By FEMI SALAWU
Call him the poster boy of the Yoruba movie industry and you won’t be wrong. In fact, some will argue that the appearance of his face alone on a movie poster is a guarantee for a blockbuster. Odunlade Adekola who started as a stage actor over a decade ago in Abeokuta has experienced steady rise to fame.
The father of two enjoys a cult followership among Yoruba movie lovers and was recognised by communication giants, Globacom Nigeria as one of its ambassadors last year. That feat positioned the Abeokuta-based actor as the second Yoruba actor to snap-up the juicy deal after star actress, Funke Akindele of the Jenifa fame.
Odunlade who has dominated virtually all the major awards in the industry in the last four years has carved a niche for himself as a shrewd role interpreter and comedian par excellence in flicks such as Sunday Dagboru, Opa Kan and Emi Nire Kan among others.
Born on December 31, 1978, he attended St John’s Primary School, Abeokuta and proceeded to St. Peter’s College, Olomore, Abeokuta for his secondary education. Odunlade studied Art at Ogun State Polytechnic, now called Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta.
Layers by layers, the burgeoning actor removes all the myths and rumours about his persona, family and career in this interesting chat with Sunday Express in Lagos.
You are very busy, how does your wife cope?
She is familiar with what I do, she knows me very well. She knows when I am not around, and when I am around I devote all my time to her.
How about your two wonderful sons?
They are cool, very fine. I love them, I love them. If I am not around they know I am at work, when I am around I find time to play with them, listen to their stories, even when I don’t understand what they are saying sometimes.
How often does work take you away from home?
I don’t always travel, I am always busy. But I still have time for my family, sometimes I go to location, maybe three to four days and maximum of two weeks.
How do your boys react when they see you on TV?
They feel great, they shout, baba, baba, even when they see me on posters, they still shout. Whenever we go out and they see me on any poster, they start to shout, baba, look at your picture. They are always happy.
Do any of them have the dream of being an actor?
They are still very young, but I know one of them is very funny.
How old are you now?
I am 40 years old.
How did you meet your wife?
We met the same way a responsible guy and a responsible lady should meet. The very first day I met her, I asked her out and told her, ‘I like you’. She was just laughing, and she didn’t expect me to say it like that. This was about six to seven years ago. She said you are an actor and I know you very well, why will you say you have interest in me, you have a lot of ladies around you I said well, I am not telling you so you believe, I know I just have interest in you and I want marriage not casual relationship. Until my brother asked me, why your interest in this lady, I then said, she is responsible. And responsibility is the best quality in all things and I always say this, the way you present yourself, sometimes takes you a long way in life. My wife is a very good Christian when I met her. Up till today, she still maintains that value and we both are Christians.
How has your role as a GLO Ambassador affected your career?
I must tell you, GLO endorsement is one of the happiest things in my life. It makes me happy anytime I remember that I am a GLO Ambassador, because when you are working, you don’t know the type of people watching you. There are a lot of people in the entertainment industry, so for a big company like that to say let us call on this man to be an ambassador is a great thing for me, so I am so happy. I never thought of it at all. That any organisation will call me or anybody at all is something of joy of to me. It was an unexpected call I received, that I have been chosen to be an ambassador; I did not even believe them. I was directing a job then, they called me and said ‘Mr Adekola, you have been invited to our office tomorrow morning at Adeola Odeku street, please come and see us there’. I said no problem, they told me the time was 10 a.m., I got there, one of their bosses, a white man, attended to me and he asked, ‘are you Mr Adekola’, I said ‘yes’. And he said, ‘you are now one of our GLO ambassadors’. I was so happy.
Between that time and now, in what way has that role influenced your public image?
In many ways. I may say some of my fans now expect too much from me. You are a GLO Ambassador now, give us something, you know, things like that. They don’t even want to know whether I have money there or not. So once they call GLO, I always succumb, because I am representing that brand. Even if it is my last cash, I will just give them because of that name.
Have you done any major advertisement for them?
Yeah, I have done, you know this is Lagos, and they stationed the Ambassadors across the country. I have done a lot of commercials, but only them will know when to release it, when to bring out billboards and all of that. What I do mostly for them as an Ambassador is events, we represent them at events and sometimes organise events for them.
How is your relationship like with the other Ambassadors?
They are my friends, to be sincere we have known each other before becoming Ambassadors, so after that we still continued with it. They have been my friends.
We have heard you people were paid 10 million, we have heard 30 million, so how big is the pay for the Ambassadorship?
GLO communication is a very big organization, people can even say N100million, I will understand why they say so. They are big, they maintain us, they treat us fine, that is all I have to say.
How many years have you been in the industry?
I have been around for 15 years now in the industry. I joined the industry in 1996, I joined the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts practitioners in 1996. I have been in the industry since then.
What was your first movie production?
