How do you feel about being one of the award winning actors at the just concluded AMVCA awards?
How do I feel winning the much coveted golden plaque of the AMVCA? How do I feel winning and award on the biggest platform for filmmakers in Africa? How do I feel being in the constellation of stars and winning from a highly intense category? I feel the way I honestly said in my speech _ overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed with joy, excitement and heart-felt emotions. I had to choke it up several times to avoid breaking down in tears.
BINTA OFEGE is about mankind and destiny. Most times, human beings are on the run after money, greed, covetousness, deceit et cetera, all to feel successful but destiny has a major role to play in humans’ lives. The story of Jumoke the bread-seller is a good example. Not to digress, BINTA OFEGE has a unique never-seen-before plot style that follows the life of BINTA (Jumoke Odetola) and LIGALI (Femi Adebayo) who team up to scam everyone by executing groundbreaking tricks on their victims, but somewhere in the subplot of the story awaits the biggest twist ever in a movie. The story was written by the greatest script writer that I know in the country, Abiodun Jimoh. Coincidentally, Abiodun Jimoh also wrote the Box Office Movie Victims for my darling sister Mercy Aigbe. Victims was also in the same category with my movie and if Victims had won I would have also felt like a winner because I played a major role in Victims and it was produced by my role model, Mercy Aigbe Gentry.
I didn’t feel intimidated, I felt honoured. The nomination was like a win for me, contesting against the mega-budget movie TAXI DRIVER (OKO ASHEWO) and VICTIMS a cinema landmark. Aisha Lawal’s SHADOW was also a big potential but of course BINTA OFEGE has a great appeal because of the unique storyline. The MD of IbakaTV Mr. Blessed said he was pleasantly shocked to see that after 6 months of BINTA upload on Ibaka, it is still trending. Trending at IbakaTV means it is still among the top 5 most viewed. He further said among the top 5, Binta was the only Yoruba movie. What does that say? it means BINTA OFEGE is a dynamite which is ready to explode anywhere.
What are the challenges of being up and actress in the industry?
As a fresh actress and producer I think the major challenge for me is in getting sponsors/partnership for your production. Faces of veterans open doors more than that of freshers, and many are sceptical to invest in them but I think that is about to change now because already we have about four potential investors discussing with us
Do you think winning the award will make an impact on you and career?
Like I just said, since this award on Saturday night, we’ve had about four potential sponsors talking to us, that means winning the AMVCA has begun, almost immediately, to have impacts on me and my career.
When did you first know you wanted to become an actress?
It started with Omotola Jalade – Ekehinde. As a young girl, I watched a movie titled Mortal Inheritance and I fell in love with this movie so much so I watched it like a hundred times. Then I began paying attention to Omotola, any movie that she featured in, I watched it then I would think to myself that I could do what she was doing. Then I started nursing the ambition secretly because from the type of home I came from, you don’t want to say it openly that you aspire to be an actress. My father’s children would rather grow up to be Engineers, Medical Practitioners or Financial Managers. My dad managed to influence all my elder ones to be what he wanted but as the last child of the family, I believed at this stage, one child out of the rest could be excused.
Where did you learn how to act?
I will say it’s more of a raw talent but notwithstanding, a raw talent needs to be trained, so I started making enquiries about Royal Arts Academy, how to enlist and nurture my dreams from there. It was during these enquiries that I bumped into someone who advised me to try a training outfit closer to my house. This friend introduced me to Prodigy and Pens Communications, a film production outfit with a department for training and grooming actors, production managers, writers and directors. I located the office, then at Ilupeju, now at Oregun and the practical training as an actress/presenter began immediately. I also got a crash training in scriptwriting.
what was growing up like?
