Bimbo Akintola is an experienced actress who has been in the industry for over a decade. She showed her versatility in The Mourning After where she plays a widow-she goes through a range of emotions from sad, depressed to almost insane. She had to cut off her hair to properly portray the part. So far Bimbo has featured in over 80 movies. In this interview with Correspondent, Franka Nwusulor, Bimbo talked on her career and her new project, a 52-episode soap called ‘The Circle of Three’.

You started with English movies but recently you seem to be focusing on the Yoruba arm of the industry.

I’m not trying to cross over. I still do English, Freedom in Chain is English, and I don’t think there is any difference. It’s basically the same thing, it’s just that one speaks English while the other Yoruba. The Nigeria movie industry includes the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo and there is no difference. It’s easy acting in Yoruba because I’m Yoruba.

You have been in the industry for a long time. How has it been so far?

It’s been good. This is what I have wanted to do so it’s been good. There is the good side and there has been the rough side but generally it’s been fine.

Which of your many films would you say is your favourite?

I don’t really have any favourite movie but there are certain characters I must say I fell in love with. Like my character in Out of Bounds, The Mourning After and Husband and Wife. A few other films as well.

Would you cut your hair again to interpret a film like you did in The Mourning After?

If it moves the story from point A to point B then definitely yes I will.

How much were you paid?

Money makes life easier but it doesn’t make life better, in the sense that it doesn’t give you happiness. I’ll tell you, I did not collect a dime to cut my hair. I read the script, it was part of the script and I felt I don’t have a problem doing that, so I cut it. It’s when you are ugly that you can have a problem with such. Look, this is all about my professionalism, as a professional, if you are a doctor for instance, and you are given a patient to operate on, will you say you won’t because the patience is black or yellow? So, if a script comes to me and it has little extras like shaving off the hair and all that, then yes I will as long as it moves the story from point A to point B, as long as it doesn’t go against our tradition then its fine with me.

What film are you working on now?

I have a film that is out right now. It’s a Yoruba film and I recorded it two years ago. It’s titled Aiye Aramide that is, the life of Aramide.

There are so many things in Nigeria that are hidden that we don’t talk about. One of such things is the usage of drugs. We have people who are hooked on drugs, we have people who are addicted to cocaine but we don’t talk about it. We are in denial but these things do exist. I think we should talk about it. I have seen people who are drug users and I think we should talk about it. I believe that every film that one participates in should try to change something. So, what my film is talking about is that we do have drug users in this country, people who are addicted to drugs, and the kind of pressure that can push you into drug. Sometimes it takes very little to be hooked on drugs. Basically, the film is about a girl, Aramide who because of the experiences she had in the village, came to the city where she thinks everything is bright and perfect. Unfortunately for her, she finds this to be wrong. That people in the city work as hard as those in the village and sometimes even suffer more. She is here looking for a job and somehow gets hooked up to this girl and she starts dancing in the club. For her to adapt to the new lifestyle, she gets introduced to drugs. The film has casts like Gloria Young, Keppy Bassy Ekpenyong, Ronke Oshodi Oke, Femi Branch, some friends and I.

What else are you working on?

Right now I’m working on a 52-episode soap.

How do you combine writing, producing and acting at the same time?

I don’t write and don’t know how to write a story. I have ideas for the stories and leave the writing for the good hands. The story is mine for the soap and the movie but developing them into scripts is for the professionals.

How about directing?

I’m thinking of trying my hands on that but I don’t believe in doing too many things at the same time. But I’m studying directing by working with other directors. I think I’m fascinated with the idea of sending across my own interpretation of a produced work.

What do you do aside acting and production?

I’ve presented programmes, I have anchored shows like Mr. Nigeria World, the launch of Samsung Blue Eyes and others.

If you were not acting what would you have been doing?

I would have been a fantastic musician, and I would have been making plenty of money.

Do you see yourself as a good singer?

I sang the sound track for Aiye Aramide. My sister sang, my brother sang, we all sang the sound track. But then acting has taking the bigger part of me and what is left over is probably not enough for singing. But even if I come back to this life a thousand times, I would probably be an actress. But if God had said no to that, I would have ended up a musician.

Did you ever know you were going to act?

When I was in primary school I was always a part of a drama society but I never thought I was going to be a professional actress. I guess most people don’t think of what they will do in primary school, I never thought of that until much later when I was in secondary school.

