From playing Wasiu in MTV Shuga to being part of the impressive film, ‘Kasala’, Tomiwa Tegbe, has come a long way from his earliest days in the film industry till now. He reminisces on this journey with ROSEMARY NWOSU in this interview while also commenting on the state of the film industry. Excerpts:
Describe to me your journey of becoming an actor.
It’s been an adventure really. My journey reminds me of those video games we played growing up where you have to pass through different stages and you encounter different obstacles with increasing level of difficulty and then you get to the final stage where you have to face the biggest obstacle before you finally finish the game. Yeah, my journey is similar to that. Though without necessarily increasing the levels of difficulty, but I’ve been through different phases of growth and experiences and I’m absolutely thankful for everything. One thing has been constant throughout my journey and it’s been the grace lotion. I’m certainly not at that final stage yet but I’m well on my way there and I’m excited for the next phase. So, bring it on.
What attracted you to acting as a career?
I’ve always been curious about human beings; about behavioural patterns; about what it’s like being this person and that person; what goes on in their head; why they do what they do; why they talk the way they do; why they walk a certain way, among others. This curiosity birthed this interest for imitating people’s actions and re-enacting certain moments I watch in movies. I’ve always been a big movie buff. I grew up on a lot of movies. The video club was our next house. Many times, the video club attendants will come to our house to cause a scene because we haven’t returned a movie we rented over a month ago. There were no mobile phones so they’d just march down to our house and call us out. I’ve always been really fascinated by the world of movie making. What it took to do what these guys did on TV and it didn’t take long before I started seeing myself do what they did. I began to believe it was indeed something I could do. I would say the lines from these movies word for word in the same tone and manner it was said in the movie. Whenever you see me washing plate, washing clothes or walking to school and you catch me talking to myself just know that I was acting out a line from a movie. I would stand in front of my mirror and say these lines making all the faces they made in the movie and all. I just really believed it was something I could do and I was really fascinated by the world of Hollywood and how larger than life these stars seemed.
Aside acting, what else are you exploring?
Making money and being a sweet boy. But I have a lot of materials I’ve been working and I plan to bring to life very soon. I plan to explore the world of writing and producing contents. Also, animation has always been a strong area of interest for me and something is already cooking. You’ll be the first to hear about it when it’s done.
What was your first audition like?
I actually got my first ever movie role from my first audition about 11 years ago. It was a lead role. The audition was for a movie directed by Niyi Akinmolayan. School was on break at the time so I travelled from Ibadan to Lagos for the audition. Going into that audition as a green horn, I didn’t know what to expect. Even though I had done my research online, watched audition tapes, read about the process and prepared monologues but I was still nervous as hell. It got worse when I got there and I saw the crowd. That immediately deflated any form of selfconfidence I had before getting there. I was literally the smallest in the room and I started asking myself what exactly I was doing there. I told myself it wasn’t too late for me to turn back and go home. The AC was on and I was still sweating like fish. You see people go in and from the waiting room you can hear the judges clapping or laughing. But when I got in, they were kind enough to make me feel comfortable. I did my thing, though still a nerve wreck but I managed to pull a performance that was enough to impress. Till this day, I don’t know what I did that impressed them that much and I didn’t think I was going to get a call back. I went back to Ibadan without expecting anything and about two or so weeks after, I got a call that I had gotten a role as one of the leads and I wanted to scream.
How challenging was your first day on set?
Quite challenging. I thought I had it all figured out until it was time to rehearse with lights and camera in my face and all of a sudden, I just hated my voice and everything I was doing. I was line ready but that was it, I had the lines but I didn’t have the performance. I already had a background in stage so it wasn’t an easy transitioning on my first day on set because nobody told me it was a different ball game entirely and that it required a different level of performance and skillset. I was fortunate enough to have a very patient director and a good atmosphere to work under, great co-actors who helped bring it all out and made me settle in my zone. My first set experience turned out to easily be my most memorable set experience in my acting career.
What’s your most challenging role and how do you pull it off to it despite the challenges?
I take each role as a challenge and I don’t approach any role from my comfort zone. I try as much as possible to have a unique take with each role. I’ve always wanted to play a psychotic character and when I got the opportunity to play that in the movie Psycho, it was a different plane for me. I had never done anything like that before and I had barely three days to prep so I pulled all the cards to making sure I got into the psychology of the character. It was tough but the sweet and exciting kind of tough. I had so much fun playing that character. It’s important to understand your character and their psychology, their motivations, their world. It’s important to not judge the character and also to love the character even if your character is a demon. This helps in creating a unique sketch and helps you discover the part of you that you’ll be bringing with you into that particular character.
Which Nollywood actor do you love to be on set with and why?
I always love any moment with my brothers, Chimezie Imo, Emeka Nwagbaraocha and Mike Afolarin; the Kasala boys. We’re a tribe. The love is real and it transcends easily on screen. They make it a breeze any day any time. Also, basically anyone who brings good e n – e rgyon set and keeps you on your toes.
How do you try to improve on your acting skills? Practice! Practice!! Practice!!!
Nothing beats doing it over and over again to sharpen it in hundred different ways; a tool left unused will remain blunt. Also, one thing we as actors need to know is that we’re always working. We don’t only work when we are on set. What we do when we aren’t on set is also work. The work never stops. It’s what we do when we are not on set that births the work we create on set. So, I always find the time to read and consume acting resource materials online. It’s amazing how much information is out there for all to grab. I look out for acting workshops to attend online and offline as well. My favourite past time is watching movies, I watch to actually learn and study the performances, the nuances, the choices these actors make and I try to apply them in my work. Also, I try to rest as much as I can, the work we do is chaotic enough for you not to take some time to be still and recalibrate, living healthy improves your wellbeing and that would definitely have a direct impact on the quality of your work.
If you’re given the power as a National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), how do you intend to develop the society through the movie industry?
I feel one thing we need to stop seeing the movie industry as a tool to correct society or to straighten our moral compass, I feel like that’s an unfair expectation from filmmakers. Filmmaking is beyond that and everyone should be free to express art in different forms. If I was a member of the NFVCB, I would push for an amendment to the policies and directives of the board that stifles the freedom of Nigerian creatives and will ensure that more opportunities are created and will get rid of any form of administrative bottleneck.
What’s your advice to aspiring actors who’re discouraged for one reason or another on becoming an actor? First you need to remind yourself why you really want to be an actor. How important is it to you?
How badly do you want it? Once you find the answers to these questions, you’ll find the drive you need and a reason to go on. It’s a medieval type of industry where doggedness, consistency, hardwork, passion and determination wins. Don’t stop pushing. Don’t stop putting in the work. Keep working on your craft. Get yourself prepared for the opportunity you pray for. Be ready. Do the work before the work comes. Get to know about the industry you’re getting into. Know that it’s not going to be easy and everyone has had it tough in their journey, trust the process, trust yourself and trust God.