PROFESSIONAL ACTORS DON'T REJECT ROLES-----WALE ADEBAYO
It was his first role as lead character in the epic film “Sango” produced by Femi Lasode that shot him into limelight. Wale Adebayo who read Law at the Obafemi Awolowo University, in this interview, lamented the ease with which other industries especially the media accuses entertainers of being involved in drug trafficking and fraud. The actor who also said he has no regret venturing into acting said he is not in support of the film industry being called Nollywood as he described it as plagiarism. For him, rejecting a role must be based on an issue of probably religion or a cause.
Foray into acting
I started acting when I was in Satellite Secondary from the dramatic society and ever since then the rest has been history.
As the case is right now, if I'm not acting, I am producing or directing. I am actually a film maker of some sort right now, I am a director with Wale Adenuga production and I direct Binta and Friends and Papa Ajasco and Company. I was executive producer for Makabba in 2001 and Double Game in 2007 where I also acted.
My name is Wale Adebayo, I'm an actor, was born in Abeaokuta and in between the periods I can remember, I grew up in Lagos, Satellite town primary and secondary school and Obafemi Awolowo University where I studied Law but I haven't gone to Law school yet, I am from Ondo State.
My motivation is not capital or the word of some sort in term of monetary values, those are not my own motivations. I'm still one of those old fashioned people that believe that art for art sake because just seeing what you've created and seeing it's appreciation by people is enough to just give me a lift. Yes we need money to sustain ourselves the world has gone digital so you know you can't afford to lack and once you know you can't afford to lack then somewhere along the line, you still need to have a commensurate level of monetary reward to keep you above board. But as far as my motivation goes, I think it's just the creation of art as it is that just makes me happy.
Had you at any time wanted to quit acting?
I wish, maybe my life would have turned out better, I'm not regretting anything but maybe if I've had to tell myself that okay Wale you should embolden yourself and go to Law school and try to be a lawyer, I mean I went through so much crisis while I was at the university to graduate from this course. I know what my mother went through just to make sure that her son finished from school, I should not have allowed acting to take over but it does happen that you just find yourself thrust on to something that is outstandingly beyond you; it's not just you now, it's something that's in control and so you just tell yourself to just ride on the crest of the wind that has overtaken me and hopes it lands me somewhere.
What do you hope to achieve in the industry?
There's nothing yet in the film industry in Nigeria; the movie industry in Nigeria is like we just bought land, it's like the first of owning a house, you buy the land. So the stage we are in Nigeria now is that we have the land and there are so many things we can do on that land.
We could build a Hollywood kind of environment on that land, we could build Broadway but you know, we have gone through the nitty gritty of making movies. Ogunde have shot Bread and Butter or Gun, I can't remember the title, and they've shot Bisi, daughter of the river and something like the Black president, all these were shot on celluloid, Mr. Johnson was shot on celluloid by Ogunde, we have shot celluloid but you know, there are times when you probably develop faster than what you should have and that was what happened to Nigeria during the period of the doyen of the theatre during Ogunde's period, I think we had ran too fast and all of a sudden, we couldn't go forward and we couldn't go backward. So what we did was recreate something lesser than what we were used to but something that will still subsist and I think that would have been the birth of well, I don't know about Nollywood, I don't know what that word is, I don't want us being called Nollywood. Bollywood already took their name from Hollywood.
Today when you say Nollywood you are talking about the English movie industry and when you say ANTP you are talking about the Yoruba movie industry. At the end of the day, it broods of serious dichotomy. It's why we can say best actor Yoruba, best actor English, I mean an actor is an actor it doesn't matter the language you are using, at worst case scenario, we are meant to have best foreign actor because its not Nigerian. I have never supported this dichotomy of one is an English actor and one is a Yoruba actor because at the end of the day, Yoruba actors have hustled to act in English movies and English actors in Yoruba movies only because you are not an actor if you continue to limit yourself to languages.
What should the Nigerian movie industry be called?
Let us now look at the antecedent of Hollywood, how was Hollywood created, where did they get the word Hollywood from? They have a reason for calling themselves that, the place called Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, was a serious mining town where gold was going to be mined, some of the people that first built places there was C.C.B Nero who first did Ten Commandments, these are people who saw a particular place and said we could settle here and they were shooting movies there. The strip of Hollywood is a long strip, it is a town, it's not a name for arts, and it's a town that was created for film making and film makers. Hollywood has over five, six studios from Universal to Paramount to Fox to Warner Bros and all these people have their studios there. I don't know what they are going to coin for the Nigerian film industry, Nollywood isn't the right word; it just means that we are plagiarizing someone else's creativity. If the Indians want to do it, they are not quarrelling, they have the right to. The art itself is creativity, it's either you toll that line for them or you leave it for them and create something for yourself. Nollywood is not even encompassing the entire film industry, if we are going to do something; it needs to satisfy everybody's yearnings, that's what the film industry in Nigeria is all about.
