‘As A Child I used To Beat My Elder Brother’ -Femi Adebayo

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in this interview with ayotunde ayanda Nollywood actor Femi Adebayo recounts his childhood memories and the role his father played in making him an actor…

You are a Special Assistant to the Governor of Kwara State on Arts and Tourism, how do you fuse your job as an actor with being a governor’s aide?

We cannot rule out the fact that they will affect each other. They are two different lines, but I see being an assistant to the governor as a call to serve my people . It is an opportunity to give back to the society. We never can rule out the fact that when we remember our days in the primary school, the best way to teach is entertainment.

So entertainers are seen as people closer to those at the grassroots. They tend to listen to you and that is like a drive for information to be passed to the people. So, I see my call as coming from the Almighty. Then secondly, for easy relationship between our people at the grassroot and the government, I give priority to that now.

So I can tell you that it’s like 75 per cent to 25 per cent. I give 75 per cent to my appointment and 25 per cent to the entertainment industry.

You were supposed to take a role in the film “Diamond Ring” and the role was eventually taken by Teju Babyface. When you look back, how do you feel losing the role?

I simply believe the role isn’t mine because it wasn’t as if I had gotten the script. When I was on the set of Owo Blow then, Uncle Tade (Ogidan) was impressed with my acting. So he told me the story of Diamond Ring and said he would want me to be part of it. Unfortunately, when they wanted to roll Diamond Ring, it was one of the times I was writing my Law exams. I could not make it and, of course, it could not wait. I never regretted that I did not play the role because I still believe I am achieving what I want to achieve, both in the entertainment industry and the other aspects of my life.

Diamond Ring is a very fantastic and awesome film from Tade Ogidan. I have done movies that I feel comfortable with as well; both English and Yoruba. Those are the languages I speak. No regrets actually. However, I can never throw away the fact that working with Uncle Tade Ogidan at any time is learning for me and I have done so many works with him after Diamond Ring.

In Nigeria, acting is almost synonymous with scandals. You get to hear people saying acting goes hand-in-hand with promiscuity. How do you feel when you hear such things?

Being an actor, you tend to lose your private life. You cannot rule out that fact and some of our fans misconstrue who you are from what they see in movies and that is why some people say it comes with promiscuity.

It doesn’t come with promiscuity. I have done movies that I played a fool; I have played an imbecile. So you never can say what you see in movies is what you really are. It is not in the Nigerian context alone; worldwide, celebrities are meant to be in the public face. That is why even if an ordinary man says ‘hey’ they might not notice him; but as a celebrity, if you say ‘hey’, they notice you.

I think being a celebrity, you should be used to that and that should not be a reason for you to quit or be bothered. What we should continue to work towards is being great ambassadors of our fans and, at no point, disappoint them.

Lawyers seem to be taking over the entertainment industry. Does that mean the legal profession is no longer lucrative?

The legal profession is extremely lucrative. First and foremost, I believe so much in the Almighty and the line you tow to succeed is divine. So many of us did not know that I would eventually become a lawyer because, at the beginning, I wanted to be a medical doctor.

So, sometimes, you don’t know what the Almighty has in package for you. And I know about two or three others, like you have mentioned in the entertainment industry. Some are Law students; they are yet to become lawyers and they are into entertainment. That does not mean that lawyers have taken over the entertainment industry.

Assuming we have like 60 per cent lawyers in the entertainment industry, I would agree with you. But we don’t even have five per cent. You are saying this because you are aware of the ones that are known to the public. You can say Femi Adebayo and you can talk of Lepacious Bose. Funke Akindele studied Law, but I don’t think she has been called to bar yet.

Doctors are even in this industry, Kiki Omeili is a medical doctor. So what I know is that most of us have passion for this, and what you have passion for, God might actually turn it into a profession.

Like my own, it is a hobby turned profession. I forced myself to ensure I stay within the legal profession. I proceeded to get my Masters in Law and I bagged my Masters in 2008, but the entertainment world keeps pulling me. As I speak with you, I have gotten admission for my PhD in Law in the University of Ilorin.

With an LLM, why the preference for acting over legal practice?

That’s why I said it keeps pulling you. That is why I said I see my being in the entertainment world as divine. All my life, I have always wanted to be a lawyer. When I was young, I was always tripped by the mode of dressing; by their standing before the court and saying ‘may it please your Lordship, Adebayo Femi’. That was what tripped me then. So I wanted to become a lawyer. And my father is someone that would always encourage you to do what you want to do, in as much as it is right and legal.

Coincidentally, my father wanted to be a lawyer too but financial hindrances from his own family didn’t allow him. He worked with Femi Okunnu, SAN for so long. Maybe that was where he developed the love for the law profession actually. So, he wanted to be a lawyer, unfortunately he could not. I wanted to be a lawyer, I am a lawyer and I am also into acting.

As an actor in Nigeria, do you think you are actually getting what you believe you deserve, compared to what obtains in other professions like banking, law or the medical profession?

In the Nigerian context, even you journalists are not getting what you deserve. So we have to stick to our own environment. That is why, if someone compares what obtains in the US, in England and you find it is not applicable in Nigeria; there is no basis for comparison.

If you are to practice journalism in the UK or America, you would be better. That is the same thing that is applicable to all the professions. But in the Nigerian context, I am grateful to God; I am getting what I know that I deserve to get as an actor.

