I WILL ACT TILL I DIE---YEMI SOLADE
Yemi Solade may bear the brunt of critics' attack for whatever shortcomings, but one thing that cannot be taken away from him is the fact that he is a damn good actor. He owes his training and exposure to acting at a very high level.
He is no doubt one of the leading thespians among his contemporaries who are at home on stage as well as on screen, whether in Nollywood or the Yoruba sector of the industry. He refuses to be so dubbed crossover actor – preferring to be described as an actor who crisscross the various segment of the profession.
Having grossed countless acting roles in screen and stage appearances, and in the process represented the country through her National Troupe around the globe, the Igbein, Abeokuta, Ogun State native said he would act till he drops dead because he gets satisfaction from exhibiting his artistic talents.
One of the character flaws his critics hold against him is that he can be loquacious and a snub. But before he refuted the charges in an exclusive interview; first he laughed it off. Whether you buy his argument or not, his submissions are plausible.
"For God's sake I'm no snub! I'm a free spirited person. Locations come in different ways. If I got on location and I see my own, what do you expect? I will flow. But you don't expect that in these days where mediocre actors, charlatans and gate crashers are all over the place; I go on location, then go into their midst and get disrespected. You'll agree with me, for a man who has been practicing this trade for 30 years, I should have a place in the industry whether I' m being labelled a veteran or not. The fact is, I don't go to locations where I don't know anyone and start jumping around. But once I see people that I am down with, regardless of age, I relate with them. I'm very human, jovial and free spirited person.
"Those who say I am a snub don't know me. I don't think I am a snub because when I go on location and can't find someone to relate to, I sit inside my car and busy myself with watching DVDs or lock myself inside my hotel room watching films," Solade said.
Besides being a member of the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) and the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN); he is a rated member of the Federation of International Actors (FIA), Monte Video, Uruguay as well as a member by affiliation through NANTAP, of the International Theatre Institute Paris, France.
Little wonder he jokingly refers to himself as a SAN – Senior Actor of Nigeria.
Today, he is one of the most sought after actor in the Yoruba movie sector. He has also made several appearances in mainstream Nollywood along the line because, as he said, he would not have his creativity and zest to explore and exploit the talents in him to be pigeonholed into just one area.
"I think we have problems with definition in this country. I've been practicing for three decades, so I should be grounded in it, even when it comes down to defining the practice.
"I know that the word crossover means when a person or thing crosses over from one place to another and is not returning to that same spot; that is crossing over. I won't agree to be labelled a crossover artiste because I'm not leaving one aspect of acting for another or leaving one point for another; I'm like a pendulum, I'm an actor that crisscrosses from one medium of acting to another; that definition aptly defines what I do and who I am," contended the gifted actor who holds a degree in sociology and anthropology from the University of Leicester, England.
Meanwhile, the ex-student of Birch Freeman High School, Surulere, who dumped a degree in law for dramatic arts said he has no iota of regret for the decision. Rather, he has fond memories of his acting career especially on stage – as an undergraduate and while travelling with the National Troupe.
"Fulfillment is a relative term here; I have no regret dumping law for theatre. At the time, Professor Wole Soyinka was still at University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) was the head of department, Dramatic Arts; so I was more interested in learning from him.
"Being an actor has given me great satisfaction. If I had being a lawyer, I would probably have become one loud mouthed, articulate lawyer. And if I were in the ministry, having put in 30 years, I would probably be a director by now and preparing to retire; but in acting, there is no retiring. I would act till I drop dead," he said proudly.
Solade has some fond memories of his time as an actor. He recounted two of those glowing career high points:
"As at the last count I know I have done about 120 stage plays, close to 100 full length stage plays where I played major roles.
"Interestingly, I started as a major character in a stage play titled I'll Marry When I Want To by Ngugi Wa Thiongo. There was one other stage play that was closely tied to that. That was a 45 minutes solo on stage titled Crazy Youngy The Traffic Jam Manoeuvrer. I was alone on stage and did everything. That was in 1980 still at Ife, nobody believed I could do it because I didn't have much experience," he recalled.