Leroy Osei-Bonsu follows in the footsteps of Robin Williams as Aladdin’s Genie
- Credit: Photos By: Coco Van Oppens Photo
Currently playing the role of the genie in the second series, the Hackney resident says that the show represents a diverse range of cultures and religions.
The appeal of BBC’s Jamillah and Aladdin, taking place between London and ancient Baghdad, is that according to one of its stars anyone can identify with its protagonist.
Currently playing the role of the genie in the second series, Hackney resident Leroy Osei-Bonsu believes that “the fact that we’ve introduced a new character to the tale, being a girl who is well spoken and of colour, gives different cultures, different races and different religions the chance to be more connected with what is happening on-screen”.
“I keep getting a lot of people recognising me on the street because of it,” says Leroy.
“Audiences from all different backgrounds comment on the show and their response is that they finally have something the kids and the rest of the family can relate to. It helps you realise the importance of what the show is about.”
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The premise of program is loosely based on the fairytale Aladdin, but with a contemporary twist, Jamillah is from 2016’s inner London.
However, she travels back in time to meet 11-year-old Aladdin and his friend Genie.
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The traditional story of Aladdin, particularly the role of Genie, has over the years become both theatrically and cinematically iconic.
From annual pantomimes of the classic fairytale taking place in local theatres, to Disney’s 1992 version starring Robin Williams, Genie is a much loved character, meaning that Leroy has had to bring something fresh to the table.
“Aladdin is full of mischief. He and Jamillah get into a lot of scrapes and it is the Genie’s job to help them figure things out, rather than simply mending everything.
“The beauty of the Genie is that he does have these magical powers, but he doesn’t just hand out the answers.
“I tried to create a cool but down-to-earth Genie, like a big brother character who has powers, keeping him fun and energetic.”
Although set in Baghdad, it was shot in the piercing heat of South Africa to maintain the authenticity of the show’s exotic setting.
“Shooting out there really helped the production and the crew to embrace what we are trying to achieve. It helped create the exotic lands where the show is supposed to take place.
“There are times where Aladdin walks down roads alone and for scenes it is essential to see as far as physically possible to add to their authenticity.”
“Children are honest and smart as well. They can see when something doesn’t feel right and they will turn their heads straight away.
“You don’t want to do that by putting it in the wrong location.”
Yet while the show is popular with its young audience, it’s also a hit with the parents who control the remote.
Why is this the case?
“Although Jamillah and Aladdin is a children’s show, the majority of the characters are adults, living everyday village life.
“It isn’t something that is going to be cheesy or something that a parent wouldn’t want to engage with and it appeals because there are funny moments that will make them giggle.”