#DeyemiTheActor: The Nigerian Reporter Interview

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With over 40 feature appearances since 2010 ranging from lead to supporting roles, Adeyemi Okanlawon is possibly Nollywood’s newest leading man.

Garnering at least 9 nominations and four wins since his début in Nollywood, Okanlawon burns his own trail as he guns for the title “king of the big screen”. I sat down with Okanlawon to talk about #DeyemiTheActor…

When I meet with Deyemi, he tells me how he’s going back and forth with phone calls trying to close the deal on one of two projects, one of which might require him getting on a plane within four hours to head off to a set.

“I’ve been up all night reading two scripts.”

“I have been very lucky,” he says quite seriously as he thinks about his transition into acting.  Which he credits to a love for literature growing up.

“I read a lot as a kid, I still do; I find that I get lost in the characters and play them out in my head. This allows me to relate with the story, a trick I now use while reading scripts. I love playing contrasting characters as I feel that challenges me as an actor. I also use this as a deciding factor when picking roles. I’ll pick a role that’s totally different from my personality and become the character so the audience can connect to the project.”

He finally picks one of the projects, the role is nothing like anything he’s ever done, true to his word. That was the deciding factor despite the short notice and hassle to get to an out-of-state set within 2 hours of saying yes to the project.

“I landed my first role at an audition for a different project. I was delivering bread to a supermarket and ran into an old friend who let me know about an upcoming audition, it was for ZedR7 (The Red House 7). He remembered I used to be in plays back in the day. At the casting I got picked to play the lead in my very first short film, A Grain of Wheat, which came out before ZedR7; which I still landed a supporting role in.”

Before Nollywood, Okanlawon did time in the corporate world scoring up eight years of leading various sales and marketing based projects. One of which was being the head of sales at Baker’s World.

“While in Unilag [University of Lagos], I’d supply bread and cupcakes as a side hustle and after Unilag I got a job with the bakery I supplied from as a sales and promotions manager. One particular year,  I had so many orders from different schools around Lagos because of the promotions I had done for Valentine’s. The bakery couldn’t keep up!”

Despite no conscious plans to grow up and take acting up as a full-time career Okanlawon alludes that his flare for acting goes way back, to his childhood. 

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“As a kid I was a star you know? I was in all the plays.” He continues…

“During my preadolescent years I was in all the school plays and in my 20s I did it for fun. Somehow I never thought about it seriously even though I enjoyed being on stage, expressing and relaying a story to an audience. I went off and got a science degree, then a job and another job till I realized acting was something I could do full-time. And now I look forward to becoming relevant across Africa, I’ve made something of a mark in Nollywood and a little traction in Ghallywood I’m exploring territories and I’m quite excited about the opportunities. Especially with the film industry in Kenya, I’d like to break into that.”

Speaking about his thoughts on celebrity…

“I don’t really care about being a celebrity.” “I don’t ever view myself as being a celebrity, I don’t expect my friends to treat me any different. I don’t want anyone to treat me special because I am being true to myself. I appreciate that people view and love my work and if that makes me a celebrity then by all means but for the status? I do it all for the love of creating an amazing body of work and it is such a blessing to see that people appreciate my work.”

On making it in Nollywood…

“I believe in working hard, I’m always pushing myself to be and do better. I have a strong belief in God and a strong faith and I attribute a huge part of my success to that. Also with my background in sales and brand management, I try to replicate my eight years of corporate experience into building my personal brand. My understanding of setting goals and accomplishing them helps me, I’m constantly evolving because my vision is constantly increasing. So I set my visions as goals.”

Take a look at his critically acclaimed Horror Film Blink below: