Currently, Deyemi Okanlawon is one of Nollywood’s most sought after actors. The actor who has starred in several movies and music videos including Falz’s ‘Soldier’ speaks to Adeniyi Adewoyin in this interview about his career and family life. Excerpts
HOW did you get into acting?
I have been acting since I was five years old but not professionally. I did every single play in primary school. I didn’t really do much in secondary school and then my early years in university I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos and I was really focused on that and my social life. Eventually, I got involved in the school fellowship called Harvesters Company now Harvesters International Christian Centre and I joined the drama and dance department back then.
When I graduated, I joined another church called Covenant Christian Centre and I literally started the youth drama group and I headed that for few years. I was also part of the bigger theatre-based Snapshot, which is another drama department in the same church. That turned out to be my training ground as an actor.
When I left school, I was working different jobs, different companies until 2010 when by chance I was told about an audition. I got a role, got another role and one day I had to make a decision on whether to stay with my 9 to 5. By that time, I was the head of marketing for an e-commerce company in Nigeria so I was doing pretty well but I needed to make that decision and I chose to go the direction of acting as my career and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.
You seem to be a church person…
Yes I’m a Christian. I enjoy being around those circles.
So does your Christian life play a part in that kind of roles you play as an actor?
It’s kind of like you saying you are a Christian and you are in the press, does your Christian life affect the kind of stories that you tell? No! What I am trying to say is I believe that your faith should show in the excellence of your work.
Then your value system decides what you do or not, whether you are going to do a project or not. So yes, because I have certain values I am very careful about what I do and also because of my faith I believe in the excellence of my work so I always give the best and once I make up my mind on what I’m going to do, I am always giving my 110%
How has it been since you dumped your 9 to 5 job for acting? Were you sure of your future in acting?
No I wasn’t sure. It was a huge leap of faith because I sort of understood that in life, one of the things you need to do is to follow your passion. If your passion is about something, you should experience it. I wouldn’t want to be 80 years old and having regrets about what I could have done or what I couldn’t have done.
Thankfully, it worked out but as with life some things may not work out. You just go with your plan B and you keep trying to move ahead and adding value. So, as far as I know that I am adding value, whether in the 9 to 5 or in my career as an actor, I will be happy.
Does it mean what would be would surely be, no matter the circumstances?
We are human beings so we can be anything that we want to be. There are so many things that God has put inside of us. I believe that if you find out what those things are and you put in the effort and the time and that spirit of excellence, you can literally achieve anything that you put your mind on.
Who were the people who influenced your career?
Number one will be Olu Jacobs. I think he is an amazing actor. He studied at British Grammar School; he’s done some really great international works and back in Nigeria. He is just an amazing phenomenon here. Other people I will mention would be RMD and internationally is Denzel Washington.
How is married life?
Married life is fantastic. My son is one already.
How have you been able to combine acting and creating time for your wife and kid?
It’s not just acting… people make it look like acting is special but there are certain careers that take you away from your family for months. So, for me, we just make it work. I make sure I give the time that I have to family and whatever time I have to my career I give to that as well.
Does your wife get jealous of some role you play?
I have never seen my wife jealous of anything like that. I married my best friend and I think that she understands what my passion, my purpose and goal are. So, she is happy; we are happy