Up-and-coming actress Olaitan Ogungbile, is one actress to look-out for in 2013. The very beautiful thespian, who is fast becoming the toast of many producers in the Yoruba movie sector of Nollywood, has featured in major productions in the industry.
Her major jobs include Afurugbin; Oni Reason; Laye Lorun; Oko ni mofe; Obaye je; Onuwura and Sekunola, among others. In this interview Olaitan opens up on her experience as a budding actress. She also reveals harassments from the opposite sex among other things. Excerpt:
What were you doing before you ventured into acting?
I was in school. I studied Botany at the University of Ibadan.
How easy was it for you to transit from Botany to acting?
I just love acting. It has been my dream job since I was very young.
So why didn’t you study theatre art?
Mine was a case of career imposition. My parents wanted me to study medicine. I didn’t get to study medicine. I ended up studying Botany.
Do your parents support your acting career now?
Oh yes, they are, because I’m done with school. They weren’t really against it initially; they only wanted me to finish school before delving into acting, because school is very important.
How many movies have you featured in since you started in 2008?
I’ve done quite a lot. They include Aye; Onawura; Abogunloko; Laye Lorun by Muyiwa Ademola; Irawe; Aja; Eyinju Eludumare by Bayo Tijani; Oko Nimofe by Sunny Alli and Atijuwo by Sanyeri among others.
But how come you are hardly known?
At the beginning, I only go to my boss’s location. I’m an apprentice under Muyiwa Ademola. So I only go out whenever I go to location. But now, I go out to other locations.
Tell us about your apprentice years?
Talking about acting, who are your mentors in the industry?
I used to have someone before I came into the industry. But right now, that has changed. But don’t ask me why, because I don’t want to talk about it. So let’s just talk about my mentors now. They include Ayo Adesanya, Bimbo Oshin and Joke Silva. And talking about actors, there is Muyiwa Ademola and the rest.
Why don’t you want to talk about who your mentor was?
Yeah, I used to have someone I really, really love in the movie industry. That was before I got into the industry. But after I got into the industry, I was disappointed knowing the person for what she really is. Something happened and she stopped being my mentor. I was so crazy about her but now my love for her has dropped. Don’t ask me her name because I’m not going to tell you.
What is it that you don’t like about the person?
Something happened and the way she reacted really put me off. In the first place, she had no business with what was happening, but she made it her duty. After that time, I went back to greeting her, but she was giving me attitude.
Often times, up-and-coming actresses always have brushes with established ones. What’s your experience like on the issue of respect?
What was your experience like on your first movie set?
It was really nice. But even before then, I had been seriously equipped by my acting school. So it was not a challenge for me really. It was smooth. But acting with A-listers for the first time, Muyiwa Ademola, Ayo Adesanya, Bimbo Oshin I felt so shy. Like wow! And at the same time I was challenged to give my best.
Who and who do you look forward to working with in the near future?
I’ve worked with a lot of A-listers really. But of course, I hope to work with more of them, the likes of Funke Akindele, Mercy Aigbe, and Toyin Aimakhu and more.
Did you set out to be a Yoruba actress, and why didn’t you take your chance with English movies?
I’ve never done an English movie before. The thing is I think you have to make a name in the Yoruba movie industry before you can think of moving to the English movie. I’m actually looking forward to acting an English movie. But right now, I’m not all that known. When I make my name to a certain level, then I will crossover. Truth is I think it is easier for you to come through the Yoruba movie industry and make your name. But with the English movie, apart from the people that are already known, it’s not easy to come through the English movie and become known just like that. But it’s easy to attain a level of fame with the Yoruba movie.
From the roll calls of movies you have featured in, which would you say is the most challenging so far?
I would say Oko ni mofe. I played Funke, the lead character alongside Taiwo Hassan (Ogogo) and Fatia Balogun. I was their daughter. I was in love with Folusho (Femi Adebayo). He was my dad’s apprentice. We were seriously in love. I went for an interview in Yinka Quadri’s company. Immediately he saw me, he offered me a job without any interview. In fact, he asked me to start work the following day and at the end of the month, I got my full salary. But unknown to me, he had a son who was based in America, with whom he was nursing the idea that I would get married to.
