Veteran actor, Olu Jacobs, says once he makes him mind about something, nothing changes his vision. That, as he explained to Saturday Sun recently, was exactly why he went to London to study Drama – even against his parents' wishes.
Jacob is no stranger to Nigerian movies. His charisma and manner of delivery of lines are legendary – drawing him admiration from fans.
His infectious baritone and interpretation of roles are a director's delight. Having been in the industry for over 37 years, he is now a bridge between the old and the new, a motivator to the youths.
Jacobs attended a drama school in England called The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. “After I finished, I worked with various repertoire theatres in Britain and I'm a member of National Theatre of Great Britain. I worked with some of the television stations in London and at a stage, I decided to come back home because I felt I have reached a certain level in my field and that my country had the potential of being so great too. So, I came back to Nigeria in early 80s and we started Third Eye”.
My father said no
Like many of his colleagues, his family was not happy with young Jacobs when he chose to study Dramatic Arts. But even at the age when actors were seen as never do wells of the society, he knew what he wanted and stuck to it. “ I left Nigeria in 1964. Then, there was nobody in Nigeria to look up to, all the people I looked at were people outside the country.
The entertainment profession was not professional as such in Nigeria then and the only professional company we had was Ogunde and he inspired me a lot. Before then, my brothers used to take me to cinemas and I used to enjoy myself a lot. I was also taking part in school plays and drama. But when I said I was going to study drama, my parents did not like it and my dad said, 'no'. When I got to England I wrote him a lengthy letter and said, sorry, I was going to study Drama.
And because I had already started, he gave in. when I came back, there was no home movies in the country, it was stressful and the fees of artist was very low. NTA was only beginning to increase the fees of artists and people were only getting interested in acting. Meanwhile, my own company was doing stage plays and documentaries. Gradually, series on television started properly before we entered the home movies. It was stressful then.”
The Ogun state-born actor would not say how much he was paid for his first role but said it was very low and not encouraging at all.
“The first movie I did was produced by AA production and it was called Vigilante. We were paid very little for it and starred RMD and Mama D.
We had problems then looking for locations because people were not used to giving out their homes to people. They were very suspicious and we had to write letters to the Association of Landlords telling them what we were doing, where and when we would do it, for them to be aware.
Jacobs also disclosed how his friends tried to discourage him from acting because they believed acting was not a profession and should only be taken as a hobby. “People enjoyed it then but did not respect it. They enjoyed it, yes, but you have to get another job, they would tell you it's not a job. But all my life, I've done nothing else except acting and productions. It is a profession, that is what I want people to understand. I had a friend who actually wanted me to help run a company, then. I asked him if he wanted me to be happy and he said, yes.
I told him to invest in a company for us to do productions. But, unfortunately, the company did not see the light of the day. I also had few friends that believed in me and gradually the society started catching up with the fact that it is an honorable profession and not for dropouts. But when I want to do something, nobody stops me and that was why I went to England to learn how to do it properly and help my country.
Relationship with wife
One topic Jacobs likes discussing is his relationship with his beautiful wife, actress, Joke. Ask him how they are able to stick together in such a demanding profession and you will be surprised at the transformation on his face. His eyes shone as he went down memory lane with a smile. “ I met my wife in 1981, I was having a meeting about a production in National Theatre when the door opened and this beautiful lady walked in. Immediately, I said ladies and gentlemen, this is the lady I am going to marry.
She just looked at me and left, after that we became friends and five years later got married. Our marriage is built on trust, friendship, love, respect and understanding. When you trust somebody, you won't have reasons to doubt her when she tells you she is doing this or that. If you respect her, you would not be wondering what she is doing. Presently, my wife is in London and I am in Nigeria, I trust her in whatever she is doing.
If we are on set together, I see her as a character and the relationship between us is that of the characters we are playing at that particular moment. But when we finish, I would call her and say, my dear come and we go back to being husband and wife. If my wife sees me kissing a younger girl in movies, she understands and when she kisses, don't I understand? It's a job and does not go beyond the job”, he said, laughing.
My kids understand
“I have two sons, aged five and 16, they understand what we are doing and that we have to travel from time to time. We have relations that take care of them if we have to travel together and we call them always from where we are. Things have a way of working out once there is interest, love and you bring your children up explaining to them.
They are quite happy, they know what we do and that because of our job we have to travel from time to time. If my five-year-old son saw me kissing a lady on movie, he would say, 'mmh, Dad you are kissing'. I would tell him she is my friend in the play. Now, what I want to do is give them sound education to be able to choose what they want. Then if they want to fellow my footsteps, fine.”
Jacobs has one ambition – just before he drops the cap. “ My ambition is to get a good studio and to continue to develop and expand the market. And to see every good film that is made go into the market and at least attract over five million customers. I look forward to when I would do a film and it would sell five million copies because we have the market for it”.
Fondly called Uncle Olu by all his fans, he treats everyone as a father and listens to whoever needs help. “ They call me at different hours of the day just to say hello. We are the ones providing them with avenue in which to express themselves and any help they need from us we must try and help, understand and guide them”, h e said - just as one of his numerous fans approached him for help.