Olu Jacobs needs no introduction, he is unarguably one of the biggest Actors Nigeria has ever produced. Like his wife Joke, he got most of his training abroad, and today, he is one of the highest paid Actors in the country. In this interview with Funmi Salome Johnson, he opened up on some family secrets as well as his role in Nollywood
How do you cope, working with younger Artistes?
I work with upcoming artistes but a lot of us make some fundamental mistakes by calling people stars when they are not stars. It is our audience who call us stars, we do not call ourselves stars because it takes a lot to be a star, but unfortunately we find that we are in a nation of titles where you find an upcoming person calling himself a star even when he is not yet one and that tends to limit one’s growth and I really think it takes more than that to be a star. It takes years of work and highly appreciated work by the public before you begin to recognize one as a good actor.
Some become stars though, but I am an actor. Talking about working with on set with the upcoming artistes, it is very challenging and interesting to work with them. Some find it difficult fitting into their various characters well enough because they don’t give enough time to study the scripts well and understand the characters enough. Others find it hard interpreting their roles very well. Some times there are problems and nobody to help, so you have to do the best you can to help the situation.
But how can the situation be improved?
The government can help by providing good security and facilities to encourage stage plays because when there are lots of them, it will get the children back to school to read. If some of these books are performed on stage, it will also help the young ones understand and interprete roles better. We need the reading lists
Was there any particular movie that you find very challenging?
I study scripts well, when I read the story I understand my roles very well, I never had any problem with any.
Which is your first movie?
It was carrying up the jungle. It was shot in England.
How did you feel acting for the first time with professionals?
I felt numb, I was miserable because I have done stage plays and with stage plays, I get my reactions from my audience instantaneously. When I am getting them, I know and when I am losing them, I know and when I have them under the palm of my hand, I know.
But with film, you could not know, you are talking to a cold iron, just the lonely voice of my director saying; ‘thank you Olu, thank you, okay give me a close up of that or give a medium’ that is all you hear and I did not know how to deal with that.
I will look for signs from my director to see if there was anything, nothing given away.
Three days later you meet the director then he says ‘that was good’ just like that and he is gone. That was how I felt for the first time. You know when you are used to the theater, the difference is amazing, you make your audience on stage, if you’re sleeping, you know, you can even leave them, because they know you are in control and they will do whatever you want them to do but in film, it is not the same but after a while, you learn and you know what you are doing because you know what you want to achieve.
How much were you paid for your first professional job?
Shhh (shaking his head in disagreement).
It would be nice to know, don’t you think?
It will be nice for me to know and for you to find out. It is supposed to be private and confidential.
May be your saying it will help guide the young ones If they expect big money, they will be disappointed because you have to grow and they don’t grow in one day. Any way before they strike a deal, they would have negotiated and know whether they want to do it or not.
Having been around for so long, what is your perception of sexual harassment in Nollywood?
(Laughs) Let me tell you now categorically, I have never been sexually harassed.
But you are a man now?
Some men are being harassed
It most unlikely because this is a man’s world Don’t let anybody deceive you; it is a woman’s world as well. I think wherever you have men and women, men will fancy women and women will fancy men but some men will like to take undue advantage of situation and some women unfortunately will like to take undue advantage of some men. But I don’t think it is something you get too many people to talk about these days. It comes out, you know it happens but you find that most of the people who think they have to harass to get a favour from their actresses don’t usually do well, eventually people find out and things begin to dry up as far as job is concerned. Some of them are still around and they have gone down. Like I said, it happens both ways and I think it is much, much less than it was, because most of them have left because jobs were not coming to them anymore.
How do you handle advances from your female fans because I know you will be getting that in droves?
I really believe that for somebody to have the courage to look for my number and phone me. It must be very strong and when such ones come with compliments, I thank them and I try as much as possible to be as nice as I can. Some ring me for a while and if they have any problem they want to talk about, we talk, I give advice and everything while others ring and after a while, they call me less often and some have been phoning for two years and they are still phoning till today but not as often as they used to and most of them I have never met.
How do you feel being on the same set with your wife?
We are working, at least I know that is an actress, I am very happy and comfortable, we work very well.
Do you work as if you are working with any other person?
When it is work, it is work, but when they say, ‘cut’, ehh, you like some water, you like some juice? She will be asking me or I will be asking her. But when we are on set, we concentrate on our works and change costumes and all that. Work is work, after work then there will be plenty of time to do other things. We don’t take the time of work to do other things; after all, we came from the same house.
Since both of you are in the same career, how do you now joggle the home front and the job?
We are lucky we have children who understand the way we work and we try as much as possible to think of them too as we move around. My eldest boy is in America and I have a young boy, so it is for him we are worried about so that he doesn’t feel our absence too much.
But as things happen, when I am at home is usually when the mother will go out and as she is coming back I will be on my way out, so we are not too far from him. And sometimes this year, she went with me to Enugu and from there, I have to go to Jos and we took him with us, we spent time together and he has never been to any of the three states we went. He has never been to Enugu, Abuja and he has never been to Jos before, so, he was excited.
How did you meet you wife?
Did you ask her that question?
I want to hear from the horse’s mouth.
Am I a horse now? (Laughs) I was invited at the National Theater to help start Wole Soyinka’s ‘Jero’s Metamorphosis’ and it was the premier, so we did that at the National Theater.. After that we had a play produced for the twenty first independence anniversary and I was directing that play. We had a very heavy cast, we were about one hundred and twenty and we were having a conference and a production meeting when the door opened and I saw this lady, I have never seen her before and I said ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the lady I am going to marry’ and she gave me a look up and down, up and down and left. No sooner, we became friends and from being friends, five years later, we were married. I am not an impulsive person, I did not know why I said it, I just said it and I didn’t feel uncomfortable about it.
So what tricks have you played to keep being together after all these years of marriage and of being in the public eye?
We thank God because it is God’s blessing that supersedes everything. It is always good when God gives you your friend; when you meet your friend, life is much easier because where others fail, friendship sustains. You find that when you talk of love, love goes and comes and when it goes, it is not like one or two minutes, the friendship is constant and that remains so that when love comes back it makes it whole. She is a more than a wife, she is a mother, she is a friend, and she is very caring and generous and very deep a person.
Is she very romantic?
She is, very romantic. She is nice, sometimes I kind of… (Laughs).