What stirred your interest in acting?
Acting wasn’t really my thing; it wasn’t my plan to become an actor. I will just say that acting chose me because my first encounter with Nollywood was many years back. In 1999, I went to a place called ECOWAS Hotel with a friend to take pictures with actors and actresses. Fortunately, there were three movie auditions taking place there. The hotel was crowded. While I was taking pictures, someone came to me and asked if I was an actor. I answered in the affirmative and he asked me to write down my name, which I did. The first time I acted in a movie, I told everyone on my street and everyone who cared to listen that I had appeared in a movie, though it was a cameo role. Painfully, when the movie was released, my part was edited out. However, my part came out in the next movie I did.
What was your experience the first time you were on set?
I have always been a good learner and, of course, for every first timer, no matter how good you think you are, even if you are a graduate of Theatre Arts, you will be scared. However, I had to put that aside and learn the necessary skills. So far, I can’t recall the number of films I have acted in being the crossover actor I am. I guess it will be around 250 or 300 films.
You are one of the few actors that have been able to cut across both Yoruba and English movies. How are you able to do that?
Firstly, I am a Nigerian and I see the whole movie industry as one because we are all representing Nigeria. Acting Yoruba movies has been wonderful for me because I grew up in Lagos but I am originally from Delta State. Growing up in a Yoruba neighbourhood made Yoruba easy for me to speak. I am representing Nigeria in all angles. It is also the same feeling I get when I do English movies.
There is hardly any trade where there are no challenges. What were some of the challenges you faced when you first came on board?
The same thing that every newcomer faces on any job – getting to know the profession, getting acquainted with the camera and facing one or two intimidations from established actors. But I held on because I saw it as a learning process and today, God be praised, it paid off. It is not always easy when you are just starting out but if you are consistent, the sky will be your starting point. There are challenges in every profession. I have always been a determined person; so, I attended auditions and got information needed for my growth.
You once said Nollywood actors lead fake lives. What informed that statement?
I made that statement last year and they have forgiven me. But the truth is that I am a realist and the essence of that message is for us to be united. For instance, we shouldn’t blame the government if it doesn’t support us even though they (officials) know that the industry is the highest employer of labour. We indeed expect the government to have built movie studios and everything needed to enhance the industry. But I won’t blame the government if they don’t take us seriously. When Yoruba people make representations to the government today and Hausa people go there tomorrow, it makes them see us as unserious and disunited lots.
What do you wish for the industry?
I wish for us to step up but the mistake we make is that we keep comparing ourselves with Hollywood, which has been in existence for over 100 years. We are deviating from telling good stories. We had better stories back then but I don’t know what is happening now. Technically, we are getting better but story-wise, we haven’t got it right. We need more challenging stories that will take Nigeria to the next level. Also, the government should assist Nollywood by curbing piracy because it is really affecting lots of producers who invest large sums of money in making films.
Do you agree that some actors and actresses are not fully baked?
People like that don’t last in the industry unless they get better because they will be frustrated. The competition always gets tougher and they wouldn’t be able to cope. Naturally, they just leave the industry.
Does any of your onscreen characters reflect on your personality?
I am a professional actor and people find it difficult to believe that I can speak good English. So, I try to differentiate between my real life and screen life. When you see me on screen, I am a gangster but when you see me off screen, you will realise that I am an introvert. There are so many things about me that people don’t know, and that keeps me going.
Do you enjoy sex scenes?
I am not one of those lucky ones who get to play sex scenes because mine is usually r*pe scenes and there is no feeling that comes with it. Also, kissing in movies should be passionate but without feelings, all those things are make-believe.
Unlike the characters you play, do you consider yourself a romantic person?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I am suffering from ‘romance sickness’, if there is any such thing. I am too romantic though I may not look it. Some fans tell me that they are usually surprised to know that I’m a soft person. I have done so many things which I consider romantic. I remember helping a lady who was stranded to fix her tyre. I didn’t know her but I was moved to help her because she was wearing a short skirt and finding it difficult to bend down. When she saw my face, she was so amazed.
Have you ever been harassed by a fan before because of a character you played?
I have been slapped by a woman before for being wicked in a movie. I was very angry but I made her realise that it was just acting. So, I didn’t feel bad anymore; rather I felt proud of myself for being slapped because of a movie. Also, people appreciate us in different ways and it is part of the job.
How would you define yourself?
I am easygoing and a realist. I am someone you can always count on. I am a giver; whenever I have, I always share with everyone because I love seeing people happy. I believe that it is the footprint you leave on earth that people will judge you by.
What are your aspirations?
It is to become one of the biggest filmmakers in the world and to represent Nigeria on the world stage.
What is it about you that will surprise anyone?
You can’t get enough of me when it comes to movies. Also, I am a very good cook. I am not someone any lady can hold to ransom when it comes to food. I can cook any kind of food even the ones I have not eaten before as long as it has been prepared in my presence before. My mother taught me how to cook when I was growing up in Ebute Metta (Lagos). I am a ghetto boy. I had a sister who could cook too but anytime she cooked, she always asked me to finish it.
What were some of your fond memories of growing up in Ebute Metta?
I remember attending one or two festivals in the ‘hood’ then. Ninety per cent of the things I know today were learnt in the ‘hood’, and they have made me into the kind of man I am today. The good, bad and ugly sides of life were the things that kept me going. That is why I can handle any situation. After I was trained by my parents, the streets also trained me and I got street orientation. They say charity begins at home but it does not end there. I learnt so many things that have made me who I am. I am proud to have been brought up in Ebute Metta.
What is your taste in women?
I don’t have a ‘type’. I love anyone that is appealing to me. If I have to go into details, many people will like me. So, let’s just leave it at that.
How do you like to dress?
I am not too much of a fashion lover but I try to always look good. However, no matter how I decide to dress up, I cannot be the worst dressed at an event. However, I don’t see it as a competition like most people do.
What did you study?
I read Economics and Statistics at the University of Benin.