What film shot you into limelight?
It's not a secret, my name is Wale Adebayo, I played the lead role in the movie called Sango, the legendary African King, this was about twelve years ago. It's so painful for me as an actor first and foremost to still be relevant because of the movie I did twelve years ago not because I've not shot movies after that or not because movies have not been shot after that but because of the lack of proper development in Nigeria since 1997, it's why a movie like Sango would still be relevant twelve years later. We've had Oduduwa, Jaja of Okpobo, we've had so many historical cases created, done and sold but you see a lot of people might not remember who Oduduwa was when it came out, I'm sure some will still be asking when Jaja of Okpobo was created. I told somebody we are planning to do a special anniversary of the making of the movie and sound track of Sango. The movie sango was that good to remain in the minds of people till date and that's what movies that are good get as yardstick and hallmark. Other movies that can take that finesse and style and class have been created between these twelve years period would not have had that life span it will just be amongst the list of movies that were created that have been good in Nigeria.
What favours have you received because you're an actor?
Loads of it! You walk into a place and need someone to do something for you, I want to believe they would probably do it if I was not an actor but it was better and easier because you come in and they say hey, hi, where are you going or what do you want? Or they say aren't you the guy who did so and so movie, what are you doing in our bank. There are times when you also loose favour there are some police people that stop you and just because they feel you are forming acting they say and then and want to take you to the police station just because you don't have your driver's license with you. So, it has its own draw backs too but the advantages are a bit more.
How many movies have you don up to date?
I can't remember, they are not loads of movies, I've taken some bit roles in some movies that I can't even remember the titles. It was just one of those walk in and they say please we must use you and you do two, three scenes, I have loads of that, like ten or fifteen. Movies that I can really remember were outstanding apart from Sango is Double Game which I produced, Makaba, it's not out yet, O' Kings and Ultimate Warrior, One Chance, I've acted in four major movies, that's what I'll like to say but have got bit parts movies like 150million and Omolomo.
What areas do you think the industry has done well and should improve upon?
Nollywood has been able to organize itself very well in terms of bodies that fight for their interest and all that, they've managed to make an impact in that regards. But improvement, we still have a lot to go by, we still need to recognize the fact that we are not alone in this business, it's a worldwide business and we are just a small part of that crowd and they are waiting for us to actually speak out and let them hear us. The Chinese people have done it, South Africans have done it but unfortunately for us, after apartheid of all these while, they came out of it and now they even buy our movies and show it anyway they like while their movies are shown on a better platform and pedestal. Shame on us but yes, we can still improve, it is not too bad but we must accept the fact that we need to improve; we should stop taking simple criticism to heart as if we are not patriotic. I love this business, I know the way it's been done and we are not doing it the same way and if I can not talk about it, the rest of the people who are lying that we will improve, may not. We need to make better from where we are coming from, we've gone bad and we need to pack it up, if you want to call me unpatriotic because of that, that's your problem.
I am happy that Emeka Mba is restructuring the entire census board and I just pray the marketers, distributors and practitioners would find a way where we can have a platform where we can all sit down vent out various grievances, tell them what we want, I don't want us to continue saying government has to do something, they don't much about this business, we do.
What constraints did you face?
I was lucky, I was ready when the opportunity presented it self. I tell those up-coming actors who come to meet me for lectures and all that, that it is opportunity meeting preparedness. As an actor, you must know what to do because you are contributing to the soap that is been created, as an actor, you must bring in something and that is why you are valued. It's why you are called an actor and once you don't know what the rudiments of your jobs is, the essence of why you are being called an actor, and then you should coin a new name for yourself. You must be prepared always, look for text, read them, play them on your own, hear your voice speech and tell yourself, how can I say this better than how I am saying it? Learn and develop yourself.
How true is it that most actors are drug traffickers?
Let me say here that it is easy for other industries to insult us especially your won industry, you guys, most of the time are always too critical. I would rather wait for my journalist to be objective and unbiased; just because he has an opinion that the entertainment industry is besotted with people who are undisciplined, a man doesn't have an identity any more, all has been taken away from him just in the essence of being an entertainer either an actor or a musician. You must grant the man a certain level of privacy, some certain level of normalcy, I'm not saying you know what you are coming into when you decided to be an actor and decide to be famous, yes you should anticipate the fact that your life is no longer going to be yours but even with that, they still deserve something small to take home with because we are humans. We can't should outside, they bash your car you can't talk, they slap you, and you're being regarded as a role model, you're practically everything everybody wants to look at and when you lash back abit, you become an embarrassment, and people will say I don't even know what he thinks he's doing. Those are the draw backs that could lead you recreating another identity for yourself, it might not be nice and pure but it's just part of that rebellious intent that will come into you. There are so many journalists that are also drug pushers that are not known, doctors that are drug pushers, lawyers, there's no industry that does not have their own Judas, and we are just unfortunate because we are leaving in glass houses and people can just see us for what we are not really meant to be but for what they want to perceive us as.
