Ace Actor Funsho Adeolu needs no introduction. With over 1000 films to his credit; Dozens of award garnered while acting on stage; in movies and for cinema and a career spanning over 26 years. In this interview with our Correspondent, FRANCIS OGBONNA, he talks about what makes him thick; his family; upbringing and the film industry at large. Excerpt…
Can we meet you sir?
My name is Funsho Adeolu-Adegeye. I am an actor, once in a while I produce. I can’t call myself a musician but I have a band and sing for leisure. Once in a while I organize events, everything about entertainment that’s what I do.
Why don’t you and your band sing ay professional level?
Well it’s because I have not taken it that serious. I actually started like a church band and sang at a few events, so when I became the Funsho Adeolu that people knew, some people just wanted me to come and sing, however way it was, but it is not easy managing that with my acting career. But they still rehearse and I join them when I can. To play at any occasion all we need do is just rehearse together for about two hours and we are good to go.
Do they handle singing job without you?
Well they are all professionals so they sing regularly, as individuals and a group. Its just that I see it as a hobby, I am not thinking money right now. Just like acting, I was really thinking about money when I started it, so I am sure that it might get to that level soon because seriously, I can say that I am more of a musician than an actor.
When did acting begin for you?
I started acting back in 1987 as a stage actor. Later moved to TV, then it was only NTA that was around, before I now went on to home video. Right I am more into TV than home video…
Any particular reason for that?
Well I am a goal-getter, I like to be in an atmosphere where people are protective of their names and where people want to learn, but in the home video setting of home videos there are no learners but opportunist. People that are just in riding big cars and can not cater for it. People who all they want are the fame, so that when they walk on the street people say “hey! We like you” and then they pose about it. They are not real practitioners, they don’t have passion for the practice; they can’t do it without the money. Real practitioners are those who can do it without money. I came into the industry when there was nothing, but I was determined to do it. So that’s why I am more into TV. That’s why it is not possible for you to see some of the regular faces you see in home videos on TV, because TV/Soaps are for people who really want to act and not for Celebs. If you are an actor, you will grow naturally to become a Celeb, because people will like you, but if you come with the intention to be known just like Funsho Adeolu, how can you be like me? When I was coming in I didn’t want to be like anybody, that’s why I have my own brand. I have been in the papers since 1988, even before some of the so called actor of today got into secondary school. I have gone through training, done script writing, staging etc.
How many films have you acted in a whole?
If I say a thousand then I would be under estimating myself. But averagely, since the year 2000, in a month if I don’t shoot at all I will shoot three films and it’s been constantly like that ever since. At a point in time people say we don’t see you again; and I tell them it is because you don’t see me doing the regular thing on TV. I grew to a point where I now told myself, now what you nee is class and when I say class I mean the real class. That’s why I don’t feature in all the new kind of movies they bring out.
How do you define these new kinds of movies?
I mean all those follow-follow kind of movies, you know like somebody does comedy and it was accepted and all the marketers and producers follow suit. So, if you don’t do comedy, they don’t call you and therefore you don’t make money. I have never been in that situation before and that is why it is difficult to differentiate between movies, because you see they same person playing similar roles in two or more different movies. When I act a film, my desire is that why I sit back and watch it at home that I get moved by the role I played as if I wasn’t the one who played that role, not to talk about people out there. When you act different character you appeal to them and they see you as a real actor, but when you play the same roles every time, they get tired of you easily.
You are one actor that feature comfortably in both Yoruba and English Genre on Movies, how have you been able to manage with such grace?
An actor is an actor. The only thing that can make me not act a particular role is language. Thank God I understand English and Yoruba a little bit, if I understood Ibo a little bit maybe I would have featured comfortably in Igbo films as well, because what you need basically to act apart from your language is your expression, carriage and your delivery. So if I have delivery and can learn to speak a particular language, I would play that role very well, but if I am having problems learning the language, I don’t take up the role because I would be deceiving myself. I have been told once to play an Oyo man in a movie and though I can speak the language, but I know I won’t sound exactly like an Oyo man because I am not used to it so, I told them that I can’t do it. Anyone that sees me as a bigger actor because I can feature comfortably in both Yoruba and English speaking films don’t really understand the movie industry (no disrespect meant), a typical actor should be able to do that. Because sometimes even some actors in a language they speak everyday still look fake on TV, all this means is that they are not acting very well. So cross over for me was easy, because I was even more comfortable crossing over to Yoruba, though it was a language I was never used to while growing up (my dad only spoke English to me, even till date). The first time I acted Yoruba film on TV and was interviewed, everyone said I was not a Yoruba boy because I could speak very well, but right now I speak Yoruba very well.
