Adekemi Bakare, popularly known as Skerry, is an actress and a rapper. Her childhood dream was to be a medical doctor, but she ended up studying Electrical Electronics at the University of Ibadan and graduated in 2000. Right from secondary school she belonged to a group musical called ‘Fly Girls’. At the university, she got three awards – best female rapper, best female dancer, and the hardest Babe on campus. But she never thought of acting as a career. In this Interview with RONKE KEHINDE, she talks about her journey into the entertainment world, her sojourn in the U.S., where she worked as a banker, and how Ayo Adesanya brought her into Nollywood.
You’re a graduate of Engineering, why did you decide to go into acting?
I’ve passion for entertainment. I sing too and I rap. I started in the United States; I always go for talent shows, dual with other artists. I go for auditioning in movies in Texas. I was with Papa Gee Investment. I go for rehearsal every week while I was still working. When I came back to Nigeria in 2008 fully, I was like why don’t I start acting. I just go back and forth now. I started with Neehan productions by Ayo Adesanya; from there I’m now on my own. I now have my production crew called La-Skerry Productions, where I have instructors who lecture people on anything that have to do with film making. I produced my own movie ‘Eya Arami’ that was my first production. Before then I featured in other movies like – ‘Ajaga’, ‘Oju Eledumare’, and ‘Osuka’. I’ve featured in other productions as well and I just finished another of my production titled ‘Paramole’, which will soon be out.
How would you rate Nollywood to Hollywood?
We are not there yet but we’ll get there. The problem we have in Nollywood is that some producers don’t have funds to produce their own movies. They will either be in other people’s movie. Marketers sponsor some productions, the problem now is that if you don’t have money you can have a plan that if I shoot this movie; this is the message I want to pass across to the public. If you don’t have the money the plan dies there. That is one of the problems we have in the industry.
What do you think is the way out?
Government should give us subsidy. Right now if you shoot a movie for N1 million, and you take it to marketers, they will price it down for you. They will offer you N400, 000 for it; how is that going to be encouraging. Nobody wants to do a business and run at a loss. You will now be carrying the preview copy all about and the marketers will be saying the same thing because there is a clique. You’ll not be encouraged to shoot a movie; you’ll be like ‘I’ll rather invest in another thing than put my money in movie production.
How have you been coping with the productions you’ve done?
My husband is the Executive Producer; he gives me the money for the productions. He’s the one that finances the movie. But after final production we’ll give it to marketers, the money they’ll offer is still not encouraging. Right now my husband is planning to join the marketing slot too. Sincerely what’s going on now is that once a marketer gives you money to shoot a movie, they will make all the profit, you’ll just get your own royalty. Most producers are not bold enough to say it, they could give you N400, 000 that go and shoot this movie. A producer that is hungry will take the money and do anyhow movie. The producer is rest assured that it’s the marketer that is selling the movie, he will collect his royalty. If you’re a producer and a marketer gives you money to shoot a movie, would you spend all the money to produce the movie. Of course you’ll put some in your pocket. What they do now is that they go to actors, their colleagues and ask them to come and play a role in their movie and they will give them peanuts so that they will be able to manage the money, and be able to put some in their pockets; but all the millions will go to the marketer’s pocket. That producer will not eat if he did not do that.
Like you said that your husband will soon join the marketing slot, is that the way out?
We need to put sentiment into it now; having a marketer in the house is a way out. That way if you shoot a movie, you already know that this is how much that will come back to the house. You will be gaining a lot instead of giving it to the outside marketers. Another thing people are doing now is that they are marketing the movie on their own. They will shoot a film, put in a CD, do posters, and hire a bus to market it all around. They know they will still have more than what the marketer is offering them. That also means they will spend more money, after the production, the producer will still do post production, which is where the marketer should come in.
You read Engineering, how is it related to what you’re doing now?
When growing up my parents wanted me to read medicine, I was a pure science student, I didn’t write my WAEC twice. I so much believed that I could never be an art student because I didn’t know how to cram. I couldn’t do all those history stuff. Give me formula let me calculate. I actually wanted to read medicine, but my cut off mark was lower. I had to go to the Polytechnic for two years still writing JAMB to write medicine. I did not write Poly JAMB, so I had to go through prelim with merit. The Dean of that faculty told me: ‘So, you’re one of those people that do not want to go to the Polytechnic; look at you now, you did not write Poly JAMB, you’re bringing merit to do prelim’. Prelim was meant for those who didn’t have credit. I did engineering there, but I was still writing UNI JAMB. My marks kept going higher, but I did not reach the cut off mark to study medicine. The cut off mark for medicine was very high then, I still went to the University to do Electrical Electronics in University of Ibadan. I finished my degree in 2000; the same year, I went to the United States of America. I got married there and I took other courses over there. I did Computer Analysis; I did Medical and Dental - office programs, QA Testing- Quality Assurance, and I did CNN- Nursing Aid. I did those especially when I was pregnant. I didn’t just want to sit down. I like studying a lot. I’ll just take a course, register for it, and I’ll always come out with good point.
How then did you get involved in entertainment?
My friend told me they were auditioning for one movie, so I went there.
Before that, were you thinking of becoming an actress?
