Abuja, 26 May-2016,MURPHY AJIBADE: Abiodun Sofuyi Okeowo, also known as “Tolani Osirin” is a well-known name in the Yoruba genre of Nollywood, the Nigerian movie industry. A single mother of two, Abiodun is barely seven years in the industry. But she is already a known face with her scintillating performances. Reputed to have one of the sexiest shapes in the industry, this Lagos State University graduate of Communication Arts who is known for her calmness, has also produced many films on her own.
Excerpts of the full interview with Tolani Osirin:
Tell us when, where and how you joined the movie industry?
I started with the Ray Eyiwunmi Organisation. It is a group consisting of Lasun Ray, Muka Ray, and Murphy Ray. I started February 2006. I joined the group and became like an apprentice learning from them. I produced my own first movie in 2007. It was entitled Tolani Osinrin.
What prompted you go into acting?
For me, acting is inborn. My dad used to be in the Awarawa theatre group with the likes of Jide Kosoko and others. When I was in primary school, we used to practice acting. Not long ago, when some of my classmates saw me, they were like ‘O, Abiodun so you finally became an actress’. So it is something that I grew up with.
Since you joined the industry how many movies have you featured in?
I have lost count… I’m sure it is about 50 or more.
Tell us some of them?
I produced five myself, Tolani Osinrin, Okanjua, Oke-irapada, Asise Nla and Edidi Igbeyawo. I have featured in Lagos to Benin, Uncle Adisa, Opin-Irin ajo, Ohun Buruku, Aso tuntun, Boseyemi, Temiyemi by Bimbo Oshin, Taloye… I have lost count Which one of them do you think propelled you to stardom? I will say here that Tolani Osinrin, my first production.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Abiodun Sofuyi, I am the last born in a family of five of which I am the only girl. My mother is a trader, my father is a prophet. I hail from Ogere in Ogun State. I attended Onayade Primary school, from there to Jibowu High School from where I proceeded to Lagos State University(LASU) where I studied Communication Arts. I did my Industrial Training at Lagos Television(LTV) before I started acting. Most challenging role? I am yet to see a very challenging role, but right now I will give it to Aso Tuntun. Because in the movie, I had to run seriously and because of my plumy stature it was difficult for me to run. I am not that slim and could not roll freely, but because am an actress I just had to do it. But I will still say my best is yet to come, I have not been challenged the way I really want. Have you ever been sexually harassed to get a role? No, because I came in through the right channel where we are not allowed to go to location without the guidance of our Oga (boss). By the time I started going to locations, I was already a producer and a known face, so it never happened to me.
What kind of clothes do you love?
I love bump shorts a lot. Favorite perfume? I love praga and gucci Favorite colours? I love flashy colours, I love facial pink, yellow, and blue
Who is your role model in the Nigeria movie industry?
I love Bukky Wright, Joke Silva, Fathia Balogun, Shola Shobowale
Most embarrassing moment on set?
It was between me and Lasun Ray, I was acting as a nurse in the movie and instead of facing the camera, I was backing it at that point he had to scold me and I was crying because I was not used to the system at that time.
Most embarrassing moment with fans?
I was trekking on the street and I saw three ladies coming towards my direction, two of the ladies recoginsed me and and were friendly, and one said “Oh, see Tolani Osinrin” and they were coming towards me to greet me. But the third one wasn’t friendly, as she said “who is Tolani Osinrin?” She just drew the other two back and said “come on, let’s go”. I was so embarrassed.
Do you play romantic roles? Sure How far can you go?
As far as going acting dirty, because my children are going to watch my movie How do you cope with your responsibility as a single mother, and an actress? Here, I will give it to my mother, she is a very caring, loving mother, she takes care of my children when am not around. How did you meet the father of your children? We met in church.
What is the craziest thing a man has ever said to you?
Let me just say it the way he said it, “this your hips go kill person o” (Laughs). Tell us someone you admire and will like to meet. Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva. Actually, Olu Jacobs featured in Opin Irinajo (Part 1), but then it was in Part 2 that I featured because that was when I joined the Lasun Eyiwunmi group. So I never had the opportunity of meeting him. How do you spend your leisure? I am a homely person, I stay at home and watch movies, then take my kids out.
Apart from acting, what else do you do?
Presently, nothing. But am planning to go into business very soon.