So you didn’t know how to speak Yoruba until you started acting Yoruba film?
At all and acting Yoruba films have helped me learnt more about the Language and the Yoruba heritage. I still think Yoruba is the richest language in Nigeria…
Why do you think so?
Because for everything in Yoruba there is an adage that is deeply rooted in the Yoruba culture. Do you know that sometimes when the Igbo want to say an adage they borrow fro the Yoruba? If you read the history of the Yoruba, you will find that it is rooted. You can actually trace the lineage of the Yoruba man etc.
What has been your highest moment in acting?
Well maybe it was the first time I got an award for best actor in Yoruba. it was actually in the third film I acted in Yoruba. By then I had improved a little on my Yoruba speaking skills and was a lot more comfortable speaking the language. That I would call my highest moment…
Is there any part of acting career that if you had the opportunity to delete from you live that you would readily delete?
None! I have not heard anyone; I just see any likely one as a work hazard. For example when I get embarrassed on the street, I don’t see it as embarrassment. The truth is that if you are not a star they wouldn’t even walk up to you. It’s just their way of showing love. I am sure for the fact that abroad their star are not seen around like that, that is the reason they don’t have people walking over to them to ask for money or vandalizing their cars, it would have been worse over there. So I don’t have any regret. So when people say that you have enough connections, why don’t you go to Aso rock and make money, I don’t even listen to them, there was a time my dad even read in the paper where I was quoted that instead of me to make money through that means that I will rather remain poor, he just looked at me an allowed me to be…
So what was it your dad wanted you to be?
He just wanted me to make money. You may not call him a rich person, but he was very comfortable person. He was taking care of every body that came to that house, we had housemaids that would fail about their WAEC ten times and my dad will still give them money to register for another exams and when they finish their first degree, he tells them you have to go for your masters and then your PhD…so he was like that. His own money is not show wealth, I can’t remember seeing any big car in the house, but any level you want to get to and anything you want to do, he handles personally. Do you know that daddy sponsored me to go all the way to South Korea to go and get skills in Taekwondo?
Really, how long were you in Korea for that training?
For 3 months and I came back.
So why didn’t you pursue a career in Taekwondo?
He still tells me to go a little further and join the association of Taekwondo in Nigeria, because I went first and second up to black belt and that is a stage you get to and to advance you need to pay a lot of money and my dad was ready take up sponsorship. There was a time while in school and ASUU was on strike, my dad arranged for me to go for a course in Journalism and then to advertising. He was somebody that you would call a very rich man, but didn’t display his affluence like others would do. He wanted me to be bigger that he, but I had a vision to be someone that will affect people, so I wanted to either be a Teacher; Pastor or an Actor. Originally, I wanted to be a Lawyer from University of Ife (My dad finished from Ife too), but after I stayed at home for 4 years, I went in for my A levels so at the end of the day I was tired I went in to read Guidance and Counseling. I realized during the course of my waiting that reading law would not help me to affect people the way I wanted to, because I was already a big name in the industry while I was in school. He didn’t want to force me into doing anything, he just wanted me to be comfortable, but now he is okay. He is very happy now, because most of the connections he got lately were through my name. Even in the church, there was this Pastor he was supposed to have met a long time ago, because he deals with sport equipment (that is what he has always done), now he wanted to set up one at the redemption camp and needed approval but had difficulty getting across t the Pastor Kalejaiye and there was this day Kalejaiye came to the church and saw me playing keyboard because I was a member of the choir, he now said he would like to see me and while we were talking, he asked where I was from and I told him I was Ilaje and he said he was Ikale and he asked who was my dad, so I called in my dad and introduced him and after we left my dad was crying and telling me thank you for that connection, because he had been longing for that opportunity to meet with him.
How do you manage your female fans?
