Film and stage actor, Funsho Adeolu, speaks with KORE OGIDAN about his craft and his experience in the Nigerian film industry
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Lagos on May 9, 1968. Growing up was very dramatic for me because unlike every child that gets both parents’ attention, mine was one-sided. That was because my parents were not married but were living together; so, my mum played the role of father and mother.
What schools did you attend?
I attended Ansar-Ud-Deen College, Isolo, Lagos, for my O levels. Then, I went to Baptist Academy, Obanikoro, Lagos, for my A levels. I bagged a Bachelor in Guidance and Counselling from the then Ondo State University in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.
You are both an English and Yoruba actor. Which industry do you find easier and more interesting to work in and why?
I am an actor, regardless of language. I love both genres, although initially, I was more comfortable with English movies because speaking Yoruba was not an easy task for me. But now, I can comfortably say the equation is balanced. However, the English genre is more rewarding, remuneration wise.
You’re known for excellence in your craft. How are you effectively able to channel yourself to interpret your roles seamlessly?
I read the script and that determines many things. I also like to work with people who are very professional and who tend to analyse the character for me. They let me understand what is expected of the character. The character’s background helps to put a spine to it and gives me more understanding of how to portray the role. I must have understood that character from his childhood till date. Character moulding is a very important part of my job.
At what point did you realise you wanted to become an actor?
I had known since I was a young church boy. Back then, I was very interested in everything that happened in the church. However, I was most passionate about music because I was in the choir. As kids, we formed a group called Monidex Group, which was meant to be a dance troupe, though we acted as well. Along the line, we invited Antar Laniyan, who became a mentor to many of us. He brought us up and taught us many things, particularly about stage acting. I started as a stage actor but I didn’t take it seriously; it was more of a hobby. I didn’t know what I was going to become in life. I just knew I enjoyed music very much; played instruments and sang in church.
During rehearsals one day, Antar was soliloquising but I heard him. He said, “This guy (referring to me) will be a great actor.” I took that as a message from God. I took it and ran with it, knowing that I’d become an actor. I went to school to get an education and become enlightened. When I finished my secondary education, I wanted to become a lawyer and I was bent on that career path. I chose the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, but I didn’t make the cut-off mark for Law; so, I had to wait.
Finally, I enrolled at the Ondo State University, where I finally bagged a degree, although not in Law.
Did you get any formal training in acting?
I didn’t get any formal training in acting; I had more of an informal training. I joined groups and rehearsed a lot. I did a lot of stage acting and went to many workshops. The only thing I don’t know about theatre would be the history of it, but with matters of stage management and craft, I went through them.
At the orientation camp of the National Youth Service Corps, people always said they knew if I was in a group, the group was sure to win in drama and dancing. I used to dance a lot as well.
I believe that actors are born and not made. When I went into television acting, I reckoned with many people. One time, I got an award for Best Actor and renowned director, Tade Ogidan, told me I still had work to do to get to my depth. He made me sit up. I got to a point in my life where I analysed how much I had improved. When he (Ogidan) saw my work after that, he commended me.
Who gave you your first opportunity in Nollywood?
It wasn’t known as Nollywood then. Antar Laniyan was the one who brought me into stage and television, and even the Yoruba movies I started acting. There was a television series on Nigerian Television Authority that I used to act with Antar back then. A major breakthrough I had was the television series, Palace
Under whose production did you play your biggest role?
It was for a Yoruba movie titled, Iya Ogun Odun by Antar Laniyan. That movie fetched me an award for Best Actor in 2000.
The experience acting that movie was mind-blowing and interesting. It is a must watch. If I talk about it now, I will start to cry. The story is very touching.
I call myself the ‘antarnised’ actor. Antar Laniyan brought me to the limelight and gave me most of the projects I did on television and on stage.
What are some of the challenges you face in the industry that were there in the beginning?
If I don’t face challenges, I don’t see myself moving forward in life. Nothing was actually challenging for me. I believe that everything that happened to me inside and outside the industry, on-set and off-set, were ordained by God to help me become stronger and better. I turn challenges that pose as stumbling blocks to stepping stones. I avoid distractions and look for ways to run away from them, so that I can focus on important things and growth.
How do you handle your female fans?
I have no problem with them at all. They come and they say what they want to. I flow with those who I am alright with, and I cut off the ones that are not alright by me. I was very careful about dating or having an affair with anyone, even when I wasn’t married. This is because I wanted a good life and a good family. I didn’t want to jeopardise that opportunity by starting wrongly. I was very diplomatic in the way I dealt with people.
How would you describe your marital experience?
It has been incredibly beautiful. The best part of my life is my marriage. Everything you see of me out there is because I have a good wife. I have everything that comes with marriage – how to cherish one’s wife, understanding, communication, love and how to make a good family. I decided not to have a broken home so that my children wouldn’t grow up the way I did. However, although my parents did not live together and I didn’t get the love of a mother and father at the same time, they were very instrumental to my success in life. I pray for my marriage every day and I work at it. My wife understands the industry as she was there before. We were in the industry together but she decided to leave and that was strictly her decision.
How much has the industry changed since you started out?
The industry has improved a lot.
How have you managed to stay relevant all these years?
I am an actor who chose this path; so, it’s not possible for me to just decide to quit. There are good and bad times. When the going is good, you cannot change your name and when it’s bad, you stay. I am a diehard actor and I can see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. I must get there and nothing will stop me. You must keep on trying till you get to where you are going. You must be diligent and focused on anything you do in life.
What kind of father are you?
I believe that children need to be well understood. It is not an easy task to train a child. Apart from ensuring that you tell them the right things at different stages in life, they’d want to explore because they need adventure. I make sure I am very accessible to my children – I have two sons. They talk to me and their mother about anything that happens to them. I am their father and friend at the same time. I am also their role model and mentor. Whatever I do, I ensure it is something they can emulate. I’m grateful for how they have turned out. They are good children and I am proud to be their father.
What should we be expecting from you going forward?
I’m starting a training arena for up-and-coming actors. Some people are out there with the talent but they have no opportunity to showcase it. They have the raw talent and there’s no way for them to mould it. Some are not even buoyant enough to hone their talents. So, I gave some people the opportunity to grow their talent for free. It’s not a general call. I invite talented, professional and respectable actors to coach and assess them.
How do you like to relax when you are not working?
I enjoy listening to music and singing, especially with my children. When I want to go out, I go out with my wife, who is my only best friend. Everyone else is my colleague.
How do you like to dress?
I like to be very simple and modest. If I had my way, I would only wear tee shirts. I like to look nice but not flashy and that even affects the colours I wear.