Yemi Ayebo, aka Yemi My Lover, remember him? He is one of Nigeria's long-standing faces in the Yoruba-speaking genre of the Nigerian movie industry, Nollywood. He hit the limelight at the beginning of the movie industry in the early 90s with his daring stunts in movies.
Those who know the dark-skinned actor are aware that he was shot to limelight, following the agile, acrobatic and daring, even outright dangerous roles he constantly took up in films he was cast in.
Some of his popular works like Yemi in the Moon, Madanwo and a host of others, have remained evergreen in the memories of Yoruba movie watchers. Just as he started, he suddenly disappeared from the scenes with his stunts, leading to rumours over what may have been responsible for his exit.
But in this exclusive interview, the veteran actor, for the first time, revealed the real reasons why he threw in the towel and stopped taking up stunt-roles in his works.
The actor, who hails from Ondo State, revealed how he got hooked to the dangerous roles and his 26 years of experience as an actor. He also demystified the dark reports about actors plotting the deaths of fellow actors a few years ago when the Yoruba-speaking genre of Nollywood almost became synonymous with deaths.
How I became Yemi my Lover
Yemi my Lover was the title of a film that I produced in the early 90s. The film had parts one and two and shot me into limelight.
The birth and death of stunts
I just decided to veer a bit off the peculiar roles. Yemi my Lover is very unique. We can't all be doing the same thing. The industry is large and it leaves a whole lot of room for creativity. The late Hubert Ogunde had his own style. The same went for Baba Sala, Ade Love and the rest of the great ones. They all had their own uniqueness and that always stood them out from the crowd. They all had their own individual identities. They had their own styles so I believe the acrobatic roles and stunt-filled roles formed a platform for my identity. It was all aimed at creating an identity for myself and I thank God I was able to accomplish that. Today, Yemi my Lover has come of age and that maturity extends to my movies. I still act but I don't jump anymore. This is not to say that I derailed from my foundation but I am just more mature than what we used to have when I started.
How I started acting
I started acting as far back as 1983 when I was in secondary school. I have always had the passion in me and that is my driving factor. I believe God gave me the talent for acting and it cannot be hidden. The truth of the matter is that when you have a talent and you are not given an opportunity or medium to express that talent, you will find yourself running helter-skelter. That almost happened to me when I was starting out but I thank God that as time went by, things picked up and today, the rest is history.
Reaction of parents
My dad is now late but when he was alive and I told him I had made up my mind to become an actor, he didn't like it at all. I made him realise he could not choose for me. He tried all he could to dissuade me but I remained adamant.
The Nigerian movie industry today
The industry is growing. There's no doubt about the fact that it should have been more rapid than what we have today. We are not growing rapidly and this is because of those who are now coming into the system. They want to make money and that is what they give priority to. What they fail to understand is that when you are coming into this industry, you don't have to concentrate so much on making money. What should take prominence is the impact you intend to have on the industry. However, 90 per cent of actors coming into the system today want to get rich as quickly as possible. For them, it's all about the money and that is wrong. They have to realise that it is not all about the money alone. There's much more to acting than just money. The industry would grow much faster than it is now if not for the attitude of today's actors. In 10 years from now, we should be closer to those in the Western world but today, with what I'm seeing, I'm afraid, we are not growing rapidly. Rather, the pace is very slow and it because of the love of money.
Finance and lack of knowledge are some of the biggest problems facing the movie industry, today. Some have the money and don't have the knowledge. Some have the knowledge but don't have the money. I want to appeal to the government, the public and the corporate bodies to come and invest because it is a very profitable industry.
Secret of looking healthy
It's God's grace and my wife. She takes very good care of me and vice-versa.
Deaths in the industry
Don't mind them. How can we be killing each other in the movie industry? If that is the case, then we should all be dead by now. That is the wrong impression a lot of people have. Have they forgotten that a mechanic, a vulcaniser and any other person out there could die, so it is not restricted to the movie industry alone? Any human being can die at anytime. It is not peculair to the acting world alone. Anybody can die at anytime.