Nollywood actor, model and entrepreneur Deyemi Okanlawon was a guest at Pulse TV Studio where he spoke on different interesting topics.
Deyemi is popular for his role as Tokunbo in the popular must-watch web series 'Gidi Up' and as Demola in EbonylLife's 'Dowry'. Deyemi also stared in 'ZR- 7', 'Taste of Love', 'Blink', 'Them and Us', 'Knock Knock'. Deyemi also featured in Waje's new music video 'No be You'.
In 2013 he was awarded Best Actor in a Short Film at the In-Short film festival for the short film 'Blink' which also received a nomination for Best Short Film at the 2013 Nollywood Movies Awards.
In this interview with Pulse.ng, Deyemi talks career, being married, Nollywood, similarities between himself and his screen character Tokunbo, amongst other interesting topics.
Read Interview below:
Journey into an Acting Career
After studying Chemical Engineering, I realized that one of my natural skills was sales. During one of my visits to a client of mine (when I used to sell cake), I met her son, who studied chemical Engineering as well, who mentioned that some of his friends who studied Film margins int the United States wanted to produce a movie.
I immediately said “Hey, give me a call, I will love to be in the film” and that was how I went for my first audition. While I was at that audition, some guys wanted to produce a short film, so they called me up after they saw me audition and asked me to play the lead role in a short film called ‘Grain of Wheat’. The feature film that I auditioned for was called ‘ZR7 aka The Red House Seven’.
Gidi Up Character
Tokunbo Adepoju is your regular guy. The way I see him, he is just a guy with ideas about what he wants to do with his life, which is obviously different from what his parents think he should be doing.
We see him go through is the period of trying to hustle in Lagos. Trying to make ends meet and eventually he breaks through. However, he also has some character flaws. We notice that he’s got a little bit of problem with the ladies, and then sometimes when he gets really worked-up, he would probably drink or do one thing or the other to calm himself down.
I think he is a good guy who makes mistakes just like every other person.
Opposition from Parents in Acting Career.
I started acting when I was about 5years old and probably acted in every primary school play while I was there. Also when I was the youth leader in the church drama group, I would invite my parents to see the shows, and they would always show their support. They loved what I did; I don’t know if they ever thought that I would make it into a career.
I have been independent for a very long time. Back in 2013, I decided to make a move into acting, I didn’t really tell them, they just found out when they started seeing me on TV.
Similar traits Between Deyemi and Tokunbo
Absolutely nothing (Laughs) I’m such a good guy. For me it was a bit scary when I read the script. When I read the script, I realized this is my life, these guys are actually talking about me.
When you talk about being a tech entrepreneur, I have been an entrepreneur, maybe not in the tech world, but I have been an entrepreneur, and I also worked in E-commerce, so I understood exactly what the guy was trying to achieve as a tech entrepreneur.
He also had some daddy issues, growing up, one of the things that happened to me was that I had to fight for my identity and literally become independent real quick so, I understood the chemistry so to speak between Tokunbo and his dad. Of course I was close to my mum; Tokunbo was also close to his mum.
Back when I was a bit younger, when still trying to figure out who I am, there were times when I had issues with women. I have grown out of those kind of things.
Other Projects Aside Gidi Up
I have this YouTube channel that I try to put up things on a regular basis such as short films, trailers, feature films, and even some music videos that I have featured in.
Right now, one of the big projects that I’m waiting for is “Taste of Love”. It should be out any moment from now. It’s a TV series, and I play a very strange character, just watch out for it.
Aside Baking and Acting
I grew up in a family business and we made cakes. I literally grew up in an oven baking every day. So that was where baking came from, and I studied Chemical Engineering and I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, so I got back into the family business and I was employed as a sales manager.
Beyond that, I also worked in several organizations, organizations involved in sales and marketing, E-commerce companies. I was the marketing manager for OLX, I was the marketing manager for an investor relations company called Proshare. I also started a few business QuikLinx Marketing Solutions, Sales Target Company, and Firstline Marketing Ltd which were all aimed at helping small businesses with their sales and marketing.
What you might not know, and what you might not find online is that every year, I try to add a new skill to my repartee as an actor. I would like the scenario where if a script comes up, and there are certain unique skills that the character has, I would already have an idea of what to do.
A few years ago I picked up the guitar and I started learning how to play. I recently came across a script that involves a character who needed to know how to play the saxophone, so I started to take Sax lessons.
