Keeping your faith in a world that is so fast-paced can be difficult.

As a young person balance is key. Tobi Olujinmi understands how hard it is being a practicing Christian, the need for clarity about faith and how it affects the choices young people make today, their trials and tribulations and the battle to stay true to themselves whilst paving a way for themselves. Tobi discusses this topic through her podcast Encounters and hopes to delve into many more stories like these through the W Talk Network…

Introduce yourself

Hi British Blacklist, I’m Tobi Olujinmi- founder of The W TALK Network. I’m a Nigerian girl who was raised in North London. I’m a wife to my premium chocolate husband and together we have two children. I love using entertaining stories and innovative formats to explore the intricacies of faith. Massively passionate about community and absolutely love Afrobeats.

Tell us what Encounters is about?

Encounters is a scripted podcast that follows the story of Julia (played by Rita Balogun), a smart outspoken Christian and the highs and lows of her relationship with Lucas a famous premier league footballer played by Tapiwa Madovi. Julia takes a trip to New York where their worlds first collide. The fictional podcast takes you on the twists and turns of their ensuing relationship. Can Julia’s “Christian World” and her faith merge with Lucas’ life of games and groupies? Being celibate in your teens is different than your 20s and 30s, will Julia stay true to her beliefs? Encounters is steamy, honest and real.

Why this story, what inspired the narrative?

The W TALK Network is always looking to develop and produce real stories around the Christian faith. Encounters offers a really good insight into the challenges faced by a Christian woman who doesn’t want to have sex before she is married. The story is refreshingly honest but also entertaining. I don’t think it is a story which is often told highlighting the challenges, without being preachy. 

Is it difficult being faithful during a time when lines are so easily blurred? We have Christian Drill, Rnb and Rap music for example and faith groups with relaxed inclusivity, etc

I think the Christian faith walk is personal and we are living in an extremely distracting time. Everyone and everything is competing for attention, which can make staying true to your beliefs difficult, but not impossible. I think the tension comes when a person is trying to live out their faith in real life and Encounters demonstrates this well. How do you balance your beliefs with some of those desires which prove to be contrary? In this time, discipline and community are important and a person’s faith walk can’t simply be based on a fad or trend – as we see in Encounters when the Lucas’ come knocking.

When thinking up the series did you ever imagine it for the screen or maybe even a play, what made you decide to record it as a podcast series?

We were interested in playing with the podcast format. We find it sits at the intersection of a play and an audiobook. You can creatively do things with a podcast, which can’t be achieved on screen. It invites the listener to do a little work and imagine the world, the characters and the backdrop with us. I think this format can be massively rewarding for storytellers.

How did you finalise the script?

Once the plot was confirmed, I wrote the first draft of the series with some input from Destynee Onowechi. In the first draft, Lucas was a famous musician. We knew we wanted him to be prolific, but we weren’t sure of his exact profession.  We had a few writers’ room meetings with script editor Louisa Hayford and went through various versions before coming up with the character direction and how we wanted series 1 to end. 

Tell us a bit more about the process of casting Rita Balogun (Julia) and Tapiwa Madovi (Lucas)…

We had a few people audition for the part of Julia, but something was missing. There is an aspect of Julia which is both aloof and sexy and we were looking for that fit.  One day, I was speaking at the same event as Rita, and as we got speaking I immediately thought that she would play a great Julia. I discussed the story with her and sent her the treatment and episode 1. Luckily enough, it resonated with her. Tapiwa was a perfect match, he is a friend of mine and I just knew he would play the part well. I dropped the friend card and managed to get him on board. The chemistry between Rita and Tapiwa translates well on audio, so we are happy with the casting.  

What other stories are you interested in making?

I am interested in stories relating to how the faith affects relationships, careers, friendships I would love to tell these stories – highlighting the Black British experience. We are back in the writers’ room and brainstorming. It’s exciting with the W TALK app because we have the power to both create and distribute our stories for our audience. 

What’s next for you?

The W TALK app launched earlier this year and we are focused on making sure we have great content on there. We have a new series called, ‘Leah‘ which is a Biblical adaptation about two sisters in love with the same man. Leah will be out on the network in early 2020. 

Where can we listen to Encounter?

You can listen to Encounters on the W TALK Platform or via theW TALK App, which can be downloaded for free. It is also available on Spotify.