Recently, Entertainer caught up with the couple at the opening of Bolanle Austin Peters’ Fela and the Kalakuta Queens at Terra Culture, V. I, Lagos, and the thespian opened up on stage plays in Nigeria and how he wooed Joke Silva 40 years ago.
A while ago, Fela on Broadway hit Nigeria and made waves but Americans did the telling of the story? Today, thanks to Bolanle Austin-Peters, this is a Nigerian production. Do you think we can sell this to the world?
You wait and see. I am waiting too. I believe we are all going to be wowed! I mean, so pleasantly surprised. Don’t you know the songs and the actors? They will surprise us.
Sir, stage plays are on the rise now. In fact, before we never had stage plays week in week out at a venue, apart from The Muson Centre and National Theatre…Do we have any good theatre venue?
No, not at all. Now, people are making effort because the demand is encouraging and they are responding to it. This is only the beginning and we are entering a change; this is the time for change and we are getting it right.
You have done over four decades as an actor. When you look back, what would you say are your happiest moments?
Looking around me and seeing that many people are there to come and enjoy themselves in an area that people thought would never be possible, because in the past, actors and actresses were looked down on. Now they are doing well and people are applauding. That is my joy. Like I say, I would rather one person praise my work than have 99 do the opposite.
Even if I have my work praised by 99 people but one comes and says sorry, I don’t understand it, it ruins everything. This is only the beginning.
The schools are going back to play their traditional roles and acting and drama are all part of the curriculum; that was how we grew up.
You were in Oloibiri, a fantastic movie. Yes, it won awards but what do you think made the movie stand out?
Good work. You look at the lighting, it captures the mood and the sound was good.
What more do you want?
And the story is compelling. You are shocked and your thinking will never be the same again. The story was being told to people who knew about it and some who did not know about it, but the message was passed. The movie is like a reawakening, to make sure we don’t let this happen again.
Are any of your kids taking after you?
Well, it may not be in front of the camera, maybe behind the camera.
You are married to one of the prettiest and talented actresses in Nollywood.How did you meet Joke Silva? We learnt that you actually snatched her from a rival. What really happened?
(Laughter) That is very wrong. I was invited to come and do a play in Nigeria by the National Theatre. I was living in England at that time. I was to play lead in Wole Soyinka’s The Trials of Brother Jero. We were having the production when the door opened and this lady walked in and said sorry, we are ready.
When she walked in I said excuse me ladies and gentlemen, this is the lady I am going to marry. You know bodies can attract and bodies can repel. I saw her and I was attracted. I am not an impulsive person. I did not just say come. I had to struggle to get her. She was stunned even though she gave me up and down. (laughter).
Your union is a testament to how celebrities should handle their marriage. We have seen a lot of stories about breakups and it is saddening. Is it that actors and actresses can’t make good homes?
No, quite frankly, let me tell you what. I don’t encourage people to think that way. It is virtually in all professions, in all offices whereever you have women and men together. Even if you don’t hear it, we have a lot of divorces in all other sectors.
For the fact that you don’t hear it in other sectors like banking or in the oil sector, as oily as it is, does not mean it is not happening. It is in all offices where we have men and women.
What is the secret to your successful marriage?
It is the grace of God. And you must learn to be patient and above all, learn to be friends. She is your friend, your lover; she is not your slave. You don’t do that to a woman. You don’t intimidate her. If she is your friend, you will be tender. When a friend is involved you are tender.
Sir, we also understand that you are a great cook. Can you tell us about that?
(Laughter) I try, when I cook they eat.Was that one of the skills that made your wife fall for you…(Laughter) In the house, when we were growing up, you know usually, the girls did all the work and the boys did not.
So, my parents decided that what they would do was give us a competition. Let the boys cook for the boys and the girls cook for the girls. So, you have to eat what you cook and that was what did it. We all had to learn.
As a veteran, can you give us tips to success as an actor?
Repetition of an act makes its performance almost automatic. The more you do something the better it gets. Patience, you must have patience and believe in yourself. If you really need to ask questions, please go and ask. Don’t shy away, they won’t think you are stupid; they will help you.