Without any shred of doubt, Sola Sobowale is a veteran actress with huge talent. Many would remember her as Toyin Tomato in Wale Adenuga’s hit TV series, Super Story. She is the effervescent character who could blend from one volatile act to another. Just when the movie viewing audience could not get enough of her she disappeared into thin air!
“Has Sola dumped acting?”, was the question on the lips of many. Now she is back, doing what she knows how to do best and currently stars in a new series called ‘Nectar’ showing every Monday on AIT at 7:00PM with a repeat every Sunday at 9:30PM. In this exclusive interview, she talks about her absence from Nollywood, acting and more.
You’ve been off the movie scene for a while, are you fully back?
I never left, I only changed my base. Even when I was living in the UK, I still come home and do what I know how to do best. I still act and produce and presently, I’m developing a script.
What are you currently working on?
I’m on a soap opera called ‘Nectar’ and we’ve fully recorded up to Season 3. It is showing presently on AIT.
Are you working on any movie besides the soap?
I just finished one called ‘Bose ye kori’
You’ve featured in over 200 films, how many of them have you produced?
I can’t count, but I’ll just say close to 50
You act with so much passion and conviction, what is your staying power?
First of all, I’m from a disciplined home. My late father was a retired school principal and my mom was a retired head teacher. We were taught that ‘what is worth doing is worth doing well’. This is what I’m ordained to do, this is what I love doing and when you’re doing something you love, you need to put in all your effort and energy. You must be focused, know your onions and know what you want to do. That is why you see me working like this.
Can you give a list of your best TV productions?
I’m not going to say one, I would say all. You know why? Because if I don’t love something, you can’t find me there and I endorse what I do. It is not every script that comes to my table that I do because my own job is not for people to just come and see something that has no meaning. I get involved in stories that people would learn from and if you know me very well and have been following my stories and seen my movies, you will notice that everything I do has to do with family. I do proper drama and all this drama I do has to touch everybody; fathers, mothers, young ones, everybody. All I do is make-believe and at the same time it is what happens in our society both locally and internationally. I thank God for Super Story. A lady walked up to me in Abuja and said “Thank you very much Toyin Tomato, you saved my marriage” I said “what do you mean by that?” She said that her husband was like Suara and there was someone out there like proper Toyin Tomato that was taking him away. She then called her husband to watch Super Story and he settled down, watched, listened and saw the whole thing and he came back home. I’m very happy that I could touch that woman’s life.
What would you say shot you to limelight?
When I was in ‘Mirror in the Sun’ years back, it was popular. Village Headmaster was popular, Asewo to Re Mecca happens to be the pacesetter for home videos and then there’s Super Story. I give kudos to Uncle Wale and I thank him so much for believing in me and bringing me on board for Super Story. I would say Super Story shot me to limelight because I had been working and no one had invited me out of Nigeria but with Super Story, I got an invitation to go to South Africa and Zimbabwe. It threw me everywhere; even Jamaicans saw me and said “Did you watch that show? This is Toyin Tomato”.
You started acting when it was not this lucrative, have things really changed?
I will not say I started when there was no money.
But the money wasn’t that high?
Yes, and today it’s a shame that it is going back. We are praying to God that we need a Messiah and that is the government, they need to come in now. On our own, independently and individually, we’ve rebranded Nigeria. Years back, Nigeria was known as a country of 419, drug traffickers, etcetera, but when home video came, we rebranded Nigeria. They now know Nigeria for movies and drama and we are really popular, so this is a business that the Nigerian government must invest in.
Why do you think actors are paid peanuts in Nigeria?
When no one is helping and no one is sponsoring, no one wants to put their money down for anything. But abroad you see a lot of people sponsoring; corporate bodies, banks and so on. If I want to get money now, I’ll have to get my friends to assist me. I don’t know how to do anything else besides this. I don’t have a shop, so I can’t stop no matter how bad it is. That is what is happening and it’s not good. That is why you see Nigerian actors and actresses dying anyhow because you see us working too hard. Nobody is taking a break from work, nobody is going on holiday, nobody is saying let me do 2 or 3 movies in a year and I’ll be satisfied. You see us shooting over 500,000 movies a year because of how much you are paid? You’re going to pay your house rent, if you want to live in a good place, a flat in a good environment will cost you like N2,000,000. We want to pay our children’s school fees, afford good clothing and 3 square meals. We just want to be comfortable like normal human beings which is difficult.