But by then, I was already in love with Femi Adebayo. I was a very industrious staff, so he kept nursing the idea of having me as a daughter in-law. He asked for my house address and I gave him. From then on, he started coming around my house to study. One day, I got back from work and met him at home. Immediately he said I shouldn’t worry that he came to see my parents. My parents then said yes, that my boss had come to see them on behalf of his son and that they are happy that I’m not into any relationship yet, so I should give it a chance. So for the first time, I opened up to them that I was in a relationship and that in fact I’m in love with his apprentice. My parents were hysteric and disappointed at the same time. It was so tough they sent him away, back to the village. Eventually I got married to Sunny Ali; my boss’s son who was based in America.
Two weeks into our marriage, I wasn’t in speaking terms with my husband. Folusho now wrote me a letter from the village and I was very happy. Unknown to me, my husband was watching my excitement as I was reading his letter. He then came and snatched the letter from me and I started crying. I told him to take me to my ex-boyfriend. He was shocked, but he obliged me. The following day, we packed our things and set out for Folusho’s village. We spent like four days on the road before we could get to that village. We missed our way and had to sleep in the car, slept at the hotel before we eventually got there. But while we were going through that hurdle, I started falling in love with him because of the way he cared. By the time, I got to Folusho’s village, we talked, but he was shocked when I told him that I actually came to be with him. My husband and I travelled back home to live together happily ever after.
How much of that character is in Olaitan Ogungbile?
My parents cannot force me to marry who I don’t want to marry. I’m glad my parents are not that kind of parents who will force their daughter to do something against her wish. But let me shock you, I can marry an apprentice if I love him.
What about the financial aspect of love?
Are you saying it’s more important for me to be in money than to be happy? Of course, for me happiness is the key. And I would not compromise that for anything. See when you are not happy, your beauty as a woman would not come out. So following a rich boy or rich man because of money without happiness, for me is a no no. I can’t marry someone I won’t be happy with. I don’t want to cheat when I get married. So I want to marry someone I would love so very much so there won’t be anything like me having an affair outside my marriage. I want to be a good house wife. That’s who I want to be. I don’t want to marry anybody because of money. I want to marry someone that would be able to say sit down there and I would say okay, and not someone who will say sit down there, and I would start to rain abuses on.
This coming from you, when it seems most Nollywood actresses are losing faith in love, what’s your confidence?
I don’t care what any other person thinks. Me, I want to be married. I want to be happy. I want to have kids. It’s important. From my mum’s experience and from the way she talks, it’s very important to get married and it’s very important to have kids and take care of your home very well. If my mum was not there, and if she didn’t take care of her home, I won’t be where I am today. So I’m following her footsteps. So I have to get married to have good kids, good home, love my husband and respect my husband so well.
If eventually you get that Mr. Right and he now say to you have to quit acting, would you obey him?
He can’t say I have to quit acting. I won’t even marry someone who says to me you have to quit acting. You saw me as an actress, so why would you marry me and now say I have to quit acting. Funny enough, my younger sister and I were actually talking about it last week. I’ve actually met people who wanted to marry me, but who said to me I have to quit acting and I reply no.
After all, if you didn’t see me in a movie you would ask my hand in marriage? There was this guy who was like maybe God has a way of bringing us together. Well, it’s not possible, because I can’t quit acting for marriage. But the thing is when I get married I will reduce the way I go to location, so that I can take care of my home and my husband. And the kind of script I take will also change. But to quit acting will not happen.
You are very beautiful and also attractive. You must enjoy a lot of attention from men. How do you handle advances from men?
Yeah, I get a lot of attention from the opposite sex. But you know you have to apply wisdom in everything you do. You don’t have to jump at every offer you get, especially men, money and all that. I give the chance to some to come close. Some, we just talk on phone. There was one that was like, I saw you in Afurugbin. It was actually a big brother of mine in the industry that told me that one of his big brothers saw me in Afurugbin and has been disturbing him to link him up with me.
