Deyemi Okanlawon, is one of Nollywood’s finest actors. In this interview with eeliveng, he speaks about his success in the industry and family
What is your educational background?
I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos, Akoka. However, I got into a career in sales and marketing and fortunately after a few years, I had the opportunity to do a couple of films. Then, a lot of people started giving me roles.
Where did you previously worked?
I was the Head of Sales and Marketing at OLX.
What stirred your interest in acting?
I have been acting since I was born literally. While I was in primary school, I acted in all the plays and when I got into the university, I was part of the church drama group. So, I have been acting for a very long time but as an amateur though. But eventually everything came together and acting started to become my profession.
Who gave you your first opportunity in the Movie industry?
While I was working full time at OLX, I walked into an audition. I heard about the audition, I went and got a role and some people who could not afford to put an audition together was watching so that they will pick somebody for their short movie. So, I got two roles from one audition. And that was how it started. I did a short film called Blink, which is on my YouTube channel. But all the while, I was still working with OLX. Then, lots of offers of roles started coming in which made me take some time off from work to do the movies because I was really passionate about acting. I didn’t know what the industry was like so I took a year off work to get familiar with the industry and it was amazing.
What were some of the challenges you faced in the industry as a new actor?
Like when I was working with OLX, I took the challenge as a product challenge. I said to myself that if I am selling a product, how would I go about it. So, I needed to define myself first as an actor and understand my environment. Also, the value I will be adding to my audience and producers to make me their first choice. I thought about it as a business and I used that to make a head way. I knew right hand who I was meant to be. I would always go to any radio or television shows and anywhere I was invited. And eventually, the industry became a home.
How would you describe the journey so far?
It’s been tremendous. For me, my life mantra has always been and will continue to be the pursuit of excellence in everything I do. When I was studying chemical engineering, I pursued excellence. And when I was working at OLX, I pursued excellence. Also, as an actor, I am pursuing excellence. I realised that if our dreams are ever, going to come to pass, it is because we are being excellent in whatever, we are doing. It all adds up; and that is the attitude I have always had. My experience coming from school to where I am now has helped to push me faster even as an actor. Without my experiences I won’t be where I am today.
How many movies have you featured in so far?
In the past five years. I do about 10 movies a year.
How many awards have you won so far?
A lot of my work has been nominated by the AMVCA, Nollywood Movie Awards and Best of Nollywood. I won Best Actor, Ghana Movie Awards for 2016 and 2017. I get recognitions here and there but try to focus on the work.
What are the names of some of your movies?
Royal Hibiscus Hotel, Lara and the beat, Gidi Up and Castle and Castle is a series ongoing.
Do you have your own production?
Yes I do. I did a short film when my son was born in 2016. The name of the movie is For You My Son, I was inspired by his birth. I also co-produced a series titled Yankee hustle. I am currently writing some scripts and I maybe directing or co-producing the movies very soon.
Can you recall the amount you were paid for your first acting job?
I did two films and one paid me 15,000 and the other one paid me 10,000.
How did you feel about the small amount compared to your salary as the Head of sales and marketing at OLX?
I was still working full time at that time so; it was more like an extra cash.
How do you deal with controversies?
I deal with it by not getting into it. I spend a lot of time at home so that I can stay away from trouble.
What is the weirdest thing you have heard about you?
I heard that I am very expensive. When I see it I just say, I receive it in Jesus Name. For me, I try to add so much value than whatever it is that I am making.
How do you relax?
My work relaxes me because it is my hobby.
How did you spend time with your family?
I take time off to spend with my family. For me, family comes first.
When did you meet your wife?
We were in school together, she also studied chemical engineering. She was three years my junior. She is brilliant and beautiful. She is a brave woman to marry me and it been amazing.
How did you sweep her off her feet?
I did that by being myself. I am a very charming guy so I directed my charm at her because I said to myself that this one won’t escape me. I remember telling my friend one day when I saw her, I told him that I was going to marry that babe. Because he knew that I am a very stubborn person, and when I want something, I go for it.
How do you love to dress?
I like to dress up simple and casually. I don’t spend time thinking about what to wear, I just walk into my wardrobe and just pick. However, my favourite colour is blue so I usually have something blue on me but it is not a big deal.