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Why I left mainstream Nollywood – Bimbo Akintola

Weekend Magazine: It appears you’ve left mainstream Nollywood, only appearing in certain types of movies or television shows. Is it a conscious decision on your…

Weekend Magazine: It appears you’ve left mainstream Nollywood, only appearing in certain types of movies or television shows. Is it a conscious decision on your part?
Bimbo Akintola: I’ve been in the movie industry for a while. In the beginning, when you’re a newcomer who wants to make a name and want people to know who you are and the directors to see your work, you do anything that comes your way. I have passed that point. Right now, I believe that anything that I’m doing should mean or say something. At the end of the day, we’re not just entertainers but we also educate and inform.  
I believe in this profession. I’m passionate about acting. I went to school for six years because I believed in it. This was all I wanted to do at the end of the day. It’s where I think I belong. That’s what has kept me here.
WM: What attracts you to a movie script?
Akintola: What it’s about. The theme, the information it’s giving out and so on.
WM: What genre do you feel more comfortable working within?
Akintola: I believe as an actor, any of the genres should be what you can do. It should have nothing to do with comfort. I’m good with comedy, drama, thriller, action, whatever, as long as the story is compelling and has meaning.
WM: What part of your life do you miss now that you’re famous?
Akintola: My privacy. Then there’s the way everyone thinks because they see actors on TV and we’re called celebrities, that we’re responsible for everything that happens in the society. People tend to blame us for a lot of things. On a personal level, I find that ridiculous. For example, in campaigns going on now, certain actors are endorsing politicians and people are saying it’s all of Nollywood that’s doing it, making comments like ‘Oh, you people are collecting money’. What I’m trying to say is it’s now like a collective thing: If one Nollywood actor does something wrong, we’re all blamed.
WM: What price have you had to pay for being a celeb?
Akintola: Again, privacy. You can’t go anywhere without being recognized and people expect to see you a certain way, all dressed up and looking like a star. I also miss comfort, as I’m one of those people with the idea that fashion is wearing tights, a T-shirt and comfortable slippers. All that glamour and make-up are some of the things we do just to make fans happy.
WM: You’ve been described as the Meryl Streep of Nigerian movies. What’s your technique to approaching a role?
Akintola: The first thing to do is to give the character background. No person on earth is without a background. When you do that, you’re giving him or her life. How educated is the character? What are some of the things that have happened along the way to the person? The script would also give you clues to this. If the person speaks a certain way, you can tell how educated he is, as their opinions also tell how exposed they are.
WM: If you weren’t an actress, what would you have been?
Akintola: A director.
WM: Who are your favourite directors?
Akintola: I’m still very old school, so I’d say Jimmy Odumosu, Kunle Afolayan and Tade Ogidan. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with my favourites.
WM: But DJ Tee and Darasen Richards, who directed ‘The Antique’ are basically ‘new school’. How was it working with them?
Akintola: Oh, they were great to work with, very professional. The movie’s visuals are stunning and the script is compelling. I also really appreciate what they did with the costumes, they were amazing. The locations, also, are quite eye-catching and well-realised. what can I say? It’s a great movie.
WM: As a major player, would you say the Nigerian movie industry has developed?
Akintola: We’re doing an amazing job, I think. We’re just over twenty years old but we’ve achieved a lot, we’ve gained international recognition and no-one can take that away from us. And it’s not just because of the quality of movies; it’s also about the fact that we’re able to do it on digital format, which for the rest of the world is basically ‘home video’. People complain about the quality of a lot of our films, but some are simply amazing.
WM: How easy – or difficult – has it been, as a woman at the top of her game in Nollywood?
Akintola: I don’t think gender has anything to do with it. In Nollywood, it’s your talent that matters. My journey has been easy, actually. The first job I did was with Lola Fani-Kayode and I was in school then. Someone told me she was auditioning and I went and I clinched it. From that, I got every other job I went for. Talent and hard work is all anyone needs, really.
WM: What’s the lowest pay you’ve ever received since you began to act?
Akintola: (Laughter) It was fifty thousand naira, way back when I was still in school in 1995, I think. I blew the whole cash in one go, partying with my friends. Looking back now, it sure was fun.    
WM: You’re known for being a fashion diva. What are you most comfortable wearing?
Akintola: Tights and a T-shirt.
WM: Even to go to the Oscars?
Akintola: If I have my way, yes (laughter).          
WM: What is the side to you that not everyone knows?
Akintola: I can be a homebody. I love to cook, write poetry and I love reading.

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