Wale Ojo: Envisioning New Nigeria cinema on a global stage
Apart from his star quality and likeability, two other things define Wale Ojo: determination and tenacity. Despite being born into upper middle class family, Ojo pursued his dream of becoming an actor – not a lawyer like his dad – with a rock solid tenacity of purpose. With a career that has spanned over 30 years, the Hull University graduate of Drama said he was happy with his role in Half Of A Yellow Sun, but more excited to be in Kunle Afolanyan’s Phone Swap. In this exclusive interview, Ojo talks about the changes in the Nigerian movie industry and why Nigerian movies will be competing very soon in major film festivals in the world.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Have you ever thought of a change in career?
Wale Ojo: It has never really crossed my mind. And if I did, it lasted a day or two.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Who inspires you and what motivates you?
Wale Ojo: The ancient storytellers of our land inspire me and the smile, laughter and tears of an audience.
Sam Umukoro Interview: If you had a choice, would you keep your celebrity fame and fortune?
Wale Ojo: Keep my celebrity fame with more fortune! (Laughs)
Sam Umukoro Interview: How did you get to where you’re now? Has it always been an easy journey?
Wale Ojo: I have always been an actor and the journey has definitely not been easy, but it’s been very rewarding.
Sam Umukoro Interview: How did you cope with some of the failures in the past and did you ever feel like giving up?
Wale Ojo: There was a point when I used to give up every day, but God would usually send something my way and it would inspire and energise me to carry on.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Seeing that you started quite early from NTA Ibadan, did you always have the support of your parents?
Wale Ojo: Oh yes. My mother especially was very supportive.
Sam Umukoro Interview: How did you cope with being in school and acting at the same time?
Wale Ojo: I would rush to NTA Ibadan (Africa’s first television station) whenever there were school holidays and just get involved in a TV production. And at school I was top of the class at public speaking and would always rush to the speech and drama classes! I hated chemistry and biology! (Laughs)
Sam Umukoro Interview: What has changed in the industry over the years and where do you see Nollywood in the next 10 years?
Wale Ojo: A great amount has changed and in a very positive way. In the next ten years Nigerian films will be competing at the world’s major film festivals.
Sam Umukoro Interview: What would you say to a young actor?
Wale Ojo: Never give up because most times life and people around you want you to give up. Stay on the path of your dreams and look to God for the strength to carry on when at times it seems like the heavens would fall. Never worry because the heavens will never fall anyway.
Sam Umukoro Interview: What fundamental changes have you seen in the industry?
Wale Ojo: A huge amount… We have better actors, more cinemas, more sophisticated forms of story-telling and a more demanding audience for excellence!
Sam Umukoro Interview: What aspirations do you have for Nigeria as a country?
Wale Ojo: That there will be an equal sharing of wealth – we can still have billionaires, but at least not everyone should be in the gutter trying to reach the stars.
Sam Umukoro Interview: How did you feel when you were asked to be part of the movie ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’?
Wale Ojo: I felt happy, but I was more excited to be in Kunle Afolayan’s Phone Swap. Half of A Yellow Sun was more like a cameo role.
Sam Umukoro Interview: Why were you excited to be in Phone Swap?
Wale Ojo: Well it was the first time i played the lead in a Nigerian film.I had also admired Kunles work in THE FIGURINE which i had shown at the New Nigeria Cinema day at the BFI.So working with him and actors like Nse and Ama and Chika Okpala popularly known as Chief Zebrudayah was a real treat!
Sam Umukoro Interview: What would you want to be remembered for?
Wale Ojo: I came, I saw, and I delivered! And millions of people across the globe were happier as a result! I am still on the road to achieving that destiny!