“My naked physique may cause physical illness to an audience”, says Ayo Oyebade
With experience spanning 28 years in Accountancy & Finance, Chief Ayo Oyebade has been able to garner a powerhouse of clients, which include numerous show business personalities and he has worked on a few films as Production Accountant. He has also worked on several movies as associate producer including the highly successful Shameful Deceit (produced by his wife, HRH Theodora Ibekwe-Oyebade), Heartless Carer, Battered, Purity of Heart, 18 Carat Mama, and Jacuzzi.
Others are Oga Detective, Enchained, Basira in London, Malcolm Benson’s Return of the Don, Meet Pursuit Delange directed by Howard Webster.
Ayo is a member and past president of Hendon Rotary Club (2011/12 & 2013/14), past secretary of UK Nollywood Producers Guild, finance secretary of the Actors Guild of UK Nollywood, a member of the Organising Committee of Nigerian Centenary Awards UK 2014, finance secretary of the Uncelebrated Nigerians Awards UK Organising Committee and past treasurer of Face Front Inclusive Theatre Charity.
Chief Ayo is an award-winning Accountant(Ambassador Award at Best of Nigeria 2011 Awards), blogger (www.ayooyebade.com), an actor and producer. In this interview with DAPO OPAYINKA, TheOlojaBlog Europe correspondent, Chief Oyebade took us into in his private life and business.
Were you an actor before you came into the UK?
No, I was born in the UK and only spent a few years in Nigeria, coming back to the UK as a teenager.
What attracted you to begin a career as an actor?
I wouldn’t call myself an actor per se. I have been fortunate to catch the eye of a few directors. But I am mulling over the idea of being one.
As a UK based actor, how as the journey so far been?
Acting in UK Nollywood has not been very lucrative, we are still feeling our way; swapping between producing and acting. A lot of my roles have been forgettable, but I am proud of the ones where the director took me out of my comfort zone.
Would you say UK Nollywood industry is booming? If yes, who takes the credit; Nigeria based actors and celebrity running an intercontinental show or the credit wholly belongs to the UK based Nollywood actors?
Hmmm. UK Nollywood is a work in progress. I am glad that there are many collaborations between Nigeria and UK production companies.
However, it appears that we in the UK are dependent on Nigerian stars to help our films. This is not a bad thing though but I am cautious about this development because not many of the UK Nollywood actors are being invited to Nigeria to appear in films. We’re not getting enough exposure.
Is there any relationship between the mainstream and UK based Nollywood industry?
We are simply invisible!
Can you point to any of your achievement as actor?
No great achievement yet. Well, except when I was fortunate to get a gig as a support lead in a TV Commercial. I got kudos for that, as many TV channels showed it.
How would you rate the relationship between UK based and Nigeria based actors?
I think we have a great relationship. The Nigeria based actors love coming over to work in our films but I wish it could also work the other way around. We support the Nigeria based actors and producers when they premiere their films in the UK although I can’t say the same happens when we premiere our films in Nigeria. All in all, I am glad that we do work together. Remember UK Nollywood includes numerous African nationalities.
How did you successfully interact with a demanding director?
I have not had significant enough roles. However, one director took me way out of my comfort zone. I had to do a scene where I am running from the law. Ofcourse, I am overweight and unfit with a bad back and asthmatic but it was great fun.
What is your most challenging role yet?
I played a 75-year-old man, sick, in a private hospital. I loved the characterization.
What are the challenges still existing in the UK Nollywood industry?
Many! First, we do not have access to adequate funding, which applies to most film makers. And most of us actors are neither full-time nor trained. It is hard to commit when the remuneration is not great. We need to remember that there are two sides to show business; the show and the business.
Does Nigerian government recognise, align and sponsor the industry?
The Nigerian government has supported the Nigerian Nollywood and provided funds for filmmakers to access, but no recognition of the UK Nollywood practitioners.
So far, how would you grade your progress in the industry?
No grading for now.
Which was your favourite of all the roles you have played in the past?
I loved playing a Criminal on the run from the police.
Who is your favourite actor, and why?
Doris Day, I just have an affinity for her.
What project are you working on now?
I am a member of Actors Guild of UK Nollywood and we are currently filming a TV Series.
Does your emotional setback affect your work?
I do not undertake significant enough roles, so those issues never come up.
When was your first role as an actor?
I had a dancing role in a film in 2013 shortly after playing a taxi driver in Shameful Deceit. My first speaking role was in 2013, as an insurance investigator.
What is your biggest aspiration?
It would be great to be able to push this UK Nollywood industry to the forefront; for our actors to be sought after in the mainstream.
In which area would you want to improve as an actor?
Not sure that I am that interested in furthering my acting, I am a finance executive and putting film finance together for projects is key.
As elections in Nigeria are drawing close, do you think the outcomes would have either positive or negative effects on Nollywood industry?
Naija politics get as e be. I don’t see any positive effect on the UK Nollywood industry from any political outcome in Nigeria.
What support do you enjoy from the UK government as immigrant movie industry?
We in the UK Nollywood industry are yet to tap into the various Grants and Support available to us. The BFI has many initiatives that we need to explore.
What would you rather have or not have in your industry?
There are shysters in every industry, those who would take money from wannabe actors and not give them the desired product. And also producers who are only interested in the red carpet and produce rubbish films. I would also love for black oriented distributors to take more of an interest in UK Nollywood and encourage us.
Do you think a Nollywood film can get an Oscar Nomination and go on to win it?
If Living in Bondage was remade, I think there is a great chance that it would be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. There is every chance that a Nollywood film can be nominated for a Best Film Oscar, we have such richness in our story telling. We just have to use the right formula and work the relevant film festivals.
How can you compare stage acting with film from your own experience?
I have had the pleasure of acting on stage. Admittedly, I took on a minor role, so that I wouldn’t have to learn too many lines but what a rush! I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. On stage, you get instant gratification, as you get the audience’s reaction. The stage is the real training ground for actors because it’s raw and you cannot afford to “die” on stage.
If you are given £1Million today what will you do with it?
I’d give a big chunk to charity; pay off my debts and buy and produce a great script.
Will you accept a role that requires you to be nude?
If I was a six pack, sure I could do nude scenes; it’s all for the art. However, my naked physique may cause physical illness to an audience, I will stay clothed.
Do you think there should be more collaborations between Nollywood Nigeria and UK?
There are already numerous collaborations. It would be good to have more UK Nollywood productions in Africa. However, as I have mentioned already, UK actors need to bring something more to the table, professionalism.
What else do we need to know about you that is not yet covered in the questions above?
I am the husband to HRH Theodora Ibekwe-Oyebade, a father and grandfather.