Thin Tall Tony is no stranger to the entertainment industry. The former Big Brother Naija housemate has remained a force in the entertainment industry, moving from a dance artiste to acting in television series (Unbroken, Ije Baby Chopping Centre), films (Swallow) and stage plays (Heartbeat the musicals). The actor, director and choreographer in this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, speaks on his exploits in the industry.
What can you attribute to your rise in the entertainment industry?
To be honest, with all humility and respect, I wouldn’t want to point out any certain thing. I am just grateful for how it has come; I take it as it comes. Sometimes, I might categorise certain things as the best or it wasn’t but then I look at it and find a way to go around it. I can’t really say, like every other person who would definitely want to point at something, so my approach is just to keep learning.
But you recently said you’re from the trenches…
- I don’t want to have same story as everybody – Thin Tall Tony
- Tinubu, Lawan, Gbajabiamila, govs eulogise Buhari at 80
(Cuts in) … I try as much as I can not to because I don’t want to have the same kind of story as everybody. There is always that self pity that comes when someone says they are from the trenches. I think it was the talent that he (Mr Steve James) believed in it. I wasn’t even aware of those talents at the time and he made me see that. He allowed me to experience the process; not like I should just follow because he said I should come. I experienced it and I knew exactly what I wanted. I never wanted to point at anything, in particular, but if I’m going to be very specific, he gave me the opportunity to look at it and also allowed me to grow.
So, there are certain people that when they discover you, would not want you to go because they have seen something you don’t see. They will drain you in good or bad ways. But most people will keep you and when you rediscover yourself, you’ll say I’ve been in cages for a long time. I started as a dancer but through him, I now know how to write, sing, research, paint, and also compere events.
Do you ever have doubts as an artiste?
I have doubts. If you don’t have doubts, it is more like you’re not open to receiving new things and not allowing yourself to grow. But there are certain types of people we call gurus; it gets to that level that they never doubt themselves. They know they have arrived. If you look at me from the angle of a commoner, what favours me the most is what I will follow. But when trying to catch those people (gurus) or when they are focused on me, I have doubts.
How do you work through that?
Before I begin anything, I usually prepare for the worst; thinking it is going to fail. I must put that first and I go with worst-case scenarios. I already put myself in that condition and I don’t take it to heart if it eventually happens. I used to do that but now I don’t see it as if there’s something I’m not doing right. I go back to check what I’ve done and get back to it again.
How do you handle your roles?
I am a very dedicated person when it comes to my work. I love sleeping in my children’s beds. I’ve not slept in my matrimonial bed in two years not because I have problems with my marriage but because I love being around my kids. But when the works come, I also need to concentrate. I am no longer Tony, if the character’s name is Tony, it cannot be Tony Offiong. It was among the drilling through which I learnt my art.
Through the openness that came from Uncle Steve and everybody that I’ve worked with, we go as far as sleeping on the streets, it depends on what the role is. We don’t just do it because we are thinking about it. We want to literally experience this moment. As soon as you tell me rehearsal is over, I automatically switch to my life and just have a good time, though in some cases you still find yourself talking about work while having a good time.
No two works are the same, do you remember that work that took so much from you?
‘Heartbeat the musical’ featuring Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva and others. People feel I can’t play an agbero or a boy from the creeks but it was challenging. I am a dancer; I can sing and my acting is good. The three can go at a time, so, I was given a role to play and the role was a supporting role that I played it so well. I’m not being proud but I played it so well that I got a handshake from former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. And that was not even the lead role but each time I was on set, it was like they never had someone looking like that play such a role. For that role, I had to go to the grassroots. I am from the trenches and there are a lot of things you want to forget because you don’t want to go through that experience. I don’t want my children to experience this but I had to go back to my root and stay with them. I always prayed when I was doing that show because I had to be a very bitter and angry person. So, while people were praying to God to help us while we were doing this show, I was begging God to make me the most upsetting human being in the world. That was my prayer during the show.
Would you say the desire of not wanting to go back to where you’re coming from drives you to keep moving?
Yes, because in the world, right now, you have to build it better. What we experienced in the trenches then was like Lekki now. The mentality was just different. They could leave me on the road and the community would take care of me but now neighbours want to rape or kidnap neighbours. Neighbours are too far. You’ll have people in your house, even families, trying to pimp you out to somebody, it is sad!