Nollywood actor, Adedimeji Lateef Adetola spoke on his relationship actor Odunlade Adekola, who he has always been compared to in the movie industry.
In an interview with Tosin Clegg, he shared his story, from how he was picked up by an NGO to his journey into Nollywood.
Read excerpts below…
On how he was picked by an NGO:
“Back then, they dealt with HIV and other sexually related issues. So they went to secondary schools and picked their best students to train them and make them peer educators and counselors. But basically they passed messages across through the grassroots, market women and some others who didn’t have access to TV all the time. So we went to them and used the best ways to pass the message through acting, singing and dancing. That was where my acting career started from and two years after I was sent to a performance studio workshop to learn more about the job. After that, I went to the university to study Mass Communication and finished in 2007 which was when I produced my first movie. During my time in school, I trained my own crew with the knowledge of acting I got from the non-governmental organisation. So I had a background in the field already.”
His First Movie Break
Lateef said he was advised that in the Yoruba movie industry, one needed to belong to a group to be called for jobs. That was how he joined the likes of Afeez Eniola, Muyiwa Ademola, Bayo Tijani and began from there. Kudi Klepto was the movie that actually brought him to limelight.
“It was by Yewande Adekoya and marketed by Olasco Films. The first time I met Yewande was at a rehearsal and that was where we got along. Yewande has been in the industry for long and when she wanted to produce Kudi Klepto, she told me she would want to feature me in the movie. The production manager and crew didn’t know me so they had to be showing them pictures to know it’s me. But she told me I shouldn’t disappoint her at the production as she trusted me and knew I could do it. Eventually when I got the script, I had to lock myself up for like three days. I kept rehearsing and eventually when I got to location; my expression was ‘wow’. My acting got me my first award in the United States of America, a BON award and so many others.”
On how he manages fame. He said:
“How do I manage the fame? The minute I had it in my head that I might blow, I started training myself on how to handle fame and package myself. I have always been told that whatsoever you do, be you famous or anything, you should affect lives and that has been my goal. So, more of what I do is to replicate the training from the NGO and blend into it. So I try to teach, make people see me the way I am and make people believe. You have to believe yourself before people can believe you. I try to make people understand that it goes beyond talent. What are you doing to make your talent stand out? What can make you so different that when a hundred stars shine, they can actually single handedly bring you out and think you’re different. So those stuffs are actually what made me who I am.”
A Flexible Style
“Like Uncle Antar (Laniyan) once told me, the acting is in you but the ability is what makes you extraordinary. So he merged it together and gave me the name Actability. You have the Actability in you and now everybody can act and can use words but how do you use your own words? How do you play with your voice and what swag do you bring into your acting that’s basically what makes you different? In the Yoruba world, there is no characterisation or whatever as when you leave this location you go on another location and yet another one. So you as an actor you have to take your time to understand what the story is about and take your time to give yourself a character from the understanding of the story, that’s what will make people see you in different movies and not see the same person always. So basically I take my time when I get to location or ask the producer or whoever wrote the script that who is this character and can you explain this person to me? Apart from you telling me the story when you were writing, what character were you thinking about of this person? Tell me then I might be able to link it up to my person, assimilate it and fall into the character.”
The Challenges so Far
Lateef says a particular movie, Ireje, is one of the most challenging he has had to handle. He said this was so because he had to switch in between different emotions.
“At some time you laugh, then next minute, you cry. But the most challenging is by Muyiwa Ademola where I had to play hunter. That (role) had to make use of eulogies and not being used to that character, it was a bit challenging for me. But of all the movies I have done, Kudi Klepto is still my number one challenging movie maybe because that’s the first movie I had to play a major role in it. It was a bit challenging but I was able to deliver.”
Between Me and Odunlade Adekola
“The relationship is cool and for me it’s not always easy when you have a striking resemblance with someone and you are in the same field line with but I have come to realise and learn that I do not see any actor as a competitor. The minute you see your co actor as a competitor you want to start acting to impress and the minute you start doing that you over-act and people will notice it. So you must understand your own character and just let things flow. So another thing is that I see Odunlade as a good actor in every aspect and what do I gain from him? I sit to watch and learn from every other actor: Odunlade, Femi (Adebayo), Muyiwa (Ademola). Then I pick from them and add to myself which brings a lot of value to me. We have met a lot of times and he would always tell me that if he leaves this work I take over as we purely look alike. But I said my character is different but he tells me you have to wrap it up. Nonetheless, it’s been fun all the way.”
His Role Model
Lateef says Antar Laniyan, an actor of many decades experience is one man he has always looked up to.