That’s a normal thing. They actually come in different ways, with good or bad intention and others with progressive intentions. What I do is find out why you have come then it helps me know the exact way to handle you. I front my wife and talk about my marriage so much that it is easy to tell where I stand, that makes them run away from me. So all they do is just look at me on TV and enjoy me, but I am a very nice person, especially to ladies.
How did you meet your wife?
I met her in Zeb Ejiro’s office. She was just standing there and looked so natural and original. She plaited her hair and had no make up on, so I told myself hmm I like her, so we became friends and we were so for about 7 years as friends. After that we started dating and then we got married, I didn’t even propose, we just knew we wanted to get married…
How long have you been married?
For about ten years.
How many kids have you got?
I have two kids
You said you met your wife in Zeb’s office, is she also into acting or other forms of entertainment?
Well she is a radio personality and works with Traffic Radio Lagos. She had been a behind the camera person, doing continuity, make up etc later she went into events planning and then said she wanted to be a presenter. So she went to the FRCN training centre in Ladipo, got trained and she has been doing that all along.
Does she get uncomfortable with your female fans sometimes?
Not at all, she is just a perfect woman. She is a rare gem. She picks my calls and don’t insinuate anytime, well I would say we have perfect trust for one another. While we were dating for 8 years, she never came to my house and saw me with anybody else, even when she showed up without notice (she had her keys to the house). I have never double dated.
You’ve talked so much about you dad, what about your mum?
Mum was a teacher. My parents were never married, but I enjoy the both of them. They are still friends up till now. She is over 70, they were both teachers. My dad was a lecturer in Adeyemi College of Education before he went into the sporting business. My mum taught for a while and was in the ministry as a Director and resigned. After that she was called to manage a school in Ijegun and she got old and finally retired.
Who did you live with while growing up?
When I was growing up I lived with my mum until much later when I went in t live with my dad. When I left my fathers house I moved into my own.
Why were they never married?
They were just live-in lovers and that way they made me.
So what was growing up like living with both parents?
It was great. Thank God that I didn’t derail. With the benefit of hind sight, I actually understand why I didn’t derail; God had a plan for me. I experimented a lot of bad things, but thank God that through out that period, I didn’t join any bad group. I learnt a lot though, for example how to live on my own.
Do you have siblings from either side?
Are you the oldest?
Well from my fathers side I have an older sister, my dad then was someone you would call a smart guy. So her mum was also not married to my dad, but right now he is happily married and a deacon in RCCG. His wife is a pastor, so he has gone from that life to this life. It’s great to go from that life to this life and live with the assurance that you will make heaven, I am happy for him. Well we are all doing fine now. There was something he didn’t do, that is to leave anybody; he took care of all of us.
Who are your role models?
Ant Olaniyan; Olu Jacob and Tunji Bamisimi. Ant Olaniyan see acting as a spiritual thing, so when you give him a role, he asks the spirit of that character to enter him. it might not enter physically, but he feels it and then do it well. For Olu Jacob, he’s been there since I was born and had remained consistent ever since. Tunji Bamisimi as a producer and a director because he is original. If you see him you will never know that he is the person talked about, he is even bigger that the first two I talked about. He was one of the directors of village head master those days.
Do you see yourself getting into politics sometime soon?
I am a very straight forward person and politicians don’t like those kinds of people, they will just kill me sharp sharp, because if they expect me to tell a lie, I will disappoint them and say the truth.
What if you get a ministerial appointment?
I wouldn’t be a politician still, because I didn’t ask for it. I wouldn’t join any political party. In my state (Ondo) I am an ambassador for culture and tourism and I tell them the truth always. You will never see me as part of any campaign. I will never trust any one of them, I see myself as a Pastor. I am a simple man, all I want to do take care of my family to the extent that they will be able to stand on their own, I am not interested in building so many houses and acquiring properties so that my kids will started fighting over who gets the finest house when I am gone.
So what would be your advice to up-coming artistes?
First thing is for them to make sure they have what it takes to be an actor, unlike what is obtainable today where a lot of people call themselves actors, but when the chips are down they don’t even mention their names. Consistency pays too, I have had awards over the years two are coming up after now, but all these were made possible because of consistency. They should also have a name worth protecting. Ten twenty years down the line, people should be able to hear your name and be willing to help just because of that.
Thank you very much sir
You are welcome.