Fun! I was the last child and I enjoyed everything. Almost became a spoilt-brat but thanks to my immediate elder sister Kemi, who intermittently got in the way of some dots and attentions I got from everyone (laughs) she was always contesting my last born status and thereby wanting everything I wanted. We fought most of the times and she got blamed all the time. Sister Kemi and I later grew up to be the ones with the closest bonds. She became my confidant, as a matter of fact, she was the first human being on earth that got to know about my interest in Nollywood and she encouraged me Go for it girl! When I asked her what daddy would say, she said we would start behind his back, gradually, he would know, hopefully by then, it would be too late. My dad passed on the day we finished the shoot of BINTA OFEGE, it was very emotional for me, that is why I dedicated the movie to him. I think it is also noteworthy here to mention that I confessed to my dad on his sick bed that I have started acting. Surprisingly, he smiled and said he knew, he said he saw me and he was proud of me when he saw his name ODETOLA on TV, written across the chest of his daughter. Imagine how he would have felt if he was alive, seeing me receiving that award at the AMVCA.
Tell us about you? Background
Well, my name is Jumoke Olamide Ajoke Odetola a.k.a Jeyten ak.a. Binta Ofege. I was born October 16th, late 80s (laughs). I was born into the homes of Apostolic Parents last child in the family. I hailed from Abeokuta, Ogun State. Attended Abati Nursery and Primary School, then Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta. A graduate of Information and Communication Technology from Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo. A first class student (laughs), though narrowly escaped it on my certificate in my final year with a GP of 4.3. Many of ACU mates are yet to recover from why I chose acting because they knew me as a very quiet student in school. I continued with my Master’s program with Computer Science at University of Agriculture, Abeokuta but I deffered the program for the sake of acting (laughs), will have to finish that soon though, because my father wanted all his children to have a minimum of Master’s Degree. Soon I’ll be going back and it’s going to be my choice.
Do you think you really understood what you were in for when you decided you wanted to become and actress? give reason(s) to back up your answers
Well, I knew what I wanted but I didn’t have the full cognisance of the drills actors go through on set. The easiest part of a movie is sitting before the screen, watching it. Writing, planning, acting and editing them is a different ball game. Acting is not all about glitz and glamours on set. It is also a vigorous, rigorous drill. You are like a soldier, you could be asked to perform any task. Risky, dangerous or irritating. For instance, naturally, I am someone who is easily irritated by dirt but on the set of BINTA OFEGE, the script says that I would be dropped in a junkyard and the location manager found a real junkyard and the director insisted I would be dropped on this ground. I cried to my co-producer and boss, Abiodun Jimoh, whispering if we could find a different location, he only smiled and said ‘life of an actor, you’ve got to do it girl’. Then I did it. You don’t want me to give you graphics, but when you see the movie you’ll understand. But of course, that is the profession and I was happy I got challenged and I conquered it.
What was the first movie you ever did? what is it all about, your role, the year
Heroes and Zeros (Koga Studios, 2012) directed by Niji Akanni. I played the role of a prying journalist. After Heroes and Zeros, I went for my NYSC in Abia State. I came back in 2013 and I resumed acting. Since then, I have not stopped.
Which movie would you say brought you into limelight?
VICTIMS, produced by Mercy Aigbe-Gentry, directed by Lancelot Imasuen and written by Abiodun Jimoh. I played the role of IBILOLA, a desperate housemaid. Everyone who watched the movie at the Cinema or on Ibaka online had so many things to say about me. The script inspired me, the director did a fantastic job on me and of course my dearest Nollywood sister Mercy Aigbe did a wonderful job encouraging me all through the production. Before VICTIMS, there was a series EWUJU ati OLODE (Bushmeat and the Hunter), my role as beautiful lady who married a rich, dying illiterate because I planned to inherit his wealth also got me a lot of recognitions. Wherever I went, people screamed ‘Iyawo Baba Legba (Baba Legba’s wife).
What character was the toughest for you to change into?
On the set of AMAKA IGWE’s last production ‘The Infinity Hospital’ I played a role of a mother with a dying son. The role itself was not difficult to interprete, but it was very difficult for myself, the director and almost all the production crew to the see that scene through. It was too emotional. I cried (truly now, not acting), the director had tears in her eyes and several times we cut. The crew were also moved. To worsen the case, this dying boy was intelligent, deep and philosophical and he talked as if he knew what was coming, yet satisfied with it. There was something scary about that scene and I never forget it.
