Popular actor, Femi Adebayo speaks with TOFARATI IGE about his career, relationship with his dad and other issues
How would you describe your childhood?
My childhood was so good and full of joy in the sense that I grew up in the ghetto; Ebute Metta, to be precise. For me, it was a mixture of classy living and the ghetto side. My dad never wanted us to get mixed up with the ghetto way of life, but we always had so much fun playing with such people. I really had an eventful and interesting upbringing.
What are some of the memorable moments you had while growing up?
I remember that we used to have something called ‘banger fight.’ That was when different houses on the same street would tackle themselves with firecrackers during the New Year celebrations. It used to be very interesting and I recall how we used to chase one another with firecrackers. Though it was quite risky, we really enjoyed it and our house, which was the first on the street, used to win. There was also something called Fanti Carnival, which was very colourful.
As a kid, did you usually follow your father to movie sets, and what actors did you often see around him then?
Yes, I used to follow daddy to movie sets, and I think that’s where I developed interest in the movie industry. We used to see the likes of Jide Kosoko, Pappy Luwe, Iya Awero, Iya Rainbow, Baba Wande, and Baba Eda. I was also opportune to see the late Adeyemi Afolayan, aka Ade Love, late Hubert Ogunde, among others.
What were your childhood ambitions?
I’ve always wanted to become a lawyer from a very young age. I give God the glory that I have been able to fulfill that dream. Really, I decided to study law for very funny reasons. I loved the way they dressed, and the societal prestige that they enjoyed.
Did you ever practice as a lawyer?
Yes, I practiced law for two years, and it was very fulfilling. I don’t know if I would still return to the courtroom though.
Did your father support your decision to become an actor?
Daddy never went against my decision to become an actor. But he was very particular about all his children getting quality education. He was very comfortable with the fact that I was serious with my education when I decided to go into the movie industry, and he supported me in both careers.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learnt from your father as regards your career?
I’ve learnt so much from him. He taught me how to properly interpret roles, and how to manage fame. I have been applying all he taught me and it has been working for me.
Which movie gave you your breakthrough?
The movie, Owo Blow, produced by Tade Ogidan in 1996, gave me my breakthrough in the industry. For my role in that movie, I won a lot of awards such as Best Upcoming Actor in 1997.
What type of script challenges you?
I’m yet to come across a script that would actually challenge me. Initially, I thought the Jelili script would be challenging but it was not. I interpreted it easily.
Is there any role you’ll love to play but have not had the opportunity yet?
I’ll love to play the roles of a witch doctor, traditional warrior like Ogun and Sango, but I have not been opportune to be offered such roles.
Have you undergone any training in film-making?
I underwent part-time training at the Awada Kerikeri Organisation. It was actually a caucus managed by my father then. Our leaders were my father, Pappy Luwe and Iya Awero. I was groomed in theatre arts there and I learnt quite a lot of things.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a project called Diamonds in the Sky. It is a cinema project that I produced for Leah Foundation, which is owned by the First Lady of Kwara State. The foundation has been involved in a campaign against breast and cervical cancer for five years now. The production was directed by Kunle Afolayan, and it stars the likes of Joke Silva, Oga Bello, Toyin Abraham, Bimbo Akintola, Ali Nuhu, Omowunmi Dada, Yvonne Jegede, Olaiya Igwe, Yemi Sodimu, Ayo Mogaji, and other fantastic actors. It was all shot in Kwara State, and it promises to be a blockbuster. I have no doubt that people would really appreciate it.
Are any of your children showing interest in entertainment, and would you encourage them?
None of my children is showing interest in the entertainment industry for now, but if any one of them shows enthusiasm towards it, I would support them just like my father encouraged me.
Can you recall some of the most memorable experiences you have had with fans?
I have had quite a number of experiences with fans but the one I will never forget is the fan that kissed me in public just to show how much she appreciated me. I take it as a way of showing love, and that’s fine.
How do you unwind?
The way I unwind is very uninteresting. I do that within the confines of my home with my family. Those are the little times I spend with them so I don’t joke with it.
How do you handle female fans who may want to get too close to you?
My female fans are my greatest assets. They watch movies more so I don’t toy with them. I do everything humanly possible to get their loyalty and I appreciate them a lot. For any female fan trying to get close to me, I diplomatically tell them that I appreciate them and wouldn’t want to take it further than that.
What is the Kwara State government doing to promote arts and culture in the state?
With the help of the governor, we have been able to create massive awareness about Kwara State’s culture and tourist sites. We have been able to do that by staging plays during important events to showcase Kwara State’s culture. We have brought in over 15 Nollywood actors through the Kwara State Council for Arts and Culture. With these, we have been able to attract many investors who see how beautiful the state is. We have also been able to repackage the Awon Mass Festival, which is unique to Kwara State. In Shao community of the state, all the maidens get married on one particular day. We have also been able to secure partnership with the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation to work on other tourist sites in the state. We believe that before the tenure of the incumbent governor expires, we would have been able to turn those sites to captivating places. We are very glad that investors are already showing interest due to the awareness we have created.
How do you balance your job as a special assistant with being an actor?
Combining my acting career with my office as a special assistant to the governor has been very challenging, but I have no reason to complain because people that have more tasking jobs are able to perform. It’s a lot of work but with the help of God, the beautiful team around me, and my wife, we’ve been able to deliver.
How does your wife feel whenever she sees you kissing other ladies in movies?
My wife has been very supportive and understanding. I sincerely thank the almighty for giving me such a wonderful person as a gift. She is my best critic, and even when I think she may be uncomfortable with certain roles, she tells me that I could have played it better. She always reads my scripts and lends her input. Some days ago, we had our first wedding anniversary and it was awesome. I love her so much and I pray to God to give us an eternal union.