But what surprised me really was that when he started pleading with me to please give his brother a chance, and that he actually told him that he’s been walking about with the movie jacket since the past five months. After much talk, I told him to give him my number. When he called he was nice. He was cool. He has a daughter and he’s a Muslim. He told me that I have to quit acting, so that was how it all ended. For now, I’m not even ready for marriage. Most of these admirers end up being friends.
But I’m sure you’re into a relationship. Does your man have problems with some of the roles that you play?
No he doesn’t.
What about alleged harassment in the industry?
It’s easy to deal with. When they say date me and you refuse, they won’t give you jobs. The worse anybody can do is not to give you a role in their movie. If a man says you won’t act in my movie because you refuse dating me. There is a female who will say I like her, come and play lead in my movie. It happens. But truth is not every male producer is corrupt, if I can use that word. I played the lead role in Uncle Sunny Ali’s movie. We never met before he penciled me down for the role. My boss was going to shoot his movie on that faithful Monday and Sunny Ali was also planning his own shoot on the same day. He called me, and was like ‘are you Olaitan?’ I said yes and he was like,’ I have a movie I would like you to feature in, in fact I’m shooting on Monday and I’m thinking of you playing the lead.’ I was like sorry sir; my boss is shooting on that same Monday in Oyo.
I told him I won’t be able to turn up for the shoot. A friend of mine, Yomi Gold then called me and asked me if Sunny Ali called me and I said yes, but that I told him that I won’t be able to do his job. Yomi was like I shouldn’t have turned it down that I’m playing the lead role alongside Femi Adebayo, Yinka Quadri, Ogogo, and Fatia Balogun. I was confused I didn’t know what to do, so I called Taiwo Olajire, Muyiwa Ademola’s brothers, who I’m close to. I also called Bukky Apesin. They both told me to call them back. I then called Uncle Sunny to tell him that I’m not turning down his job, but that I need to sort out some things. Uncle Sunny was now like okay fine! Even if you cannot do it, just come to Odunfa, let me see you one-on-one because I don’t know you and I’ve never met you before.
At first, I was scared because I couldn’t fathom why he wanted to see me after turning down his offer. But I summoned courage and I went to see him. When I got there, he handed over the script to me. It was at that point that I now told him to call my boss that if he should consent to it, then I will do it. I later called back Uncle Taiwo and Bukky and they told me to call my boss. I also called Uncle David, the second boss and they were like ‘okay you can go. When you get there, let us know. I didn’t know Uncle Sunny from Adam, but he proved to me he was different. Now he’s one of the producers I like dearly. But once too, I had my ugly fair share of harassment from a producer.
Actually, for a long time this producer was disturbing me about dating, but I refused. So one day, he called me that I should come to Lagos, because then I was in Ife. I was still in school. I told him I didn’t have money to make the journey, but he said, ‘no problem, just come, after all you are coming to work and you will be paid.’ I packed my things and I came to Lagos. I got in early and met them at the location. But throughout that day, I didn’t work. When we got to the hotel, I was like where is my room and he showed me to the room.
He came in with me. I told him I was hungry and he ordered for two plates of food and the next thing he removed his clothes. I was like are you removing your clothes, and he said yes now. I now said to him, are you sleeping here?, and he said yes. Then I asked him where I was going to sleep, and he said here of course. And I said no, that we were not going to share the same room. I was really very furious and talking aloud. So he said I shouldn’t take it overboard that he will ask them to arrange another room for me and he did. So I went to sleep in my room. Funny enough, he didn’t even bring my food to me. I didn’t eat that night. The following day I didn’t shoot any movie. Someone that promised me transport fare, he didn’t give me a kobo. So I left and went back to school. He’s not the only one. They are many. But some of them who I’ve refused sexual-advances later called me back to give me roles in their movies. But for him, we only greet whenever we meet.