Unarguably one of the most skilled Nigerian actors at the moment, Odunlade Adekola is loved and respected for his plausible portrayal of diverse roles. He tells TOFARATI IGE about the genesis of his career, family and other issues
What can you remember of your childhood?
I was born in Lafenwa, Abeokuta,Ogun State. But I am from Otun-Ekiti in Ekiti State. I come from a close-knit Christian family and we used to go to church a lot. In fact, we were always part of the people that cleaned the church before service. There was really no time for me to play on the streets or keep many friends. I attended St. Johns Primary School, St. Peters College and Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, all in Abeokuta. And right now, I am currently studying Business Administration in the University of Lagos.
What were your childhood ambitions?
As a child, I always loved to control people and direct them on the right things to do. I looked forward to being the manager of my own company and that is why I decided to study Business Administration.
Can you recall how you started your acting career?
I used to act very well in church and people loved it whenever I came on stage. Even before I mounted the stage, people would already be screaming in excitement and the cleric would then have to caution them so that everybody could hear what I had to say. It was the interest and love that people had for me that motivated me to take acting serious. Meanwhile, there was a friend of mine who we used to act together and go about performing in churches. He was part of a group that used to meet for rehearsals somewhere close to where I lived. One day, he told the members of his group that he had a friend who could act. They told him to invite me and when I got there, they asked me if I could act and I told them I could do it very well. The leader of the group then asked why I believed so much in myself and he told me to act like a mad man. I immediately moved close to him, grabbed his cloth and started unbuttoning it. As I was doing that, everybody there started clapping and that is how I joined the theatre industry in 1996. I didn’t initially know that it was different from what I was used to in church because they had more techniques, but I learnt over time. There was a time that the leader of our group invited some actors who had been in the industry for a long time such as Mr. Paragon, Kayode Akindina, Segun Akinlade, and Segun Adeniji (SAMA), among others to come and inspect what we were doing. After watching us perform, they urged me to join the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners, and I became a member in January 1998.
What was your parents’ reaction to your career?
My father really liked it. It was as if he knew that I would succeed in it. But I had an uncle who used to beat me so much anytime I went for rehearsals. However, that same uncle now asks me to bring him my movies.
What was the first movie you acted in?
It has been a long time but one of the earliest movies I can recall is Faworaja, produced by Bolaji Amusan (Mr. Latin) in 1999.
Can you recall some of your colleagues that you started acting with?
I remember people like Tunde Oshoko, Semiu Durojaiye, Shola Odebunmi, Segun Ogungbe and many others too numerous to mention here.
What challenges did you face in the early stage of your career?
I was quite young when I started but as I grew older, I realised that all the things that I considered to be challenges are only normal things that happen as one progresses in life. There is always a price to pay for whatever you want to achieve in life.
How did you make the transition from Abeokuta to Lagos?
I believe it is God that orders our steps and he knows the end from the beginning. I just try my best. I cannot really say how that happened.
Which movie do you consider as your breakthrough?
People always say it is Asiri Gomina and I agree with them. The movie was produced by the late Ishola Durojaiye (Alasari). That was when people started noticing me, even though I had produced my own movie before then.
Who are some of the people you admire that influenced your acting career?
When I started acting, I didn’t have any particular person that I looked up to. I just loved all the people acting then.
You are known to be versatile in the movie roles you play, how do you train and improve yourself?
I usually pray that the same mouth that the world uses in praising someone should not also be used to ridicule the person. Acting is what I do for a living and I don’t really know whether I do it well or not. It is the people who watch me that can tell. But I always put in my best. There’s no magic or special thing that I do in secret. I just believe in doing my job well and taking it serious. I neither drink nor smoke and I believe that every good actor must study and understand the script before going on set so as to get into character. It is very important to concentrate and stay focused.
Is there any role you would love to act that you have not being opportuned to yet?
I don’t think there is because I have portrayed so many diverse roles. I have acted as a pastor, mad man, driver, rich man, poor man, governor, child, woman, rascal, good boy, cripple, blind man, and so many others.
What are some of the most memorable movies you’ve acted in?
I usually remember one of the movies I produced, Emi ni Ire Kan. I also remember Mufu Olosa Oko, Alani Pamolekun, and Ila Owo, just to mention a few. However, I believe that all the movies I’ve acted in have been memorable.
How many movies have you produced?
I may not be able to recount them all right now but I can mention few like Baba Super, Ila Owo, Farapamo, Fayebora, Alani Pamolekun, Romoke oni pepper soup, among others. I think they should be about 15 in all.
What challenges did you face while producing those movies?
For every project that one embarks on, you would have a budget and time frame. When things happen that increase the time one would spend on a particular project, that could be problematic because it means you would end up spending more money. Sometimes, we may also have to wait for actors to come on set due to one reason or the other. But as one grows older in the industry, you would realise that those things are normal and bound to happen.