“There is this carriage he has and the voice. There is a way he plays with his voice and eventually when I met him on set for the very first time I received a slap from him and I was going to act normal as that scene is the very first scene and my line the very first. And I just said: ‘Yes you are my father’. And he replied that they should cut. He didn’t even correct me but just slapped me and I was confused. Then, he said, I should shut up that next time if you see it, is the first scene or first line it must be catchy so you must look for a way to play with your voice. He then asked me to take it again. He said there is a yes, a comma before the father so understand the line. You need to shout on your father that what he is doing is wrong so emphasise on the ‘Yes’. And I had to do that and I think that was the day he told me you have the ‘acting’ and ability’ so you have the Actability. He is someone I have always looked up to. Eventually, when I got into the industry more I looked and searched for Ibrahim Chatta as he is another crazy actor. When he is acting, I sit to study the way he does his things and look at Odunlade as well but Antar is always someone I looked up to.”
Lateef admits the movie, Kudi Klepto, earned him the award of Best Actor and he also won a Heritage Award in Atlanta, United States.
“Kudi Klepto also gave me Odua Movie Awards too in 2014 and 2015 as Best Actor and it also gave me Best Actor in supporting role at BON Awards. I also won City People Awards and Lagos Under-30 Best Actor of the Year Awards.”
I am Passionate about NGO
“Basically most of us that call ourselves celebrities but when they ask us what it takes, most of us can’t really say. This is an endangered generation and we have to do something. I know the minute you become a face on TV you have some authority. So if something is black you can say it’s white because of the love they have for you. They can actually follow you and believe in what you do. So with that alone I feel I can do a whole lot and affect the young ones as somehow, somewhere we are all endangered. So Great Minds Initiative is actually for young people who have talents in them but no place to display the talent or are not working with the right set of people to display these talents. Some can do a lot of stuff so GMI is actually a gathering for every young person who is willing and ready to do something but don’t have a place or avenue to drop it. So you can come to GMI and drop it in a gathering of youths willing to support you towards your career. So I did a retreat in Ilorin for over 60 youths from parts of Nigeria and they all came around just to sanitise and open them to what GMI is about. If you are carrying a name they must see it in you and know what you are all about. I took them through all of those topics and the movie project I’m working on is titled ‘The Endangered Generation’ which is about young people and what we go through.
Lateef says he can give up at any point in time but wants the world to say something about him when he is longer on the scene.
“That’s what I’m trying to do in the best way I can; to speak to a life and that’s a basic challenge for me. So I’m trying to work on a lot of stuff to give back to the society that made me.”
His Next Big Project:
The Kwara State-born thespian says his next big project is his next move.
“It’s a movie that will be going through people and that’s the movie that’s on my head now. After that I will be doing some major Yoruba movies too. Things that have to do with people and the society is what I’m bent on doing now.”
Lateef admits that the way they brought him up in his family was to be a devout Muslim.
“In my quiet time, if I’m not acting or something, it’s either I’m on my praying mat or I’m reading or I’m trying to upgrade myself because what I am carrying is even beyond me. So I’m to know about a little of everything and if you would be leading a lot of people, certain questions will be thrown at you which may throw you off balance and if you aren’t prepared you may be in trouble.”
Bimbo Oshin is my Crush
“I told Bimbo Oshin point blank that she is my crush. But dealing with the female fans isn’t easy but I think it’s about the carriage and knowing what you want. It’s also about knowing that as much as fame comes, you don’t get carried away with it. My father will say that you when you see a lot of females appreciating you, you know that you have arrived then thank your star you’re getting to where you’re going. Then when you see they are becoming too many, thank your star again but be careful as it may lead to your downfall. So that has always been in my head all the time.”
I Will Like to Work with Denzel Washington
“I love him; I love his carriage and apart from his acting world when he talks as well there is something for you to actually pick. If he speaks for five minutes there must be something for you to actually gain and that makes a lot of sense. It means he is leaving a good land mark. That’s about him and something I envisage for myself not because of anything but it’s more like a mentor and motivational speaker.”
Why I Am Called the Crying Machine
Due to his versatility, Lateef can switch between emotions seamlessly. And this has made people to conclude he is a crying machine.
“This has got me thinking. Aside from the fact that I have to think of a lot of stuff, I’m being trained by Aunty Ann Ojido; that if it’s going to be emotional there is always a factor. Wherever you find yourself, be it in stage or even here, there is always a factor that can make you cry easily. So whenever you want to cry on set and you can’t, quickly flash back to something emotional always remember to look for the factor around you.