Not really, I was really into rap and music. When I was in secondary school I had my group called ‘Fly Girls’. We do all the competition dances. We go for inter secondary school competitions. I rap and at the same time I do the combo with them, I used to train them. Mention any group in Ibadan, Fly Girls was leading. I even got like three awards; I got best female dancer, best female rapper and the Hardest Babe on Campus. I was so sociable. The artistic thing has been in me. I was just doing my thing; it doesn’t even affect my study. But I never thought I would be an actress. When my colleague in the United States told me: ‘La-Skerry, I’m going for a talent show, there is this song I put together, I don’t know if you can rap it, I said fine, let’s go. I added my own lines and we went for the show. Arista record over there started calling me, saying: ‘Please we have a show at this place will you be able to come and perform there?’ I was like: ‘I wasn’t serious about this o, I was just doing this for fun’. My husband would be laughing at me, he would say: ‘You better don’t kill yourself, how many things do you want to do’. At the same time I was in the church choir, I would go for choir practice and sometimes it would clash with my movie audition. I was just doing it then, it was like extra curricula activities for me. When I got to Nigeria, I saw Ayo Adesanya when I took my kids to Fun Place. I said AY; she said this face looks familiar. I said Saint Ann’s School. She said ‘where have you been since’? I said well I have been in the United States, I’m back for good now. I later told her I’ll like to be acting. She said: ‘Why’. I asked her ‘why are you acting’? She laughed and now gave me her number. That was how I started.
Ayo is well known for English movie not much of Yoruba that you’re known for. Have you done any English production before?
I will say: Yes and No because we did one English movie, she played my friend there but I can’t remember the title of the movie. I just did my own part there, it was one Yoruba artist that produced the movie; maybe that’s why the movie didn’t hit the market like that. I’ve not even seen the movie, but I know that I played like three roles there. That was my first English movie in Nigeria. She produces Yoruba movies now. In English movies you don’t see much of Yoruba speaking actress there. I think they so much believe in their Igbo actors and actresses. Even if their English is not correct they don’t care, as long as you bear Ibo names, you’re good for it. That is what is affecting Yoruba actors and actresses now. We are planning an English soap opera.
Is your husband hundred per cent supportive of your acting career?
Yes, if he’s not supportive he won’t fund my production and he’s always there when we are shooting.
You have a theatre group now, what is the group planning for the future?
We prepare upcoming artistes for everything that has to do with film making, like costuming, continuity, make up artistry, photography, cinematography. We meet every weekend; we do theories and we rehearse too. It’s not everybody that will be an actor or an actress. You may think you want to become an actor but you may fall in love with being behind the camera. You may be the DOP – Director of Photography or being a makeup artist.
You said you can sing and you even got an award, can you still sing?
There is this song that I did in Nigeria. A guy was with me, he sings too; he told me: ‘Skerry, I have a song and I want us to do it together. We went to the studio and we did a single track. We only did the promo copy and we gave them out. It’s still there, people are asking us to do the video and I said I’ll do it because I have many stuffs that I’m doing. I’m taking my time. All the sound tracks in my movies I do it.
You read Electrical Electronics, and also did many other courses along the line, are you going to end up just as an actress?
I have a beauty shop which I also had in U.S; I cannot open a shop if I don’t have a certificate. So I went for a Cosmetology class, so I can have the license. I think your talent can never fail you. When I was in the US, my husband didn’t want me to work, although I worked for some months and I’ll leave. Later I’ll say let me go and work again. Working for someone is not easy and nursing a baby at the same time. I worked in a Bank, First Convenient Bank in Texas. I also worked with financial companies like collection agencies, people that will ask you that you’ve not paid for your credit card, if it’s due. I did not work with the Nursing Assistant Programme that I did. There they base you on experience, I’ve been in the financial sector, so if I’m looking for another job that’s what you can give them as resume. It’s like telling them what you’ve done in the past.
Most Africans in the US do menial jobs, how come you got an office job?
My husband was a realtor. He sells houses over there. He told me I didn’t have to work. He said: ‘You’re not paying bills, women that work are those that are sharing bills with their husbands, what’s your problem’. I told him I can’t let him be doing everything. I said let me work, I can still help my siblings at home. I’ll work for sometime, and then he will be complaining that you don’t have time for the kids, and then I’ll stop. Later I’ll pick my resume again, there’s no time that I wanted to work that I won’t be hired, I’ve what to show and defend it. I never did menial jobs.
Tell us some of the movies you’ve participated in?
Paramole, Osunmare, Yegiyegi, Oju-oro, and many others.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
My role model is Joke Silver. Funke Akindele is a very good actress too.
We have many great and talented actors and actresses in Nollywood. What do you think you can offer differently?
I like challenging roles. Now everybody sees me as an Americana, but I can play a tout, for real. I can play a rustic, a girl from the village. But if you’ve not done it, they can’t see it.
Share with us some memorable moments of your life?
One memorable moment in my life was my wedding day. I got married in the U.S in 2001.
How did you meet your spouse?
We met when I was in The Polytechnic Ibadan; he was my senior. When I was in ND1, he was already leaving but we were dating.
What qualities attracted you to him?
He was a very good man and he still is. The courtship was short about a year before he travelled. We didn’t plan marriage. I joined him after three years. He’s a very good man. He’s kind, he’s understanding. He’s everything I want in a man. He lets me do my things. He tells people: ‘If that’s what she wants to do, why won’t I let her do it. She will let me do my own thing too.’ It’s based on understanding and I think he enjoys it too. He’s always there whenever we’re shooting especially our own movie. He would carry extra camera to have the making of the movie. He enjoys it but he said he would never act. But I think he can act.