Why is it that they focus more on quantity instead of quality in Nigeria?
It’s a pity because you know the answer yourself. We need to feed ourselves. I shot a movie about 2 or 3 years ago called Adayeba Ote Part 1, 2, 3. When I was tired of recording, I had spent about N5.8 million and we had not finished editing. After editing, I did not make up to 3 million. I thank God I did not borrow any money to do that, if I had borrowed money what would have happened to me? I lived in England, I do all the jobs and I bring the money back to Nigeria to shoot a movie because this is me, this is my passion. When you talk about quality, where are you going to get the money for the quality?
Are you really fulfilled as an actress?
I am not talking about money but you know something in life? When you enjoy doing what you love, you will be fine. I am fine but I need money to survive. I want all my effort to be crowned because I work very hard so I can’t just be doing it in vain
Are all your children in Nigeria or in England?
They’re in England, one is here. He has graduated already and he just recently got married
How does someone become good at acting?
First of all, you need to find yourself and believe in yourself. It is not a platform to showcase your beauty or for publicity, it is a profession. You need to treat it as a profession like a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. When you know that this is your profession and you get there, you take things step by step. Don’t say because you’re beautiful you want to sleep around, how many would sleep with you? Don’t forget that beauty is not on the outside, it’s on the inside
I’m sure you get upset when you see actresses dress almost nude?
I don’t get annoyed, the bottom line is this; nobody forces you to do anything. We need education and we need exposure. I’m a typical Nigerian woman, I love my Naija and our culture; there are some things we don’t do, it’s not in our culture. If we say we want to do it, we can do it in our house under our roof not in public because you get no respect doing that. Our producers and directors need to know that when you are acting as a prostitute, you don’t need to remove your dress to become a prostitute. You don’t need to be touched to act as a grade A prostitute. I did Asewo to Re Mecca, the pace setter, fantastic; myself and Toyin Adegbola. I played the number 1 Asewo and I introduced Toyin’s character to it. We didn’t remove anything and it was talk of the town. When the producers know this, you will not see nakedness again. We should want people to respect us and respect this profession.
Many people have described you as an ageless beauty, is there any secret to maintaining your good looks?
When you came to my house, how did you see me? I play a lot, I laugh, I smile and I am not a schemer. When you scheme, your head works 24/7 and before you know it, wrinkles are all over your face. Or if you lie and you want to keep lying, your head is never resting and it is ever thinking. Mine is, ‘What you see is what you get’ and I give glory to God and I thank God for my parents; they raised me very well and I got that from them
Apart from that Saudi Arabia scandal, is there any other one you’ve faced?
You need to tell me that scandal, tell me the whole story
They said that you smuggled cocaine and then they beheaded you in Saudi Arabia?
(Laughs) Do you believe in abracadabra? Whether I put my head back, they should tell me. If you give me the map of the world, I don’t know where Saudi Arabia is. I am not a Muslim, I am a Christian, so what is my business in Saudi Arabia? I’ve never been there; I’ve never in my life seen cocaine. Yes, I watch movies; internationally I saw Al Pacino in Scarface and I saw our own Nigerian movies where we do cocaine, that’s all. Where that scandal came from, how it came to be, still baffles me. I don’t know why people would just sit down and fabricate stories to rubbish people’s name, it is not fair.
What would you advice celebrities to do in order to keep their marriages?
What I would just tell everybody is, I know my home and I know myself. What happens in that other building; I don’t know so we should not judge. Secondly, there is something called foundation. In education, when you go to secondary school and you come out of that school and make your papers, that is the foundation. Without that foundation, you can’t get to university or further your studies. The foundation of marriage is love, endurance, honesty and to crown it all; keep it in the house
What more should people expect from Sola Sobowale?
Nectar; people should just watch out for Sola Sobowale because it’s going to be a great comeback