Some of your colleagues complain about the menace of street urchins on set, do you experience that too?
That is a major problem we face. There have even been instances when they don’t allow us shoot at all without paying them a certain amount of money. We know they appreciate us but I don’t know where they came up with this idea of extorting us, under the guise that they always buy our films. I usually ask them whether they enjoyed the movies and when they answer in the affirmative, I tell them that means they have gotten value for their money.
What do you think the government can do to make the job easier for actors and producers?
There was a time they said they wanted to fund the industry, so we can produce good movies. Some of us who are regular producers had series of meetings then but sadly, nothing came out of them. The government needs to be actively involved in entertainment and not just the oil and gas industry. Whatever the government does not support would have a hard time succeeding.
During the past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, some monies were said to have been made available to industry practitioners, didn’t you get out of it?
Maybe I wasn’t around when they shared the money.
What are some of the important lessons you’ve learnt in the course of your career?
I have learnt a lot over the years. Apart from the technical aspect of the job, I have also learnt how to mingle with people and relate with everyone around me. Someone who is proud cannot succeed as a thespian. One must also know how to speak in public because whatever you say has the tendency to go viral. An actor should also be careful of where he goes and the people he associates with so as not to be seen in bad light.
You are from Ekiti State but you featured in a music video to promote Lagos State, how did that come about?
I’m a Yoruba person and I’m an actor. I don’t believe that you have to come from a particular state to identify with it. Besides, Lagos is a Yoruba state. Lagos is a place we are all proud of. I think that’s why they called me to be part of that project. The governor of Lagos, Akinwunmi Ambode, is also a very intelligent person who loves entertainers. I have a lot of love and respect for him as well.
Has Ekiti State done anything to honour you?
They have done a lot. I get called to the state on several occasions and I always oblige them. If one is not appreciated where he comes from, it would be hard for outsiders to support you.
You are a brand ambassador for some companies, why do you think these companies always want to associate with you?
They would be in the right position to answer that. I may think it’s a particular quality; meanwhile it’s something else they considered.
You’ve been relatively scandal free, how have you been able to manage that?
I don’t think there’s any actor that wouldn’t have scandals; though I don’t even know what scandals mean. We are all humans and are prone to mistakes. I would really like it if you can put it down exactly as I’m going to say this. Most of the problems artistes have are caused by journalists. Some journalists don’t do adequate findings before writing their stories. And it is very difficult to correct the perception of people about you. Many people form an opinion of entertainers simply by what they read about them in the media. And some of these reports may even be false. Even if we have grown thick skin towards these things, what about our children? Journalists have damaged the careers of lots of entertainers. Meanwhile, some journalists are also guilty of what they accuse entertainers of doing. We know some of them but we cannot just mention names. I believe it is better to call whoever is doing wrong to order instead of writing a damaging report about the person. As for me not having scandals, I can only give glory to God for my life.
What is the worst report you’ve ever read or heard about yourself?
I am an actor and if I don’t want them to write anything about me, that means I have to stop doing this job.
How do your family members react to those reports?
My family members are very wise and intelligent. They know who I am and what I’m capable of doing.
What’s your most memorable experience with fans?
My fans show me lots of love, especially on social media. However I’m not on Facebook. Most of those questions and prayers posted on Facebook are not authored by me and I want my fans to know that. I am very active on Instagram and my fans relate with me there. Whenever I travel out of the country, my fans also receive me well. Basically, there is no interaction with my fans that I don’t consider memorable.
Do you think there is discrimination between Yoruba and Igbo filmmakers in the industry?
There used to be discrimination back then, but not anymore. Now, everybody wants to make money.
What’s your take on piracy?
It is a serious problem that affects us all and everybody knows that. That is why I said earlier that the government has to support us because they’re the ones that can effectively tackle this menace. This industry is gradually being paralysed by piracy. There are people who invest a lot of money in producing movies but they don’t recoup their funds. If there is no money, there can’t be improvements in the industry. In advanced countries, governments give the movie industry the needed support.
Some actors end up begging the public for help to deal with medical issues in the twilight of their lives, what do you think is responsible for that?
Those are some of the ugly effects of piracy. When people don’t get the rewards for their efforts, what do you expect? However, in my own little way, I try to support some of these people with funds.
How do you deal with unruly fans on social media?
I don’t usually pay attention to such people. In most cases, it is even some of my true followers that would reply them.
You also have some celebrity fans like Tiwa Savage, how does that make you feel?
I always appreciate them too. I always pray for Tiwa Savage that her star would never dim. I believe that entertainers are one big family, whether they are actors, singers or dancers.
You once had an altercation with some students in Abeokuta who accused you of forcefully putting off their generator because you were shooting a film, what really happened?
Honestly, I cannot remember that incident.
There was also the case of Kemi Afolabi and She Baby who dragged you into their quarrel, how did you resolve that issue?
I was just laughing when the story was published. People see things from different angles but I wasn’t involved in that particular case and I don’t know anything about how it was eventually resolved.
