He was just an aspiring actor last year, hoping and working hard to be recognized. But on the night of Sunday, March 8, everything changed as he grabbed the “Best Actor in a Drama” award at the 2014 African Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA). Since then, Tope Tedela has been the toast of the Nigerian movie industry.
The actor who has been nominated as one of the recipients of the forthcoming Express Star Awards for his achievements spoke about what the award means to him, his recent rise in the Nigerian movie industry among other germane issues in this chat monitored by SHOWBIZPLUSng.
You have been announced as one of the winners of the Express Star Awards, what do you think about the honour?
I’m massively honoured about it. I can’t exactly put to words how I feel about this award. It is priceless.
What do you think of Entertainment Express and Sunday Express?
I’m not happy you are even asking me this after announcing me as a winner of your awards, because saying the things I feel about you guys would look like I’m patronising you guys. But to be honest, it is the best thing in Nigerian entertainment. I always look out for your papers, because it is an authority. That is why it’s such a huge deal that I’m being honoured by you guys. I can’t wait for that day. I’m really honoured.
Tell us how you started acting.
I started with television series and all of that, I had this family friend who used to work in an advertising agency. I had just finished Secondary school and was at home waiting to gain admission into the university. He invited me for an audition and that audition was for a film. I can’t really remember the title of that movie but I got the role as an extra in the film and I did it. I got another role as an extra in another film and I did it also and then I got admission into the University of Lagos. When I finished my first year exam, I saw this admission notice on the wall in my school and I attended the audition which turned out to be the audition for the second season of “Edge of Paradise” which was a popular TV series back then. This was in 2006; I auditioned and I got the role and the rest is history.
Did you go through any formal training as an actor?
The truth of the matter is that when I started, it was just passion. Anytime I watched TV and I saw my mates acting, I always told myself “I need to be there”. But then along the line you need to work on the talent you think you have. I did a lot of reading; I do a lot of studying and researches online. I attend Open Mic events, and try to push myself as an actor, that is how I develop myself.
How was your first day on set?
I wanted to ‘shit’ in my pants. I really got nervous on the set of “Edge of Paradise”. I had done like two extras, but “Edge of Paradise” was like the first job I had a real role. When I got on set I was scared and started telling myself that I couldn’t do it. I told the director that I couldn’t do it and that I was sorry about it and suggested to him to try and quickly get another person to play that role for him. The director called me and was very nice to me. He encouraged me and had to put me through on a lot of things. I was being corrected on my diction, my performance and a lot of things I stayed and I pushed it through.
Tell us about the other films you have done?
I played Lala in a film called “A Mile from Home” that won me the Africa Magic Viewer’s choice Award for best actor in a drama this year.
How did you get the role for that movie?
A friend of mine told me that there was an audition for a film and told me to come around because he was meant to be the director of the project. I went for the audition and I saw the guy that was meant to be the director trying to put us through on what we were to do. The whole setting of the place which I thought was not up to standard made me start to question myself. I had my reservation about the whole setting and I got to later hear that it was going to be an action drama. I eventually auditioned and I was later called that I was to play the leading role. When I eventually read the script, I found out that it was eventually brilliant and was proud to be part of the project.
How are you coping with your new found stardom?
I have been quite fortunate to have gotten a bit of recognition. Just a bit of it and it was not because I did anything particularly crazy. I didn’t go nude; I didn’t do anything very crazy.
Would you go nude in a movie?
The truth of the matter is that you really can’t say what you are going to do or what you can’t do until you see yourself in a situation. You wouldn’t know what to do or say until you are given a script of a movie that requires you to go nude. You then have to ask yourself if it is really necessary for you to go nude. The script really determines where you are. It is not just a yes or no thing; there are a lot of things to be considered when choosing a role, so I just can’t sit down and say I can go nude in a movie or I can’t. It is deeper than that.
Tell us about yourself, where are you from?
I’m from Igbara-Odo Ekiti in Ekiti State. I was born and christened Christopher TemitopeTedela, I’m the first of four boys. I grew up in Surulere, I attended Lagos State Model College and I’m a graduate of the University of Lagos, where I studied Mass Communications.
How was growing up like?
Growing up was fun and awesome. Though I wasn’t born with a silver spoon, I was just fortunate to have people who loved me around me. Growing up was mixed, there were times when there really was nothing. But sometimes in retrospect now that I am an adult, I realized that my parents made a lot of sacrifices just to make sure we didn’t lack and really didn’t experience a lot of hardship. It wasn’t rosy at all and maybe that was where I got my acting skills from. All the while my parents were acting like everything was alright taught me how to act.
Did they object to your going into acting?
It was a gradual process because I’m one peculiar being. They understood that since I had tried my hands in other lines; like at one point I wanted to be an engineer, at one point I wanted to an accountant, at one point I didn’t know what I wanted to be. At one point it was about just going to the University to just get a degree and do anything. When they realized that I wanted to do this, they gave me their support. At some point their only concern was how it was not going to affect my academics and my school work but they have really been very supportive over the years.
Did you expect to win at the AMVCA?
It was a pleasant surprise. You need to understand that the film was really a low budget movie such that we were cramped up in a room, both cast and crew, sometimes we ate just once a day, sometimes two. We just came together to make that project work and even at one point, I was carrying an equipment which I didn’t have to. But we just had to put everything together to get that project done. We really just wanted to just finish the film, we were not really thinking about awards or anything; we just wanted to get a movie done. When the nominations came out it was really a surprise for myself and Eric, the director of the project.
We heard you weren’t paid for that movie, how true is that?
It is true in a way, but not the way it has been reported. Like I said it was a very low budget movie and we didn’t do it because of money. We just did it so we can a have a movie we were going to be proud of. Thank God all these awards started coming. We just had to make that film anyhow we could make it and that was the bottom line. It was a collaboration effort from all of us.
Were you paid or not?
I was not paid, but it does not matter because I didn’t do it because of money.
Did you know that when you signed up for the role?
Off course I knew that. I am just grateful for the opportunity to be involved in that project.
Are you still going to be paid after these awards?
We are still on the process.
When your name was mentioned at the award, how did it feel?
It was surreal. I was like wow, so great things can actually happen, dreams can actually come through.
Has that award changed anything in your life and career?
I am just grateful and humbled. On my career, I have gotten more calls to come and read scripts and audition for a role. More people have gotten to know me and I have been opened to more doors and opportunity.
Who would you love to act with in this industry?
I am opened to anybody, any actress, any actor. Someone like NseIkpe-Etim is who I would love to feel her energy and share it on a set with her. She delivers her roles in certain ways that makes me amazed at her talent. The adorable Genevieve won’t be a bad idea at all.
Are you single, in a relationship or married?
Well, all of these will be revealed in due course. I just want to focus on my career and my work. Acting is all I want to do now and talk about.
Who are those in the industry that you look up to?
You look at Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva and look at how they have lived their lives and just admire them. They’ve come a long way and still remain relevant. They are fantastic performers and I like and look up to them. In years to come I hope I take part in projects that my name will command the same level of excellence that people would want to see.
Aside acting, what else do you do?
I’m a broadcaster, an event compere, I am an editor also. I edit novels, books etc.
SUNDAY EXPRESS- STEVE DEDE