Naima Mclean’s love affair with performance started at a young age. Her fondest memories from her childhood are of her family’s living room being converted into a stage with her father playing the saxophone. “When I was young, I would always be performing in our living room. My father was a musician and he would play the saxophone and I would perform my poetry. So performing has always been in my life, for as long as I can remember,” the singer says with sparkle on her eyes.
But even with a childhood rich in music, she decided to pursue acting enrolling for a Drama degree at the University of Cape Town. With her training as an actress, she managed to score a few roles for a number of TV dramas and soaps, which include South Africa’s number one soapy Generations and a popular UK TV series called Wild At heart. But it’s with her new movie Vehicle 19 that the young star is finally announcing her arrival in the industry. In the film, shot entirely in South Africa, Naima takes the female lead alongside Hollywood actor Paul walker, who is famous for his role on the Fast and The Furious franchise.
When I was young, I would always be performing in our living room. My father was a musician and he would play the saxophone and I would perform my poetry.
Asking her how she reacted when she found out she had clinched the role, she quickly jumps up and says: “Are you kidding man, like crazy,” she bursts out laughing. “I was coming out of some meeting and while I was in my car I got the call. When I heard ‘girl you got the part’, I literally jumped out and started screaming around the car.” And not long after it was hello to the bright lights of Hollywood for Naima.
Although she was excited about the huge part, Naima was also looking forward to meeting her co-star Paul Walker. She describes their first meeting as rather hilarious. “I was busy getting ready for one of the scenes where my shirt gets taken off. Because I don’t have big breasts, they decided to stuff my bra with chicken fillets to make them look bigger. As they were busy stuffing me Paul Walker and the producers walk in and they were like ‘oh the guys are here so how about we ask what they think?’ So I met Paul Walker for the first time and the first thing I did was ask him about my chicken fillet breasts,” she adds with a giggle.
The whole movie is shot inside a car. Because of the intimate setting she was able to interact with the Hollywood star, who she describes as “a simple guy, who is quite playful but chilled at the same time.” Naima admits to pushing herself beyond the limits while shooting the movie. As a result the shooting process proved to be emotionally and physically challenging at times for the star.
“We did a lot of improvisation and I did all my stunts by myself. There were times where I found it emotionally and physically challenging because I was hanging out from flying cars and also learning how to shoot guns,” she says.
When I heard ‘girl you got the part’, I literally jumped out and started screaming around the car.
Getting back to Music
Having wrapped up the movie Naima decided to rekindle her love affair with music. The young star was signed to Universal Music, but the album she made while with the label never hit stores. Now she has decided to go at it alone, a decision she attributes to her seeking more freedom and space to do things her way. She also describes the first album as too diverse. “After that album I needed to focus and harness the space I wanted to operate in, which meant shifting my sound a bit,” she adds.
Naima worked with a range of producers to create a sound she calls “Urban Soul”. The yet to be titled record will infuse hip-hop, dance, afrobeat and pop and the star has enlisted the talents of South African producers who include Instro from the Mortif Records camp, Tebogo Moloto from Jazzworxs and RJ Benjamin.
“There are two particular things that drive the album, it’s matters of the heart and inspiration, inspiration in terms of personal and social development,” she explains. “Like for instance, my first single Hero (Featuring AKA) talks about being your own hero and changing your own environment. So in my music I try to stay away from the clichés and focus more on the real nuances one has in life.”
Naima says she plans to release the record in August, the very same month that her movie will hit local theatres. Whether or not the movie will score her any awards, we’ll have to wait and see. But the multi-talented star says she is working on owning the prestigious crown. “Eventually will be walking down the red carpet but I am still not sure whether it will be a Grammy or an Oscar first,” she laughs.
Watch the trailer for Vehicle 19 here:
Watch the video for Naima’s first single Hero featuring AKA: