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Nollywood actress, scriptwriter and producer, Motilola Akinlami speaks about herself, her journey into Nollywood and many more in this interview by ADERONKE ADESANYA. Excerpts:

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What inspired you to pursue a career in acting?

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I will say passion.  I fell in love with acting after I participated in my first professional stage performance in 2000. It came naturally and it was just so easy for me and since then I have been passionate about it. Professionally, I’ve been acting since 2000, although then I did more of stage plays than actual movies. I came into the mainstream Yoruba industry seven years ago.

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Did you have any professional training in acting?

Of course, I did. I studied at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. Although, I did not study Theatre Arts, one of my mentors, Mrs Toyin Ogundeji, involved me in theatre. I had lots of stage play training while I was at OAU I trained with people who did core training, and there were some of us who were not from that department but had the opportunity to train with them.

What was the first movie you acted in?

My first official and professional movie was Bashorun Gaa.

What do you enjoy most about acting?

The beauty of this profession for me is the fact that I can be anything I want to be. I just keep my imagination active and I can become that character today and another tomorrow. Today, I’m a lawyer, tomorrow, a policewoman, another day a doctor, weeks down the line a mentally-challenged person. There are so much I can be as an actress and it is never boring. Imagine you have to set aside your life and be someone else for a couple of days before you get back to your life. It really fascinates me.

Of all the roles you’ve played in the past, which is your favourite?

My favourite will have to be Murewa.  Murewa is a movie that I wrote with all my heart. I had the opportunity to play that role alongside fabulous and fantastic actors. I got to play with Emmani Manuwa, Aunty Tola Oladokun, and Fathia Balogun. It was beautiful for me. For the first time I had to fry akara using firewood which was something I never thought I would be able to do.

What acting role have you found the most challenging and why?

Murewa has to be one of my most challenging roles because I had to fry akara and most of the time I was tearing up. I was really challenged by the burden of the character I had to play. It took me out of my normal life and took me to do something I was not used to.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt in your career?

Humility and learning to leave the stage when the ovation is loudest. Those two lessons have to be the most valuable lessons I have learnt in my career and then live and let live is another valuable lesson I have learnt.

 What do you believe is the most challenging aspect of being an actress?

For me, the greatest challenge for an actress is having to change clothes and redo make ups. Imagine having to wear 40 clothes within the space of three days, the challenge is huge. It is a lot of challenge.

Would you identify any actress or actor in the industry as role models?

I do not have someone I model my life after but I do have people whom I admire one or two things about. I really do not look up to one person as a whole but there are people whose knowledge I’d like to tap into and see what makes them tick. I strongly believe our paths are different. God leads me.

How do you relax after a long day or week on set?

After a long day of work, I go home to be around my circle, the people I love and who love me, then take a nap, wake up and play with my babies just being around my family. I’m an introvert, I don’t socialise much, so it’s basically my family.

Do you think cinema/television portrays reality accurately these days or does it have a negative influence?

Yes, it does, that’s what we are supposed to do. When I was in my service year, I belonged to a club we called dance and drama. Our motor was ‘societal mirror’. A movie industry is a reflection of a society it comes from, for instance Yoruba movies are reflections of the Yoruba community. We tell our stories differently and however we have to. So, yes they do mirror the society not necessarily in a positive way every time. I know out of every 10 at least 6 or 7 will mirror the society correctly.

How do you deal with criticisms about your work?

I’m a fan of constructive criticism; you don’t come at me with destructive criticism and expect me to be cool with it. I read Philosophy, so I know the difference between someone trying to run my job down and the one who wants to make me better. A fan once messaged me after seeing a movie and said the movie was nice and I could have improved with the audio and I responded with a thank you. I’d take that into consideration next time I am doing a movie. That’s someone who wants me to grow. It is different from someone coming to say the movie was rubbish because my audio wasn’t clear.

Have you ever said “no” to a project because the content or message wasn’t right? If so, tell me about that experience and how you made your decision.

Yes, I have had to say no to a project. In fact, I already got paid for the job, and so a day to when I was supposed to go on set, I kept asking for the script. I told the director I wasn’t going to leave my house unless I saw the script. He sent it and when I opened the script and 90 percent of the script was about sex and performing sex positions and all, I rejected the

job. However, but that’s not to say the movie was a bad one but it’s not just how I want to put through to my brand and that just didn’t agree with my values and my brand. I had to refund their money and apologise. It caused a lot of issues that time.

What are some things that people might be surprised to learn about acting/the industry that they don’t see on screen?

Everyone has a unique personality that is very different from what you see on the screen. For instance, someone might play a prostitute in 50 movies and not have a boyfriend or be in a relationship in real life; or someone that is impudent in 100 movies doesn’t mean the person has the energy to fight like that in real life. What people need to realise is that it is very important to separate the person from the character that they are playing at every point.

You’ve managed to keep your personal life and marriage from the media. How have you been able to do so?

I feel the media already knows too much about my personal life and marriage. If I had my way they wouldn’t know anything about me at all. I say to people all the time if I wasn’t an actress I probably wouldn’t be on social media or if I should be on social media I will just be there to check pictures, get a few laughs and go away because I’m a very private person.  My partner has also been very helpful in keeping our lives away from the media and we intend to keep it that way.

Are there any particular directors or producers you’d like to work with one day?

I would love to work with the director who ever directed my first stage play, Rogers  Ofime; Kunle Afolayan, Kemi Adetiba, Tade Ogidan and the like. I’d like to work also with other famous female directors in the industry.

Do you have any upcoming projects we should look forward to?

Yes, I do have a couple coming up. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. I am not going let the cat out of the bag just yet but I know there’s a lot to look up to from studio21, my company; Whiteless Production and other companies I work with and they’re going to be big, God willing.

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