Not much is known about your family, why do you deliberately shield them from the public glare?
That’s not true. If you check my Instagram page, you would see that I always celebrate my family there. My fans know my children and wife. I recently celebrated the birthday of one of my children and people are still congratulating me for it.
How many children do you have?
I have four kids and a lovely wife.
What are the qualities you think a woman should have to sustain a marriage?
People have different interests and what they look out for. That a woman makes up her face or uses jewellery doesn’t mean she’s not a wife material. I believe there’s no woman on the surface of the earth that is not good; you only have to go for the one that suits you. It depends on the background of the individual. However, it is very important for anyone who wants to get married to be matured. There are some ladies that could appear gentle but become terrors after they get married.
What’s your take on domestic violence?
It is not good to beat a woman because they are considered the weaker sex. Women could prove difficult at times but there are better ways to handle them than resorting to violence.
How do you cope with your female fans who may want something extra from you?
They appreciate me and I appreciate them. I always say that any entertainer that does not have female fans should go and look for another job. I relate well with all my fans.
How does your wife react to female fans, especially those that could get too close for comfort?
That is why I said earlier that my family members are wise and mature. They know the nature of my job and they understand that it’s normal for fans to appreciate me.
How do you unwind?
I don’t know what is called enjoyment but I do know that if I’m not on set, I would be at home with my family. I would eat good food, play with them and sleep. Being with my family is the best form of relaxation for me.
What kind of music do you like listening to?
I like everybody that sings good music. Whether juju, fuji or hip hop, there is none that I don’t dance to so far it sounds nice.
Apart from acting, do you have other skills and talents that we don’t know about?
There is nothing about me that is not known. All that I can do is what I’m showcasing. My true fans know everything about me.
What has stardom robbed you of?
I can no longer stop to buy things or visit some certain areas as I would have loved to. It’s not as if I’m proud but if people gather around me and there’s an accident, I would be the one to blame. There are also some discussions one might want to contribute to but you can’t because whatever you say will go viral and could even be misinterpreted. A thespian doesn’t talk too much so when you see an actor that is garrulous, you would know that person did not train for the job.
What’s the difference between Odunlade, the actor and Odunlade, the individual?
There is almost no difference. It’s just that the actor is usually on set and acts according to what the director says. And the individual lives his life away from the limelight. Some people meet me and say that I talk and walk the same way as I do in movies and I always let them understand that I’m the same person. It’s the script that determines what I would act as in movies.
Is there any misconception about you that you would like to correct?
I would like it if anybody who hears anything about me or wants to clarify some things can send me messages on social media or any other way that they can reach me. I always listen and explain things to people.
What’s your take on fashion?
I like to dress well. I don’t really like any specific fashion item or accessory; I just love to look perfect. That is the way I was brought up.
Do you patronise made-in-Nigeria clothiers or you shop abroad?
The same tailor that has been working with me for a long time is still the one making all my clothes. It is good to support our own people.
In the course of your travels, which country have you enjoyed the most?
Like I said earlier, I don’t know what is called enjoyment. There is no country I have travelled to that is not good. But there is nothing I see in those places that I don’t see in Nigeria. Nigeria is far better than a lot of other countries. If we can just have stable electricity supply, a lot of people, even foreigners, would want to live in Nigeria. That’s because most areas of the country are peaceful. There is no place I have travelled to that does not have steady power supply. Even in Abidjan,Ivory Coast which is way smaller than Nigeria, they have uninterrupted electricity. It is not encouraging for a business person to spend most of his money on generating electricity for his business.
Which places have you visited by virtue of your acting career?
I’ve been to Dubai, South Africa, Paris, US, UK, among many others.
How has the economic recession affected you?
It has affected everybody. We are all human beings; the only difference is that we are into the theatre business and people sometimes treat us specially. Everything that affects the larger society impacts us too. The prices of commodities have increased greatly, yet income is stagnant.
Has the recession reduced the number of movies you act and how much you charge?
It has affected everything.
Do you watch the films you act in?
Yes, I do. I watch them like an objective viewer. I don’t see it like I’m the one who acted in them. If I notice ways in which my character should have done better, I would note it down for future purposes.
Some people feel that Yoruba movie producers don’t pay well, what’s your reaction to that?
I don’t agree with that. The pay is reasonable enough.
Do you have any other business you’re investing in?
Acting is the major job I do for now.
But it was stated that you have a hotel?
I don’t have a hotel currently and I don’t have any plans for it. However, I don’t know if it is part of God’s plans for me. That is the only way it can be successful. However, that is what I was saying about false news by some bloggers. I don’t even know where that story emanated from. I may decide to build one in future but for now, there is nothing like that on ground.
What would you like to say to your fans?
I appreciate them a lot. I have many loyal fans that have been with me since I started my acting career. I want to seize this opportunity to thank them all for their support over the years.