Funsho Adeolu is, undoubtedly, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing actors. The indigene of Ikale, Ondo State is also a psychologist who studied Guidance and Counseling. In this interview with RONKE KEHINDE and AUGUSTA EYIDE, he talks about how he wanted to become a lawyer but ended up an actor and what attracted him to his wife, Victoria.

How and when did you become an actor?

It all started in 1987. I joined a group in Festac, Lagos. We called it ‘Money Desk’. It was started by Niyi Oyemakinde. He is a radio broadcaster now and also a TV and radio presenter. It was all a stage thing then and Antar Laniyan was the director. That was basically how I started. He saw the potential in me.

What was your childhood dream?

I wanted to become a lawyer but I never reached the cut-off mark for the University of Ife. Thereafter, I knew I was going to be an actor because I started acting during my A levels. I knew that even if I went to school, I would still end up being an actor. It was actually a dream for me to become an entertainer because I noticed I was gunning for anything entertainment at that time. I was doing strictly music, dance and everything that had to do with facing people.

Who influenced you to become an actor?

It was Niyi Oyemakinde who brought me into that line and then Antar Laniyan encouraged me fully. He was also the person who brought me into TV.

What film do you think brought you to limelight?

I have done so many films. I was into English films before I started doing Yoruba films. The English soaps brought me to limelight. I used to do Palace on AIT. It was a very popular soap then. For Yoruba, Ale Ariwo brought me out but I got an award for Iyan ogun odun produced and directed by Antar Laniyan but Ale Ariwo did the big magic.

Tell us about a memorable moment with fans.

To me, it is now like a normal thing. Some people would ask you if they could hug you, some ladies even say can you sign anywhere on my body while some would want to have a relationship with you. When it started I asked myself “why can’t I live a normal life”? Because I used to get annoyed when some even go as far as asking me for money saying: a nyo si yin lorun. For example, I come to shoot a movie in an area; some would come to ask for money for shooting in the area. It’s always very funny and I know that people are not enlightened yet.

Share with us some of the challenges you face in the Nigerian film industry.

Apart from the fact that our take home pay is not commensurate with our work, we have challenges of low financiers and the government is not interested in making money from the entertainment industry but there is a lot of money there. For us practitioners, we cannot make the kind of money that the government will make. We just go there, act, and collect our money and go. There are a lot of challenges for anybody that is coming into the industry. Family is one of it. For me, when I’m determined to do anything, I don’t see it as a challenge but as work hazards. If you want to be anything in life, you must go through a process. One should see it as normal to attain his or her greatest height. For general challenges in the industry, you encounter people who aren’t trained actors. For instance, I didn’t study Theatre Arts, but I have seen so much, I’ve seen a lot, so you can call me a theatre person but I won’t say it was a formal thing. For me, it was an informal training I got. That’s why so many people take advantage of this and come in at will. You can decide to be an actress tomorrow and nobody will stop you because we have a system that is not organised.

When did you join Nollywood?

When we talk about Nollywood, most people get the wrong impression about Nollywood. You can’t call an American actor and ask him when he joined Hollywood. My point is that Nollywood is not supposed to be an association, but a name except we are talking about the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and we also have the ANTP which can pass for associations but it now seems that there is a division. ANTP is for Yoruba movie actors while AGN is for English movies, which shouldn’t so. There is no particular umbrella where everybody is supposed to be under. We have so many things not in the right place but if we have an umbrella, things would be done differently.

Tell us about your family background?

I am an Ikale man from Ondo state. I’m the second of five children.

Most embarrassing thing a woman has told you?

An Ogun State lady once asked me why I was marrying someone that was not from my state and that she was coming to Nigeria to marry me. So I said “good luck, go to your house and bring your family to ask for my hand in marriage”

How did you meet your wife?

I met my wife in front of Zeb Ejiro’s office. She was just standing there looking very simple and I love simple people. She was looking homely and reserved. We got talking and then we became friends for eight years before we got married. She can sing and these are the qualities I prayed for in a wife. I used to invite her to my church to sing. She was into acting, make-up and behind camera stuff. Her name is Victoria but she prefers being called Iboro, her native name. My dad was not against our marrying each other while my mum at first felt anybody that is not Yoruba is Igbo and that their culture is not very good for us. I made her see reasons with me and she was impressed. She feels this is a daughter she never had.

Can we know some of the achievements you have had with your wealth of experience?

I have been best actor since year 2000. As an actor, I have been able to make an impact on people’s lives. I’ve touched so many lives, families that have been broken for five years I brought them back by watching a movie that I did. A man who has a child with Down syndrome was always hiding him. He cried when he was talking to me, he gave me 100,000 naira for watching Omo ni kara. He said I had done so much to him that I didn’t know. I was an imbecile from the beginning to the end. I studied that character for 13 years. Anywhere they see me, they say I’m their friend; I can pack and give them a hug. I directed the movie and I did the sound track. That man said that after watching the movie, he was always taking that child out. My name in the movie is Boluwatife and the name of his child also is Boluwatife, and I did not know about it. He could relate to the story because he has a son who was sort of malformed like my character in the movie. He used to hide his son because he was ashamed of him but he doesn’t anymore after he watched my movie.

What determines the scripts to do?

It must be a good one. Whether the role is challenging or not I would want to know who is directing it. For me, a good script and a good director determine it but right now the producer is important.

You were the MC at an occasion I attended recently, and you were able to make us laugh so much that I wondered how you learnt to do all that?

I read Guidance and Counseling, I’m a psychologist, so I know how to handle people. You laugh because I’m already a name that you know and you like. I’m a complete theatre person. I’ve a band with which I play at occasions; I can play any kind of musical instrument. I sing any kind of songs apart from Fuji. I started from church so I still play classic, I play highlife too.

In the next five years, where do you see yourself?

I see myself running business in the theatre, making impact in the industry. I see Theatre Art as my life, some people are trying to rubbish it, I‘ll be after them in five years’ time.