…Explains why English films pay more than Yoruba’s
On-the-rise actress, Joke Lawal is living up to the title bestowed on her in 2016 as Nollywood New Bride by White Cowry Awards as the one-time City People Awards nominee is rapidly becoming a force to reckon with in the make-believe world.
The Moshood Abiola Polytechnic graduate who dumped her degree in Business Administration in pursuit of her passion for acting engaged us in a chat about her challenges as an upcoming actress, her breakthrough moment and a glimpse into her private life. Read on.
By Adetutu Adesoji
What fascinates you about acting that made you chose it as a career?
Acting is something that I have always loved to do, so it was easy for me to choose it as a career. While growing up my peers used to talk about becoming doctors, lawyers and the likes but I always said I wanted to be an actress, to be famous and celebrated. I have always loved entertainment, it was a huge part of me while growing up. I started acting when I was in secondary school.
You studied Business Administration, why not Theatre Arts?
I studied Business Administration because of my parents, especially my father, my father didn’t like the idea of my becoming an actress. I wanted to study Theatre Arts initially but my father didn’t let me, he said it was not possible.
How did you get involved with the industry?
First, I joined a group called ATAC, the group was registered under ANTP Mushin chapter. I joined the group in 2009, as a member I started attending ANTP meetings and rehearsals and that was how I got introduced to the industry. However, I’m no longer a member of any group, I’m on my own now.
Joining a group seems to be the order of the day for actors, especially in the Yoruba part of Nollywood, how important is this?
Well, it was quiet important to join a group as a new actor back then because if you did not belong to a group or train under anyone you would get kicked out of any movie set you go to. That was just how things were done. The Yoruba industry originated from groups, so it was very important for people who joined the industry at the time. Although, in recent times actors no longer have to join groups before they appear in movies.
Who gave you your first opportunity in the industry?
The first movie I acted in was ‘Mama Do Good’ which was a group project of ATAC. After acting in my first movie I got admitted into the University, so I stopped acting for a while. Few years later while I was still in school I got a call from a marketer in Lagos who informed me about a movie project ‘Alaya ki’ by which I played a role in. After that, I played the role of a receptionist in the movie ‘Aye La Bowo’ by Sodiq Adebayo which exposed me because I started getting more movie role offers after I acted in it. However, I will say ‘Campus Life’ was my breakthrough movie because it made the name Joke Lawal a household name.
From 2009 till date, how will you sum up your experience so far?
It has been a journey filled with ups and downs. Being in this industry I have met different people from different backgrounds with different orientations. I have met crazy people too but to succeed one has to deal with all types of people and keep the flow.
How do you deal with some of these ‘crazy people’?
You don’t have to create a close relationship which such people. There are people you just won’t vibe with naturally, so you have to keep a distance from them and keep whatever relationship you have with them strictly professional.
What were some of the challenges you faced as an upcoming actress?
One that I remember vividly was when I got a last minute call to feature in a movie in Ibadan and I was in Lagos at the time. I got the call around 9pm that day and I was supposed to be on set by 10am the following day. I didn’t have a penny on me and I had to get to Ibadan at all cost. I eventually got to the movie set very late and instead of acting in five scenes I acted in just two scenes. I was asked to stay on set from the first day of shoot till the last day before filming the two scenes.
Are you also a producer?
Yes, I recently produced my first movie but it is not out yet. It is titled ‘Honeymoon’ and should be out by December or January. It will be available online.
How will you describe your experience as a producer compared to being an actress?
Producing a movie is a different ball game. Sourcing for funds, putting your cast and crew together and managing a movie set is stressful.But I thank God for my sponsors, The Sound Image for funding the project and for my director and project manager for relieving me of the stress of being a producer.
What bothers you about the industry that you will like to change?
I will like to change people’s perception of actresses. A lot of people think of actresses as prostitutes, they see us as people who are not worthy of marriage and having a family. If I have the power this is something I will like to change. I will also like to see a change in the way our stories are written and interpreted, and in the quality of our film productions. Another thing I will like to change is, how poorly actors are paid. As a producer I will like a situation where I can pay every actor that work on my project even if the person acts in just one scene. As an upcoming actress I acted in movies and didn’t get paid but because I was still new in the industry I didn’t have a choice. God help me, these are things I will like to change in the movie industry.
There is a notion that English movies pay more than Yoruba movies; how true is this?
In the Yoruba part of the industry some people have the idea of doing what I call padi padi, where for example, I work on your production for free and you will do the same for me. I don’t really like that idea but then I have some people that I work for without collecting money because it is my way of appreciating them for giving me opportunities in the past. Meanwhile, I have acted in some English series like Hustle, Battleground and others and I got paid for my work.
Are there actors you would like to work with but haven’t had the chance to?
I have not worked with Gabriel Afolayan, Bolanle Ninolowo, Funke Akindele and Bimbo Akintola and I will really love to work with them.
What is your most memorable experience as an actress?
The day I attended a party in Ibadan and people were screaming ‘Fisayo’, the character I played in ‘Campus Life’ and also requested to take pictures with me. I was surprised that people knew who I was, it was an exciting experience.
What lessons have you learnt so far in your career?
I have learnt to believe in myself, not to look down on myself and to appreciate myself. I have also learnt not to depend on people to make things happen for me and that, what is worth doing at all is worth doing well.