I’ll just say it: Beyoncé’s new musical film and visual album, Black Is King, is a masterpiece. Following the premiere last week, the film received universal acclaim and is currently the highest rated Disney+ original on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans and critics alike are praising the stunning visuals and poignant storytelling about the African diaspora, as well as the film’s fashions and use of music.
For this project, inspired by her 2019 Afrobeat album The Lion King: The Gift, Beyoncé tapped several African writers, directors, and fashion designers to bring her vision to life. That also included 22-year-old Nigerian dancer and musician Stephen “Papi” Ojo, who has a prominent role as the “blue man” throughout the film.
This week, I FaceTimed with Stephen to find out more about his character and get some behind-the-scenes details about what it was like working with Queen Bey, teaching her his native dance moves, like the gbese, and how he managed to keep it all a secret — until now. Read on for more.
BuzzFeed: First off, I have to say congrats on everything. You’ve been working so hard and it’s all paying off, so congrats to you!
Papi Ojo: Thank you!
Of course, we have to talk about your latest project with Beyoncé, Black Is King. I want you to take me back to when you first found out that you were going to be working on the movie. How did that come about?
PO: So I got on the project first as a dancer. [Beyoncé’s team] booked me sometime in the summer of last year to come work on “Spirit.” It was the first music video she had dropped from her album, [The Gift]. And then from there, they just kept calling me back to help choreograph for different pieces of the songs, being that the album was more of an Afrobeat project.
They brought me on board to show them Afro movements, Afro dance style, and give them the basic meaning to the dance moves. And then my role just grew as time went by. I guess they just really loved my energy and loved who I am as a person, and [the director] blessed me with the role.