You are a ladies’ man, on and off the screen and there are some female fans that tend to overplay the admiration. How do you handle such people?

First and foremost, when I have the opportunity of talking to people or the public on this kind of matter, I appeal to all women who are my fans not to stop being my fans. I appreciate my female fans more because they are the basis of my wealth. For almost every home, the wife determines what they watch. So, if I appreciate them and they continue to be my fans, that means they can convince their husbands, their brothers and sons to be my fans. So one woman would win like five men to me. So I appreciate my female fans a lot and I don’t toy with them.

But the luck I have, like you asked, is that I have been tutored to handle obsessions diplomatically. Hardly can you be raped as a man. It is not as rampant as when you talk about rape when it comes to a woman. Even in law, it has been a cause of arguments, can a man be raped? So since there is a very slim chance of that happening, I handle my female fans diplomatically.

You interpret roles well. You could play a clown now and in the next movie take the role of a serious person. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

That is what an actor should be; an actor should be versatile. An actor that is known for playing a particular, stereotyped role — maybe you always play the role of an armed robber or a lover boy, then you are not an actor.

I believe and say with all sincerity that it is just a talent from God that I have worked with over the years and I have improved myself over the years. I learn every day and I am ready to learn every day. I rehearse every day and I stand before a mirror, try to be a serious guy, a lover boy, I am not stopping. It keeps going and I keep improving on what I have; the talent given to me and that helps me in being a versatile actor.

When I am called for jobs and, maybe out of 10 scripts, seven are lover boy roles, the next time I have the opportunity of producing my own movie, I make sure I go totally out of the lover boy role so that my fans can see the versatility in me. That is the mistake some actors make; they allow producers restrict them to particular roles, to stereotype them.

One of the things people speak about in the movie industry is sex for roles and it has simply refused to go away. How bad would you say it is?

When you say sex for roles, I would be unrealistic if I tell you I’ve not heard about that. But you see, I have not experienced such. I have been trained not to be sentimental when it comes to this job and that you can actually see in my movies. We don’t bring in sentiments when it comes to who can take roles, we go as far as auditioning even celebrities.

If I think there is a guy I know that can play this role better than I can, it might just be a little, I might want to give it out or I work more to be able to do what he does. Over 300 people auditioned for the role I played in Owo Blow, and they are fantastic actors; Boy Alinco was one, Jude Orhorha was one. Those are fantastic actors. It does not mean I am a better actor than them. So sentiments are not what I trained with.

I hear it like you rightly said but I have never experienced it and if that is it, I know very well that such fame, such opportunity does not last. Work for it and it lasts longer.

What was it like growing up in the kind of family you were born into?

Growing up was fun and like I know and was told I was extremely troublesome. I did not like to follow instructions and I am very inquisitive. When I was 12 or 13, I wanted to start driving and my mum observed that, so she was very strict with the car keys. When I was 14, I was beside the driver when he was taking us to so school one day and I saw a girl drove past. I knew if she was older than me, it would only be maybe by a year and that killed it for me. So, I started observing whenever the driver was taking me to school, I would watch their legs and see the way they control things. One day, I just picked one of the car keys. I broke fences, damaged the car, broke everything and my father just said ‘let them take him to a driving school before he finishes all my cars’.

With my being very troublesome, I got to learn how to drive at 14. So my growing up was fun. I used to beat up my elder brother. You know in Yoruba culture, you must respect your elders, even if he is older by just one year. They were so upset in our house that day that my brother cried to them. My parents were like ‘so Femi beat you and you are coming to meet us? Oya, go back’. My mum, some elderly people came with him, so they were beating me, he was also beating me. And I started crying. They then forced me to start calling him “Brother Wale”.

I grew up in Ebute Metta area, Western Avenue, Oyingbo side. I am happy I grew up there. Though dad never wanted us to mingle with the people, but when daddy travelled and Mummy gone to shop, we would run out. So we were close to the people at the grassroots and you know going to school helped make it easy to balance up. So I appreciate the fact that I grew up there.

Coming from a family where your dad is a popular actor, how did that shape your career?

It did not only shape but made through my way. Like the Yoruba would say, “oruko rere” (a good name) is very good. Dad is a very wonderful man and he is loved by all. Before Jelili became a household name, it used to be “omo Oga Bello ni” (he is Oga Bello’s son) and when you get somewhere, you’ll hear “ooh, he is Oga Bello’s son, let him in” or “he is Oga Bello’s son, give him audience”. So I leveraged on that for so long and I am still leveraging on that dynasty and I will continue to.

I will say it is just an opportunity for me. My friend, Odunlade Adekola’s father is a reverend, his father is not an actor. Imagine if his father had been in this industry, he would have had the kind of opportunity myself and Kunle Afolayan had. So I appreciate God for that and I will continue to appreciate my dad. I have received quite a number of national and international awards and I always dedicate them to my father.

Apart from your dad, who would you say are the other role models you looked up to while growing up?

Hardly do I ever see any other person. I have to be factual, daddy has taken everything. You know, with sentiment, my father. Then the next person you would see, oh Jide Kosoko because he is very close to daddy. But later when we started to appreciate English movies, we started seeing RMD. But aside my father who, as a director brought out so many things in me, I will forever give it to Tade Ogidan. He brought out so many hidden things in me when I did Owo Blow. I had not gotten admission into the University to study Law when I did Owo Blow and Tade advised me, he said “don’t waste your time, go and study Theatre Arts”.