Jemima Osunde. Picture: Refilwe Modise
A powerful story with a stellar cast will leave viewers engaged and captivated.

MTV Shuga, which recently aired on MTV Base, has been regarded globally as Africa’s most viewed youth-focused series bringing to the forefront issues like sex, education and HIV/Aids.

Jemima Osunde rose to fame after being cast in the role of Leila.

“I am a huge fan of the show and when I auditioned and got the part it was a dream come true, I was on cloud nine. It was such a great opportunity for me,” said Osunde.

She started on the show in season four. Her character was in her innocent phase, oblivious to the world and what’s going on in it.

“Since season four, Leila has developed in every way. She’s now in university and she has grown, she’s experienced a lot and is independent,” she said.

Osunde said MTV Shuga highlights topics and issues that most people don’t want to talk about.

“Sex education is one of the stories we highlight because parents are shy or it’s taboo to talk about it. We also highlight HIV/Aids.

“The actors and crew are just as amazing as our storylines, we have taken it right down to grass roots level, to the masses, and it’s a show that everyone can relate to.”

Osunde said statistics showed people tested themselves for HIV after watching the show.

“Stats shot up by 60% after the show aired in Lagos. This shows we are making a difference - it’s not just for entertainment, we are creating an actual movement. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Talking about the similarities between herself and her character, Osunde said although there are many, one thing stands out for her.

“There are many things that are similar between me and Leila, but the main one is that she is very family inclined, and so am I.

“I grew up with three older brothers and this season, we will see the introduction to Leila’s brother and they share a very strong and special bond,” she said.

During her time on the show, Osunde has been involved in many storylines, but says her best so far had been the HIV one.

“It was an eye-opener to many people to be shown that they should not victimise or stigmatise those who have HIVAids. If you’ve been contemplating dating someone with the disease, you shouldn’t turn down the relationship, HIV is treatable.

“Another storyline this season which I like is about a young girl who was married off at a young age. She has a child but wants to get an education. She runs away from home in order to do this. We see her fighting her demons,” she said.

Aside from Shuga, Osunde’s movie New Money is being released in Nigeria this month. In it, she plays an underprivileged young girl who wants to become a fashion designer. Overnight, her luck changes when she learns her estranged father left her as chief executive of his multimillion rand international business.

As if her achievements were not enough, Osunde is also a medical student at the University of Lagos.

“School always comes first. I’m in my final year of study, and it’s going pretty well.

“I want to pursue acting full time, but I also wanted to have a back up, because sometimes you’re not on set all the time,” she said.

Catch Jemima Osunde on Shuga, which airs every Wednesday at 9.30pm on MTV Base (DStv Channel 322).