Ayoola Ayolola is a one-time Project Fame West Africa winner who has gone on to become one of the most reputable actors of the current lot, having featured in various productions including, The Men’s Club, Skinny Girls In Transit, If I Am President, amongst others. In this interview with ROSEMARY NWOSU, he talked about his passion for music and his acting career so far. Excerpts…
When you decided to venture into reality TV singing contests; first with Nigerian Idol and later Project Fame West Africa in 2012, you probably had plans and expectations of what to do with the fame and fortune that these endeavours would avail you. Looking back at that moment, to what extent has those plans materialised and those expectations fulfilled?
My plans are still in motion; I won’t say I’ve ticked all the boxes, but I’m confident in the fact that I’m currently living a good part of my dream.
For someone who was passionate about singing to the point of taking part in a singing contest on TV, it came as a surprise to see you switch to acting when you did. Has this always been the grand plan: get the recognition with music, raise the stakes with acting?
No. It was the plan in the beginning, however along the way I realised I could explore other opportunities in my industries as against just sticking to one. It was a huge risk, one I’m glad I took.
During your days as an artiste, you most likely had the chance to face the camera; having been on TV shows and shooting music videos. How different was the experience of facing the camera as an actor?
The responsibilities of an actor and musician are so different and unique to each industry. A different level of experience is needed to be either an actor or a singer. They aren’t the same at all.
A lot of burgeoning actors want to believe that the moment they get their first acting gig, they would do it so well that other offers will just keep rolling in. It played out like that in your case as well. How did you deal with the hopelessness that comes with acting jobs not coming through as much as you expected after your debut project?
After my first gig, I recall going for so many auditions with no call backs, it was frustrating. There’s no saying how the process will be, or how long your journey will take. The key ingredients here are consistency, growth, and optimism. You just can’t stop. I didn’t stop auditioning and I didn’t stop learning.
You recorded your first album at the age of 16. If you were going to do music and dabble into acting at some point, how important then was it for you to have spent several years studying Biochemistry at Covenant University?
Diversity is very important. In so many cases, your passion and your vocation are different. I want to be able to continue my passion while I operate in another field with my degree. For me, ultimately, having multiple sources of income is the goal.
With your serial successes in the film industry, does your music career stand the chance of a rebirth?
For me, what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. So yes! As time goes on with my involvement with the movie industry, I’ll keep working on the music side of me. I just released two new singles: ‘Stand Up Tall’ and ‘Safe With Me,’ which is the official soundtrack of the web series ‘The Men’s Club’.
You’ve played some pretty remarkable characters whether on TV, web series or in movies; what is your process of internalising and flowing with the arc of a character?
First of all I have to immerse myself in the entire story and how my character fits into the bigger picture. Then I make sure the lines are second nature to me. After these are done, I give myself room to hover around different ideas of an interpretation given by the director, myself, backstory, etc, until I find one that makes my being and the character inseparable.
One of your most prominent roles so far has to be Mide from Skinny Girl in Transit. Sometimes, he can be intense and the next moment, he switches to being affectionate. To what extent can you relate to that character?
It’s easy to find templates of movie characters in reality. I fully relate with the Mide character. I literally brought elements of Ayoola into Mide – in Skinny Girls in Transit. Then I expanded from there.
SGIT turned out to be a massive success with the audience actively engaged with it and sharing their thoughts on each episode to the point of making it a trending topic every Friday. As an actor, what does the success of the show tell you about the future of web content?
The future is online. It’s amazing to bring everyone together for a common course, no walls, no barriers, not even geography and time zones. It’s beautiful. I can’t wait to see the remarkable ways the internet will change the movie culture.
How excited are you about the state of affairs in the film industry right now?
It’s growing and it’s a beautiful time to be alive. I’m super excited for the future.
What could be better?
Everything! From remunerations, to unions, to production value, distribution and grassroots film education.
What significant lessons have you learnt about interpersonal relations by virtue of being a father?
You can’t force your values on someone forever. This knowledge has helped me build a level of accommodation, where I’m willing to be understanding of your opinions and views on a lot of things without thinking ill of you.
What’s your long term plan for your music and your acting career?
The plan is to inspire as many as I can into career success, one that leads to financial freedom.
And advice to your younger self will be?
Everything will fall in place, take the risks!