You read theatre arts at the university. Was it deliberate?

My first choice was theatre arts, it wasn’t a mistake. I deliberately wanted to study theatre. I started with a diploma in theatre arts at the University of Ibadan because I was told that was the best programme in theater arts.

What does it take to be a producer?

A producer is one who gets the funding and probably gets the hands for the film. I think with all my years of experience in Nollywood I have been able to know the good and bad eggs. I have worked with most of them so I think that based on that, I make a pretty good producer. I have produced one film for myself and quite a few for Nollywood Concept Promotion Limited. It’s a company that is run by me, and quite a few others. We have done something for the United States-Freedom in Chain and several other movies that we are producing for them.

What else are you working on right now?

By December I’m going to shoot another Yoruba movie.

Why Yoruba movies?

Because I think its time for us to go back to who we are. I think it’s time for us to promote our culture, to be proud Nigerians. I think a lot of us are losing our ‘Nigerianness’ and becoming too ‘oyibonised.’ I never really thought of it that way at first but now I’m doing it deliberately. I think we need to promote our culture as best as we can. We need to show people how beautiful our culture is, the beauty of our language.

As a producer, what are the problems you face in the course of production?

Things might not go right with the scheduling, because when you set a date, all the actors might not be around on that date. You are working with a large crowd, the costume person, the make up artists, the set designer and the actors. They all have their temperaments and we all have to be in sync. This is basically the problem we face.

What about the marketing of the film?

I don’t have any problem with that. I shot Aiye Aramide two years ago, sold it two months ago and collected my money. I sell and I collect my money upfront.

So how rich will you say you are right now?

I don’t think its any body’s business. I think it’s rather drab to talk about money.

Okay. How successful would you say you are?

Successful is different from rich. I think I have achieved most of the things I wanted to achieve as a child. I think most of the things I wanted to achieve I have achieved but as you go along you have other aspirations and new dreams. For my adulthood dreams, I’m working on them.

Can we know some of these adult dreams?

Being a better actress and producer. Touching people’s live.

I can be temperamental. I’m easy to get along with; I talk to anybody and everybody. I went to Maryland Convent Private School and Command Day Secondary School and the University of Ibadan. I’m the third out of six children. I love singing, dancing, I work hard and I believe in playing hard. I write poetry but for my own consumption.

When are we expecting the wedding bells?

When I find that man that I can wake up and look at for the rest of my life I will marry.

So what’s your secret to success?

God. I believe I have a talent for acting and it is God that gave me that talent. I believe that if you have a talent for something you must succeed, especially if you have passion for it.

But how did you manage to rise in the industry that has basically guys at the top?

The good thing is that I have been able to get along with men. My best friends have always been men, but what I do is that I focus on what I want to achieve and I don’t stop until I achieve it, no matter how long. I think that the men in my industry are rather enlightened. Also some companies are used to dealing with women because you have women at the key places in these companies. Because of that, the project I’m working on right now was like a gift. It’s not something I worked for, it sort of came to me. We met and had a discussion, it’s a soap and the name is called Circle of Three. It’s going to be on TV sometime next year. It’s about three girls in their late 30s who are not married, and the subtle pressures being put on them because they are not married. For the casts we have Stella Damasus, Kate Henshaw and Iretiola Doyle. We are the old women in the soap (laughs), and you get to follow each woman’s life and all the mistakes that they made because of pressure. I’m talking to older women here. A man does not define us; we are defined by what we achieve, who we are and what we do. Having a man is fine but if it doesn’t happen, fine; live your life and enjoy as best as you can, and have children!

Are you trying to say if a woman is not married she should just live her life?

If you are married does it make you happier? If marriage doesn’t bring you happiness why should you be happy? I don’t believe in anybody staying anywhere and suffering for whatever reason. I think life is too short and we are supposed to make the best of it. Don’t settle for second best, be happy. If you look at Lagos, how many married women are happy? I don’t know many, out of my friends I know like five and that is bad.

So how will the person cope with the issue of companionship if she is not married?

Adopt children, touch other people’s life. Enjoy your life; I think marriage is a beautiful relationship when you are married for the right reason, there are so many young girls I see everyday and I get miserable just because they are miserable in their marriages.

By Franka Nwusulor