling and acting gigs have been though American and or European Casting Directors.
Appiah is of the opinion that a breakthrough in Hollywood would lead to people who look like her in the modeling and actress industries in Ghana and Africa getting good opportunities to expand their craft.
Born in Benghazi, Libya to Ghanaian parents, Appiah got her start in the entertainment industry in 2004 at age of 13.
An Italian scout director, struck by her 5’8 height at her then age recruited her to be part of a fashion show at the Italian embassy in Libya.
In 2008, she relocated to Ghana with her family, making the country her permanent base.
Signed with Fuse Model Management and 20 Model Management in Nigeria and South Africa respectively, Appiah has quite a broad resume.
She has fronted adverts for brands including Guinness, Google, Printex, Aha Intimate Lingerie and KFC.
Nicole Amarteifio’s ‘The Republic’ and ‘Coz ov Moni 2’ are some of Appiah’s other production credits. She served as a production assistant on the set of 2015 movie ‘The Weight.’
“I don’t believe in ‘It can’t happen,’ shared Appiah on her can-do spirit.
“I believe that if you do your research about your career path, and add the required energy and input: wake up every day and practice one thing on a daily basis with dedication, and learn a lot about your work. You would get what you want from that career.”