Wale Ojo, known popularly for his performances in Phone Swap and A Letter From Adam, is an experienced actor who does not shy away from expressing himself on the big screen and in real life situations. In this chat with TNS’ ‘Segun Odejimi, he tells of his disagreement with the name Nollywood as well as the quality of most of Nigerian films.
As a Nigerian and a participant of Nollywood…
[Cuts in] No. It is New Nigerian Cinema.
Why not Nollywood?
I don’t like the name Nollywood. I’ve never liked the name Nollywood. Hollywood, Bollywood, Ghallywood…what? So we should be calling Nollywood because Americans call their own Hollywood? I know the name has survived but I just don’t like the name. I never really said it to the press before but I’ll be honest, I don’t like the name and that’s why I developed my own name – New Nigeria Cinema.
Do you think people will reckon with your name?
People will reckon with my name when they see the work that we are producing. I will not only talk the talk, I will walk the walk. Do you really think the rest of the world looks at our films and go “Whao!” Do you think they do? They’re laughing at us abeg my brother, make we no dey lie again. Time don pass to dey lie. They laugh at Nigerian films because the quality is not good enough. But out of that mass of films, there are still some very, very good ones. You can name them – Phone Swap, Ije… there’s a handful, but they are good. They are good enough for the international terrain. But the majority is bad. The quality is low, the sound, they are always showing juju. Kilode?
Half of a Yellow Sun which you were involved in has come under criticism in some quarters as a Nigerian film set in the Biafran period but was made so as to appeal to a foreign audience hence the presence of Thandie Newton and Anika Noni Rose…
Everybody is entitled to their opinion. I can’t really comment because I have my own very strong opinions about that and I would not really want to comment about it publicly but I’ll just say that the novel was written by a Nigerian, the director is a Nigerian. The director made his own choice about how he was going to produce the film. That’s the choice he made, you know. Some people may agree with it, some people may not agree with it. The censors board decided to ban the film, I don’t know why. Maybe because it would arise Biafran spirit. Maybe it will start a new civil war, we don’t know.
As an actor, how do you prepare for work?
I can’t reveal to you all my…
[Cuts in] Just give us a glimpse of it. How you prepare your mind and your body for the task ahead.
I like to read a lot about the character I’m playing. I like to do a lot of study. I like to research about it. I like to be able to breathe life into the character, make it three dimensional or four dimensional, build a character depth. So, I study the character a lot before I start to play it.
Your most challenging character so far?
Ah, challenging! I’ll like to go back maybe nearly 30 years when I played Othello.
London. I played it when I was 22 years old. That was my biggest challenge. I said to myself, “Maybe I’ll play him again in another 30 years’ time.” [Laughs]
What’s your view on nudity in Nollywood?
It has to be subtle. It mustn’t be nudity for the sake of nudity. It’s got to pass a good message. You know, we have beautiful women. See our [village] women; they walk around with no bras. But it’s not nudity. But you’ll say that is beauty. Our statutes, the Yoruba statutes – naked breasts, but that is not nudity. So, the thing really is beauty, not nudity.