Beyond that, I ride a power bike, I swim - you probably should learn how to swim before shooting under water, study shotokan karate, Shotokan is a different genre of karate, again so that when I'm called to come do a Kung Fu, I can kick ass. (Laughs)
Directing and Producing
A while ago, I co-produced a short film called 6:30pm; I had gone to New York film academy in collaboration with Del-York. That was my first venture into producing. It’s on my YouTube channel and it’s getting amazing views; I don’t know how or why, I never promoted it.
As for directing, I have always wanted to be part of a story. Right now, I’m doing that as an actor. Going forward, I would love to do that as a director telling people stories and not just playing a character in the story.
I should be shooting a short film very soon, and I hope you get to see it.
On Taiwo Ajai-Lyceet's "Nollywood is more of Quantity than Quality"
Well, Mrs Lycett has huge huge years of experience, and I cannot contradict what she says. I would say from my own little perspective here, it depends on what segment of the Nigeria film segment that you are talking about.
And what I am conversant with are young people telling new stories about the realities that we are facing in Nigeria, and we have people who are talented, skilled and dedicated to their craft. So far I have only seen that level of quality of work and I’m really impressed by what I have seen.
"New and Old Nollywood"
America has its film industry for example, they differ in grades. You have your blockbusters, you have your B-class movies. You have all these different genres in the different segments. You have got TV, you have feature films, and straight to DVD movies.
Change in Nollywood
I think one of my very first priorities would be skill empowerment, I would literally pioneer and push that we get more skills and training, and get better at what we are doing. We are already very good at what we do, but a little more training, a little more knowledge and we might be able to do so much better.
Whether you are sound man, director, producer, photographer, it will be about empowering people and giving them knowledge, and help them know what direction to go.
Iwas shooting outside Lagos for like six months, and Uzor Uzimkpa was like “hey, let’s work out together”, and she was really a source of motivation for me.
These are some of the things I try to do; I try to eat well and eat at the right time. I try to work out; I either go to the gym or run, or just do some basic exercises of my own. That’s my new skill – 6 packs (laughs).
Role Models in the Industry
RMD and then so many other talented people that every day I get inspiration from. I have worked with some of them, some I’m just looking at from afar.
Female, there is Rita Dominic, Joke Silva. There is also Oc Ukeje, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Gabriel Afolayan, Lala Akindoju and several several people.
The list is just so long, and we have not gone to Ghana, South Africa USA, and the UK, there is Hlomla Dandala, Majid Michel, I mean I could go on.
I am crushing on one woman and one woman alone; she just takes my whole attention. My wife is my woman crush forever.
I’m married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. We went to school together, University of Lagos Chemical Engineering department; we just never ever got to talk, she was two years below. We met again at a mutual friend’s wedding and we started talking and I realized that for the first time I actually had the one person I could connect with.
So, it wasn’t over and I wasn’t ready to let her go. We got married in January 2013.
I’m doing my job as an actor as best I can, with the hope that people who appreciate the work that I have done will want me on their projects.
There are really a couple of projects coming up, but I can’t disclose them yet. I can tell you that there may be a stage production in December. I’m going to put up stuff on my social media platforms. So, if you follow me, you will know about everything I'm doing.
- You need to get out of home
Especially if you are a guy, it is very different when you are in your parents’ house, and you are depending on them. Once you get out, you will see the real Lagos.
- Try To Be Independent.
Try as much as possible to be independent. As an independent person, you can make certain rules that you wouldn’t be able to make if you were dependent.
- Get Very Good At What You Do.
Get trained, go online, and read up stuff. Read up to be in the first 10% in terms of know-how of whatever industry you want to be in. Don’t just sit at home and wait for something to come to you. If you are looking for a job, then go out there and find a job. The job you want may not even be available, so you create the job. Get people to know that they need your service - they may not know it.
Meet as many people as you can, take phone numbers, email addresses, find people who share interests with you, or people who might find value in what you do, try and update them regularly on what you do. I have been updating people for the past five years. For example Kunle Afolayan gets emails from me, these are Industry experts, and you want them to review your works and give you feedback.
- If You Have A Job, Get A Side Hustle.
I say this not because I think having a corporate career is bad, but there is something about freedom. There is no such thing as job or financial security, so everybody should find something. It doesn’t have to take you away from your 9-5 job. It can be online, you have heard of sites like eBay, Addy.ng, get online and sell stuff.