I was on stage initially when I started, I was strictly on stage. I was on stage till 2003 or so. I always performed on stage. We usually call people to come and watch that was what we did in Abeokuta. It was only few people that produce film in Abeokuta then, so we don’t really have interest in being in movies. We appreciated that stage a lot. Now everything has changed, everybody now wants to be in movies. Then we were on stage we use to produce movies too but not as much as we performed on stage. I can’t really say that this one movie was the first movie I did, I can only mention a few. There was one that was produced in December 1998. Stage is live and direct, on TV, they do a lot of editing. To be sincere, I always encourage the up and coming in the industry to start with stage. Stage will make you to have confidence in yourself. So I don’t know if actors on TV cannot act on stage. What I know is that if you are ready to learn, then you can do it.
How did your parents react to your decision to go into acting?
They encouraged, me to go into acting, and since then they have been praying for me.
I am surprised, because a lot of parents will not allow that. Yea, I am so happy, about my parents they are very supportive of what I do, and they encourage me a lot. My daddy is a pastor, my mummy is a deacon, and they are always around me. I love them so much. Then there was one programme we always do in Abeokuta, we call it Artiste night, my parents come once in a while whenever I am performing. They will even invite their friends to come and watch me.
Have any of them being involved in movie before?
My daddy, was a choir master then in Christ Apostolic church, he was the choir master for 18 years. He can also act, in church though; he can’t try it outside in the secular world.
Can you tell us about your family?
We are four, three guys, one girl. I am second in the family. It is a Christian family.
What do you remember about growing up?
I will say God is great, he has been great.
Why did you say that?
I said it because in Abeokuta, as a grown up in Lafenwa, an area that is just like a ghetto; though it is a matured ghetto then however, we still had some good guys there that do not do any type of evil. All they did was just to read and I was one of them. My parents were much disciplined and they passed it to us. They always tell me that as you grow up, I should know the kind of people I move with, people who will be your friends. They always made sure they know all my friends. I was always asked to bring my friends home so they will know them. So whenever I brought them in, my father will ask, which church do you go to, where do you live, who are your parents, and all that. So they always made sure they knew what we were doing.
Would you say you were a good boy or a stuborn boy when you were growing up?
I was a very good boy. I was very lazy, I didn’t fight at all. If there was any problem I will just run.
Which movie would you say launched you in the movie industry?
A lot of people say Ashinigbanowa, and I believe them because it was one of my boss’ movies. Alasari Shola Durojayi.
There is this belief that the Yoruba movie industry is divided into groups, where do you belong?
While I was joining the industry, we formed one caucus then, I, Segun Ogungbe, Lukeman Olu, Paragon Kehinde, and some other people like that.
Your comedy roles are the most popular ones you have done now, or do you agree?
I can’t really say yes, because most of my major films are not comdey. A lot of Nigerians appreciate serious movies also, so I can’t really say my comedy roles are the most popular. I love all my movies, and peope do same.
How many movies do you have althogether?
I cannot remember, I can’t even guess.
How many movies have you produced?
I will say six.
How do you react when people say things about you?
I don’t feel bad about it. Our problem is the Journalist. At times if you hear anything about us, you are supposed to come to us and know exactly what happened first before you write. I know that is part of the ways of making your papers sell. They are still helping anyway, but at times I may say that a lot of things happen and it is through the papers that people read, they paint a very different picture about sombody. Now people do not know that I have been this long in the industry, now after reading this interview, they will know. But some journalist won’t even come and interview me, they will just write what they think or what they hear from anybody outside.
How do you react when something bad is written about you, do you read them?
I read them, I really do. However, thank God nothing too bad has been written about me, so far it has been God.
Perhaps, you must have read that you are in a relationship with actress Taiwo Aromokun…
(Cuts in) Please I don’t want to discuss that. Thank you
As a handsome actor, how do you react to female fans and colleagues?
I love them, because they the ones that watch my movies, they were the ones that introduced me to their guys, most guys don’t have the chance to watch movies, it is these ladies that watch them, so I appreciate them.There are the ones that make their boyfriends, their husbands to watch us, from there, these guys will pick up interest in us.
Some ladies are usually very daring and crazy, how do you handle them?
I have never met anyone. The female fans I have met so far are much matured. Some will just ask for number, pin, autographs, that is all.
How does madam cope with all these?
She copes fine. When we walk together and people greet me, she will be happy, she acts normal, she always greets them.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see my self moving forward, but God knows best. A lot of times a man thinks ahead, but it is only God that can make something happen and make them come to reality. I just want God to make me big in the industry.
Do you have plans to go into English movies?
I have done two, but they are comedy movies, but are not yet out. If English producers call me for jobs, I will go, but Yoruba movies are more important to me, because that is where I made my fame.
How do you interpret your role?
If you know what you are doing, it will be easy for you to do. Immediately, I get a script, I read it, I know what they want, or I call the director to ask what he wants in the movie. If I get a script without message, I drop it, irrespective of whether I am called to direct or act I don’t take just any script.