by Rachel Ogbu//
EastEnders is one of the longest-running British soap operas showing on BBC One since 1985. Nigerian-British actress Bunmi Mojekwu joined the cast in 2010 playing the role of Mercy Olubunmi for two years.
Her character, Mercy was one of four main characters including Zsa Zsa Carter, Leon Small and Fatboy in the spin-off EastEnders: E20. It was a role that changed the course of her career, she was quoted in an interview of expressing her gratitude when she first landed the role that was only online first of all. “I feel so blessed to be part of EastEnders: E20. My first day on set was just crazy. I was on Albert Square—a dream come true—I’m enjoying every second.”
Then Mojekwu moved from the spin-off to the main series on TV with the Executive producer Diederick Santer hailing her efforts in the web series. “Mercy’s also been a huge hit with E20 viewers—she’s funny, warm, sensitive and rather mysterious. […] I’m delighted Bunmi will be bringing those qualities to the wider EastEnders audience.”
With that Mojekwu’s character, Mercy and her grandmother Grace became the first Nigerian family to appear in the EastEnders series which is deeply rooted in British history and culture. “They have a long way to go in representing us,” she had once said about Nigeria’s representation on the small screen.
The storyline sees her character who was described as being “a good girl, but feels abandoned when her parents head back to Nigeria.” To prevent Mercy from being deported to Nigeria, her friend Fatboy plans to save her by proposing. Fatboy points out that this isn’t about his feelings, it’s all about keeping her in the UK. Of course, he’s also hoping that if she stays, maybe she’ll end up liking him in the way he likes her. Mojekwu, went on to play the wife ‘Fatboy’. “You don’t see many actresses that look like me – dark-skinned, African girls – playing parts where the guy likes them or is in love with them,” Mojekwu told The Voice. “You don’t really see that, so I think, for some, that image is hard to get used to.
Mojekwu was nominated in the Young Shooting Star (16-23) category at the Screen Nation Awards for her performance as Mercy, which celebrated the best British Black talent. She left EastEnders on-screen on 12 July 2011. She also acted in Gone Too Far, the award-winning production by Bola Agbaje.
“You look at music videos and it’s the same type of girls getting the guys. Girls that look like me aren’t in the videos getting the guys’ attention. So you can understand why some young black girls might be affected by that and think that they have to look a certain way in order to get the guys,” she says to The Voice.
“I’m trying hard to encourage young black girls to be comfortable with who they are and know that they can achieve their goals, regardless of what they look like.”