What sort of business?
I am planning to go into clothing and jewelries.
What is the most treasured thing we will find in your wardrobe?
That should be my hymn book and my bible.
If you are opportuned to change something what would you like to change about yourself?
I would like to have a full neck…(laughs) and a bolder face There has been instances when marketers fail to pay movie producers due to one reason or the other.
What has been your experience?
I will just sat that God should come to our aid, I wouldn’t say it is 100% the fault of the marketers. I belive it is the economy generally. Let’s take for instance, I am a baker , I bought flour and baked my bread let’s assume I baked 100 and out of the hundred baked I sold just 50, so how do I cover for the money I used to purchase flour? So, I think it is the same thing that is happening in the movie industry, because the economy is very bad, if a marketer prints 10,000 copies, and he is unfortunate that he was unable to sell more than 3,000 copies and he has 7,000 copies left there is no way he is going to pay the producer. But you may not know this if you are not close to them to hear from the horses mouth. Everyone of us blame them for owing us, although there are some of them that are born debtors. But for some it is just due to circumstances and the economy, that is why we are begging the government to come to our aid In the space of five years you have been able to produce 6 movies.
How have you been financing your production?
The first one I got a sponsor for it, thereafter I became a commercial actress. And don’t eat with my 10 fingers (meaning: I save some of my income).
What should we expect from you in the next five years?
Olorun lo ni dede (man proposes God disposes). I just pray to God that He should put me where I would love so much.
Are you working on something right now?
Not really. I want to take my time, do my homework well, do more research and come out with something good, a better movie than the five I have produced put together. Of course, am shooting another movie, I will be on location on Friday (yesterday). But I don’t know the title yet.
So, how do you rate Nollywood?
I’ll give kudos to Nollywood right now because we are improving technically and the artists too are improving. How would you compare Nollywood and others like Bollywood and Hollywood? Well, permit me to say a Yoruba adage ‘omo eni ole se’di bebere ka fi’leke sidi elomi’, even if we are not the first, I’ll give us the first. We are the best anywhere, anytime. What can you say about productions that are written, produced and directed by just one same person? Well, let me be sincere, such a practice is not good. If i write my story, I’m not going to direct, I will just be an actress, Shikena…, I will not even be the one to coordinate. I think there should be division of labour. Maybe those people think they are Jacks of all trade, that they can do it well.
What can you say about the issue of piracy?
I just pray that God should come to our rescue. In fact, everybody is trying their best. The actors, the actresses and so also the marketers are trying to curb it. Though it’s not easy to curb them at once but it’s been working ‘small small’. All I’m saying is that the government should come to our rescue. For example, the last film by Olasco,it was on DVD so it will not be easy to be pirated. So, that’s why I said if the government can come to our rescue then we’ll minimize the number of films coming out. If an actor/actress feature in a film or two in a year, we’ll be okay. It will cover up 50 movies in a year, so, they should just help.
How do you think government can help?For example, football is a kind of entertainment, right?
And government is investing in it. If they can do the same thing in the movie industry, like calling the leaders asking them how they can help them. They can give them certain amount of money and tell them they should shoot less movies in a year, and also make sure that all the artists, the crews featuring in such movies get substantial amounts. They should just come to our rescue. How is your relationship with the father of your kids? Its okay, very cordial. We talk when it’s necessary.
So, as a producer, how do you get your inspiration?
I get inspiration from things happening around me, and at times it is just ‘aroko’ (fallacy).
What is your advice for the upcoming ones?
Uhmm…, I ‘ll say here that they should be determined. They should not come into the industry with the aim of dating an actor or any producer or better still a star to make it. They should be ready to tolerate, they should have the spirit of perseverance and they should be extremely humble. That’s all. That is the major thing, humility.
How will you describe your personality?
Ha…, I’m kogbona kotutu (not too hot, not too cold) (laughs)…, Let me be serious. I’m an introvert, 60% of me is an introvert and 40% of me is an extrovert. 60% temperamental, 40% calm. I don’t keep grudges, I’m a kind of person that when you offend me you will see it immediately that I’m angry, then after some minutes it’s gone. I don’t keep malice. Even, if the person is planning to hold grudges I will go and meet the person. I’m like that.
Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Murphy Ajibade who is a journalist and editor of naijamayor .