How do you see the Nigerian movie industry of today?
When I was growing up, many Nigerian Youth preferred foreign music, today you can’t even differentiate between Nigerian Musical Videos and those from America and today, our youth prefer Nigerian music. Today, I see the Nigerian movie industry following that trend. Our technical crews are up to date, our stories are becoming very relevant in the world. What is lacking now is the fund. The big investments from corporate organisations is still lacking, especially, in the area of indigenous language movies. We pay more attention to movies in English Language, that is why Nigeria has never had a film nominated at the Oscars, because Oscar will never nominate your film in English language in the category of their Best International Film. South Africa, Sudan, Egypt has made it to the Oscars but Nigeria, the biggest in Africa has not. We need to start investing in our indigenous language, that is why my partner and I have decided to do at least one indigenous language movie every year, even though we produce English and Hausa movies too.
What is the best and worst part of being an actor?
The best part is the fame, recognition and the way your face open doors, the not-too-good part is losing your privacy. Sometimes I want to park my car and buy roasted corn, that is fast becoming an issue, because I once met a guy who smiled and said ‘Oh, so you too eat corn’ (laughs) for God’s sake I am human, I’ve got to eat.
What makes you special and unique as an actress in a whirlpool thriving with newcomers and existing actors who have made their names in the industry?
Well, I can’t see myself entirely but I believe in me. People have always made reference to my voice. My boss and Manager, Abiodun Jimoh said it was my ability to fit into an English speaking role and Yoruba speaking role very well. He said only few people have the beauty and those abilities. More importantly for me is the ability to learn, explore, focus and draw out a clear vision and goals.
Who is your favorite actor?
Today, I am crazy about Mercy Aigbe, Funke Akindele, Nse Nkpe Etim, Majid Michel, Ramsey Nouah and Ireti Doyle. But like I said earlier, I am a die-hard fan of Omotola Jalade Ekehinde, moreso because people say we look alike. I’m not sure about that though.
Which actor(s) inspires you and why?
Omotola Ekehinde, Mercy Aigbe, Genevieve Nnaji and Kimberly Elise. Omotola, I guess you now know why, Mercy Aigbe (unlike most of her contemporaries) received me with open arms into the industry. Genevieve Nnaji because of her survivor spirit, just like Kimberly Elise of Hollywood, Genevieve made it to the top without much (if there was any at all) negative stories in the press _ without controversies. I believe a star’s life doesn’t always have to be about controversies, drugs and fights. We can live our lives decently, professionally and with hard work, we make it to the top, by God’s grace
Is there any way these people have helped to improve your acting skills or contributed to your career? Give details
Yes. And I have talked about how, earlier. Omotola inspired me to start, Mercy Aigbe received me. Kimberly and Genevieve I use as a set goal. Get to the top without unnecessary controversies.
Are you working on any current project?
Yes. Three for the year, God willing.
What career would you have ventured into aside acting?
I would have become an Information Technologist. My dad already had the plans with his partners in Germany. I would have finished my Master’s program now and I would have been in Germany. First, learning basic German in six months and starting work in a company in Germany. My dad had all these worked out and I kept praying silently that may it not work (laughs).
What are your hobbies?
Reading, Writing, Travelling. Watching Lekki Wives, Empire and other interesting series.
May we know your relationship status?
Married to the job (laughs). I am single and focused (on my career), right now
Being a movie star, do you think the fame will affect your relationship with your family and friends?
No. I have always known what I wanted to be, who I wanted to be. My relationship remains the same all the time. Simple, loving, emotional me. Then I keep my circle small. As a philosopher said ‘a person who has many friends, has no friend’. So I keep my circle small.
Now that you’ve been recognised as a winner in the industry, what do you think the expectations are and how do you intend to live up to the expectations?
Keep up the good work. Humility and professionalism is key. Then I’ll never stop producing good contents. It is not how long or how much, it is how good. I am for good contents and I am lucky to have a good team. At Prodigy and Pens Communications, the guys just know what they are doing. I am glad to be a family.