Do you reject roles?
No I don't
So you would probably take any role given to you?
I'm an actor, I probably would say that you need to re-write or edit and make it better. When people say they reject roles, I ask what you mean you reject roles. You don't reject roles; you first reject the script and the only reason why you reject the script that comes with a role, is that you don't like the role because maybe you become religious and the role is saying you have to become nude, you can reject such a script because it goes against your religious beliefs. Like I told some people, I probably won't play a bad boy for a while or an armed robber for a while. If you bring the role of an armed robber to me, I might reject it not because I won't play it again but for now I just don't want to play it anymore. You bring such a script to me and I say no I don't want it but if the story is good and I love the story and I feel the story would make an impact, I would collect the role. A lot of my colleagues use it as a sort of let them look as if they are packaged or they are star actor. Rejecting a role must be based on an issue of probably religion or a cause or maybe for the money. You can not tell me you want to reject a role when you are actor; first and foremost it's your job to be able to play any role but rejecting a script on the basis of it not being good, if you're an A-class actor you have the power to tell the producer or director because they'll respect you, say look 'I think we can do this script like this, the story may be a bit watery why don't we strengthen it with scenes of such nature'. Impute something that could make the role stronger for you but don't go ahead to tell him you're rejecting it.
Do romantic roles go beyond acting?
No, it's meant to end there because it's acting. You're playing a role, it's a movie, once the role is over, it ends there; any other thing outside that is outside the sphere of film making and that is a relationship. It might be an off-shoot of whatever you played but it did not create itself on that set. You guys might have liked yourself before now and the movie just granted the opportunity. So, if you are both intimate, on the set, you might just chip it in, that 'oh you know I'd always liked you, oh I knew and I you too and you've finished your role.
I was romantically involved with Kehinde Bankole on the set of Super Story, One bad Apple where I played the role of a corrupt officer.
Not in any particular order, I would say Al-Pacino, Olu Jacobs and Samuel L. Jackson, they were very influential.
What is your worth as an actor?
I am worth plenty, as an actor, I think I have been short-changed in the industry, whatever they've paid me, I am worth three to six times more than that. The only time I think what ever I do is commensurable with what I am being given is when I do Television and that is when I am with Wale Adenuga's production. The only other time was when I did Sango and Femi Lasode paid me and I feel he paid me the best at that time considering I was just an up-coming and unknown actor. So those two people have managed to create what I am worth for me. I am a wonderful actor and I have tutored myself to be a wonderful actor, Sango might have been a fluke but by the time I did Corporal Francis, people saw it that this young man is not a fluke, he's actually good at acting and you cannot price such a man low for mediocrity.
Tell us about your kind of woman
My kind of woman, tall, about 5'11'6, light skinned, extremely beautiful, not fat but if I don't have that height, I won't mind any other one, she just has to be pretty, I love pretty woman, the height is immaterial, I'm six foot five, I'm in the eye of the public, I walk and people see me. So, any girl I'm with would also be given such an attention, so if she is ugly, imagine what people would say 'see the guy is ugly and the girl is ugly' it will create a problem for me but by the time they see a pretty girl with me, they will say what's this girls doing with this guy and that makes me proud because you're correlating my face with what I've got beside me meaning that I've tried and like Yoruba people would say, 'I carry that to the market', but basically, I like women who still respect themselves who believe that women are the bedrock of every morally upright society.
Are you into any relationship presently?
I will not answer that question
What would you like to do for humanity?
I am one of those who believe that you don't need four cars in your drive way, or two houses, I believe that once you have food stuff in your store that can last you a month, the remaining of the money you have is not necessary until next month. I believe that everything that is extra should be given out to those who don't have. I believe the motherless babies, the physically challenged, mentally challenged homes; we are still not doing enough.
Where do we hope to see you five years from now?
I should have been able to do a mini feature length movie, probably twenty minutes, shot properly and it will be shown at some of the festival and even Hollywood acknowledged something to say that a Nigerian has won a Grammy award.
What is your treasured possession in life?
My relationship with God with regards to my family and friends.
By Oliver Onuoha