Dr Sola Anthony Fosudo holds the Nigerian movie industry in his palms. He is an actor, dramatist, theatre director and scholar. In this interview with… CHIOMA PIUS and BUSOLA AFOLABI, the head of Department of Theatre Arts, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, speaks on his foray into the theatre world.
Let us into your background?
I was born in Ejinrin, but I come from Igboye in Eredo Local Council Development Area of Lagos State. I had my primary education in Emmanuel School, Ijebu-Ode. Later I went to Nazareth College, Epe. And I went to the University of Ile-Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife and University of Ibadan (UI). I was very lively and creative person and I had different artistic skills.
How did you find yourself in the acting world?
My biggest influence came after my secondary education when I enrolled at the Muslim Teachers Training College in Surulere for a one year programme. While I was there, Mrs Ajike Osanyin, wife of Associate Professor Bode Osanyin, who is also a playwright produced a play written by Zulu Sofola entitled: “Abiona in Love”.
The title was later changed to “Memories in the Moonlights” and I played a major role in the drama. Something happened at the end of the performance that I believe served as the major propelling force that finally got me into the theatre. After the production, Prof. Osanyin formally congratulated me for my outstanding performance and said, ‘Young man this is a brilliant performance and I think that the theatre is for you.’ I did not know much about theatre then let alone knowing what to do to become a theatre artiste.
You have been doing more of soap-opera than the home video. Why?
Home video in Nigeria has been basterdised. They produce movies every week, which is not supposed to be so. They have turned it to money-making business. And because of their selfish means of trying to make money, they feel they can keep producing more films so that they can make enough money but they have made people give us all sorts of names abroad. We don’t know where we are going in this country.
But they pay more in the home video than in the soap opera?
Yes that is true but then, I still prefer being in soap operas, because that is where you can breed yourself to be a good actor not all those roadside people they put in films and start calling themselves actors. They put them in a particular role because of some certain reasons but we all know that these people are not good because they did not have their foundation in acting. Even in Lagos State University, where I lecture now, I have lectured students that are doing well in the movie industry because we gave them solid and very good background. Even my son wants to be an actor and the first step he took was to take the Joint Matriculation Examination (JME) because he knows he has to study it to be good.
The problem is that people are not ready to learn, so someone would just wake up one morning and say he wants to be an actor. Then the next step is for him to look for where they are doing audition and attend; do audition and then they put him in a movie and he becomes a super star. People start using him in different movies and to him he feels he is good or perhaps better than some who don’t usually get lead roles. Our people need reorientation.
So what of people who have the talent naturally?
There is no such thing. Even if you have the talent, you still have to learn it. You have to go to school because you need to put some finishing touches to the talent to make it more solid.
So what do you think we can do to make Nollywood better?
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing like Nollywood. What we have is the Nigerian Movie Industry. The fact that they say Hollywood abroad doesn’t mean we should also give ourselves name that we don’t know the meaning. Majority of Nigerians don’t know the meaning of Hollywood. It is a cinema where they watch movies; it is not the film they show there. But how many cinemas do we have here? The so-called ones we have, how many of you can afford the price at which they show these movies? So let us not call ourselves what we are not just because we are always trying to imitate them (the West) in whatever they do.
How do you combine both lecturing and acting together?
I don’t see it as a big deal, and besides both of them are linked together. What I do is what I lecture; so there is nothing stressful about it. I don’t even think I should be asked how I combine both. If I was a doctor and I am also acting, then you can ask me how I combine both professions together. There are people who are even busier than I am. I don’t even see myself as a busy person; I need things that will make me get busier – 24 hours a day. That is why I have dedicated my time to God, instead of wasting it, I devote most of my time working for Him now.
How do you relax?
I love reading and most times I am always in the church because I serve God a lot.
Tell us your best food?
I love to eat with my hand and I like local foods. Even when I go abroad, when I want to eat food like amala, eba, etc, I make use of my hand. It is only when I want to eat rice that I use cutlery. If not because of the way people will be looking at you, I would have loved to even eat rice with my hand. I like everything I do to be African.
What do you like wearing?
What I wear, I like to be African except on special occasion or when I am on set. In fact, if I happen to be the president of this country, I would give a law that nobody should wear anything outside the African tradition. If people are being difficult, then I ll say at least three to two times a week everybody must go on native attire.
How do you view the home video industry?
Everything has been commonised because even an Alaba marketer has become a producer and a director except for people like Zeb Ejiro, Teco Benson and a few others.
Tell us about awards that you have received?
I have gotten so many awards that I cannot even mention all. But I’ll tell you about some of the recent ones. In 2007 I got Humanitarian Services Award, I also got the NTFS (Most Indigenous Fashionable Actor) by Galaxy Television, Special Merit Award, National Merit Award and so many others.
For how long have you been lecturing?
It is been over 15 years. I have been lecturing since 1994 till date.
How many video films and television series have you featured in?
I have lost count but I can say I have acted in more than 36 video films and 16 television series.