Popular actor, Lateef Adedimeji, speaks to MOBOLA SADIQ about his acting career and other issues
Tell us about your childhood.
I’m the fifth child in a family of nine. I was born in Oshodi, Lagos State, but I’m from Abeokuta, Ogun State.
I studied Mass Communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University. I also have something close to a diploma in Theatre Arts because I was trained by a non-governmental organisation whose major goal was to pass information to people through acting and songs. It was for people who didn’t have access to television at that time. Their target audience was the grassroots.
Have you always wanted to be an actor?
I started with dance, but I later realised that I could put a lot of effort into acting as well. So, when I was with the NGO, they taught me a lot about acting. I started acting not because I wanted to emulate anybody; it is something I’m passionate about and enjoy doing without being paid for it. Joy radiates over me whenever I’m acting and since life is not only about having wealth, it is also about doing something that one finds peace and joy in.
How did your parents react when you started acting?
My mum had always known that I wanted to be an actor but my dad didn’t. My father didn’t even know that I was a dancer because I was doing it in the background. By the time he knew, it was already late. But eventually, my dad realised that I found more joy in acting than doing any other work. He left me to pursue my acting career and I’m sure he is proud of me today.
Interestingly, I tried working in an office but after two weeks, I resigned; it was just not working. My parents came for my performance recently and I was shocked when I saw them shedding tears of joy, thanking God that they allowed me to pursue my dreams.
What do you do to stand out in the movie industry?
I don’t think I do anything differently. I take anything that has to do with competition or impressing people off my head and I do my things the way it comes. Doing that brings out originality in me. I have found that being original stands one out and makes people identify one.
Did you know you would become a popular actor?
I wasn’t particular about being popular because I realised that when one runs after fame, fame would run from one.
However, I kept training and upgrading myself so when the fame came, I was prepared. Those were the values that my parents instilled in me.
What were the challenges you faced in the early days of your career?
There were a lot of them, but every challenge has been more of a driving force for me. Whenever I face obstacles, I am usually not scared. I see all my difficult times as a learning process. But when I’m praised, I get scared on how to improve so that I don’t drop to a lower level.
There were challenges of people accepting and rejecting me. Sometimes, people even rubbished my works. I used to speak bad English at that time (and I still do sometimes), so I had to go to a speech class when I had to do a stage performance. I knew I had the ‘H’ factor and I needed to work on it because I was going to be speaking all through in English. All that made me go off work for three months and the stage play came out well.
Have you ever felt underprivileged because you didn’t come from a wealthy background?
Not really. I have never seen or classified my background as either rich or poor. I think I went through a lot of spiritual training from my parents. We never saw a rich person as better than a poor individual, because one can be rich and have nothing to offer, or poor and have something to offer. Yes, a lot of people have parents in the movie industry but I wanted to see myself as a change maker.
Does being an actor make life easier for you?
No. I don’t think being an actor has made life easier for me or anybody else. Acting is a taxing job and being famous makes it even more taxing. It entails a lot of hard work. But one thing I have enjoyed in my career is that people look up to one and want to emulate one. However, I always tell people not to be like me, so I don’t disappoint them. Why would anyone want to be like me when the person can be better than me. I only advise people to pick what they like in me and pick some other fascinating things from other people. When you add all that up, you automatically become better.
Does having a godfather help in Nollywood?
I think godfathers have helped a lot of people but I didn’t have the opportunity to have any. I only have mentors that I have learnt a lot from.
I grew at my own pace. It was a difficult task growing in an industry with so many people but I‘m also lucky to have bosses such as Muyiwa Ademola, Adebayo Tijani and a few others. I owe it to them for giving me many opportunities to act.
How would you rate the quality of films in Nollywood?
There are good and bad films but a lot has changed in Nollywood. The change has brought in more people, both for good and bad.
What do you do when you’re not acting?
I’m always acting because the creator of heaven and earth is always acting, too. When I’m not on a movie set, I read a lot to upgrade myself. At some point in my life, I studied a cat and even got one for myself because I think animals are the best teachers. For instance, a cat’s concentration is serious. Whenever a cat wants to get a rat, it channels its entire being into getting it. As an actor, that’s a good thing to copy. One can infuse that into any role one is asked to act. At a point, I studied lions too, but I couldn’t buy that. Basically, I do a lot of ‘stupid’ things to get better in my career.
What makes you cry easily in movies?
I got that skill from my mother; she is a very emotional person. If she laughs too hard, tears would drop from her eyes. Meanwhile, I cannot stand the tears. Even if it’s just a joke, it would affect me. I now cry without even thinking about anything deep. I know that there are some factors around me that could always make me cry.
Did you deliberately carve a niche for yourself with your crying skills?
I didn’t deliberately do that but at a time in my life, I was at the verge of creating a niche for myself so that people would recognise me. The crying was the first thing that shot me into limelight. But, when I realised that people were using that to identify me, I changed tactics so that people could know me more for other skills.
How were you able to pull off your recent one-man stage play?
It was not an easy task but if acting is like a religion to one, one has to keep upgrading so that one doesn’t stand at the same level for too long. One needs to move from one spiritual level to another.
At that time (of the stage play), I had been acting consecutively for years without having a break. But because there are a lot of people that are deeper than me, I told them to critique me as an actor. They then told me that I needed to go on a break. I also told them that I wanted something very challenging which led me to pick ‘The Prime Minister’s Son’ (the stage play). It was quite hard because I had to train hard but I knew that what I was preparing for needed a lot of inner strength and energy to stay on a stage for two hours non-stop. After all the rigorous exercises and training, I was able to swap between roles and played 12 characters. I turned down a lot of jobs because of that stage play. You can’t do a shabby stage play; the whole world would see it.
How does your fiancée handle your female fans?
That’s the reason I had to get somebody that could handle my job. The film industry’s trouble is enough but when the outside world is hot, one needs to find solace back home.
Why didn’t you go for an actress?
I didn’t want to because I know the kind of family I want to raise. Both of us cannot be out (of the house) at the same time and leave our kids with our parents; it doesn’t make sense. If I’m not around, my wife can raise the kids herself the way I want.
How do you feel when people romantically link you to many ladies?
I’m used to that already. People have a lot of misconceptions about me and they forget the fact that actors live two lives– one as the real person and secondly as an actor. One needs to have a clear understanding of who one is so that one doesn’t get depressed by what people say. My first reaction when they link me with many ladies is to laugh at the absurdity of the stories. If one pays too much attention to noise, one would put oneself in trouble.
Do you plan to retire from acting at a certain age?
I’m not going to retire till I am well advanced in age. The peak of my career will be when I act in a Hollywood film and win an Academy Award (Oscars).
Does acting foot all your bills?
Yes, it does. Many people say there is no money in acting but it’s because they have not trained themselves to meet up with some realities. Acting has done a lot of stuff for me. It has opened doors and paid my bills, and it’s still going to pay more.
What are your hobbies?
I like sleeping and reading.
Are you a fashionable person?
Yes, I am a very fashionable person. I love good shoes, rings, clothes, wristwatches and other items.